The ship has spent the past few days in the Black Sea. We conducted a maiden call at the Bulgarian port of Burgas, visited Varna and Constanta. We were supposed to go to Nessebur. We dropped anchor there but the swell was far too much for our tenders so we repositioned and berthed in Burgas and ran the tours from there.
I thought that today I would highlight a few of the staff that you would probably not see as a guest. Starting with Ivo, one of our First officers. He took the ship away from his home port of Varna whilst his wife and baby stood on the quay and waved us away. Having crew families visit the ship in their home ports is so important. It boosts morale but is important for kids to see what mum or dad does when they leave home for months at a time.
Yesterday we were in Constanta in Romania and today we are at sea heading for Sinop in Turkey. It is a beautiful and warm day on the Black Sea with a light East wind blowing. Whilst the guests have relaxed in the sun the crew are as busy as ever. Today is a sea day. Today is Galley Market day!
During rounds this morning I popped into our garbage processing room to see how things were there. Vangel, our Garbage Manager has the unenviable task of processing all the garbage generated by the ship. This is no mean feat. Without him the operation would grind to a halt. All the garbage comes through this room. Glass bottles are ground down into silica sand, plastic is crushed and compacted into bales, metal cans are ground down into small chips, food waste is processed, cardboard and paper are compacted. Everything is sent ashore to be recycled in the various ports we visit. Other waste is incinerated. This is a man rarely seen if ever by the guests. Without him we cannot operate.
On the bridge whilst in Constanta the new recruits into our Academy paid a visit to the bridge with the training manager Sergio.
Today is the famous galley market. Tonight is our club dinner. A 7 course feast. The diet has gone to pot today! The chefs under Head Chef Kurt put on a feast whilst the restaurant and bar teams serve the guests. It is the ultimate team event and a Seabourn favourite. I will leave you with a few shots of the day.
So there you have it. A few more days in the life of the Seabourn Odyssey.
It was a really warm day in Marmaris. The guests had all wandered ashore on a beautiful day. This was my first call ever to this port. It is delightful. It lies within a protected bay and to get to it we passed through a wiggly passage which acted as a magnet for every man in a boat.
Once alongside and the guests had gone Kai and I went for our usual stroll along the quayside to check out the ship and where she needed a little TLC.
On the other side of us are lines and lines of plastic fantastics. Millions of dollars of boats of all shapes and sizes tied up waiting for somebody to take them to sea. Bronzed adonis’ ( what is the plural of Adonis) nimbly flit from one to the other armed with Brasso and cloths to keep the spangly bits sparkling. In a way we were men in whites looking to keep our bits sparkling too.
The next day we were in Kusadasi. It was a gorgeous morning which did not last long. For soon after we berthed a huge cruise ship docked beside us. Our view of beautiful beaches and hills was replaced by rows upon rows of balconies upon which half the worlds supply of winseyette nighties were being paraded.
Luckily the ship sailed at 17:00 leaving us alone to enjoy a glorious sunset.
Now we have visited the islands of Patmos and Limnos we are headed at 18 knots to pick up our pilot to take us through the Dardanelles waterway. We are heading for Istanbul once more and cruise end.
The crew that go home tomorrow are packing their bags. Appraisals have been completed. End of contract paperwork needs signing.
I am sitting in my cabin looking at other ships heading for the waterway. It is not often we do this sort of speed as we pass them by. The ship is humming gently under the power of the engines.
The coast of Turkey and the ancient city of Troy are smudges on the eastern horizon right now but we will get much closer. It will be a late night and an early morning for we pick up the Istanbul pilot at 6am so I will be up around 5 in the morning. It will still be dark and the lights of the fabulous Mosques and Topkapi palace will show us the way to our berth.
Not a bad day at the office if the truth be known. Not bad at all.
It has been a few days since my last posting and in an effort to catch up again here are a few photos of the ports we visited and an idea of what we have been up too. The days pass so quickly and it is nearly September already.
I dont know about you but I am not a great lover of seeing my visage in a photo. I can’t put my finger on it. I get photographed so often with guests and crew but I still am not overly fond of seeing myself. I look with a super critical eye. However today I was in a photo giving awards to well deserving members of the crew for their safety culture awareness and it reminded me of a story.
I was a Third Mate on a tanker. I was young. I had been around the world a bit and thought I had seen most things. In those days we wore grey short sleeved shirts, epaulettes, grey shorts, long grey socks and sandals. Not the prettiest image in your minds for sure. The Captain was a very rotund gentleman. So corpulent was he that it was only the belt on his shorts that was keeping his paunch from bruising his toes. The single button holding his shorts together at the waist was always under enormous strain. He was always the first at the table for lunch and dinner and we as junior officers would hang back in the hope we would not have to dine with him. He would get his main course and scrape it into his large bowl of soup whilst we looked on. I vowed that when I got to be Captain I would not be like him.
We were heading up the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore on this little tanker. We had a cargo of 18000 tonnes of motor car fuel and aviation kerosene to deliver. The pilot was on the bridge as was I, the Captain and the Indian helmsman known as a Secunni who was steering the ship. The Captain had an awful habit of scratching nonchalantly at his round belly through his shirt whilst muttering to himself and occasionally whistling unknown tunes as he paced around the bridge. I was standing to one side of the Secunni, the pilot was on his other side and the Captain was wandering around the bridge muttering and whistling. For some reason, on this particular day the Captain was not wearing the belt on his shorts. The one button holding the waistband together gave up the ghost and shot across the bridge at an alarming rate. It valiantly tried to remove itself from the Captains glare by disappearing under the table upon which the kettle, tea and coffee mugs lay. It was only the fact that he was facing away from all of us that saved our eyes from a potentially catastrophic encounter with a small round grey projectile. The Captains shorts to my utter horror shot south around his ankles at an equally alarming speed revealing the largest pair of Y fronts I as a young man had ever seen. He cussed and swore and bent over to grab the shorts. Both the pilot and I were fixated on the scene before us. Quick as a flash the Captain whipped of his shorts and proceeded to chase the button in its bid for freedom across the bridge in his underpants. He moved swifter than I imagined he was capable of. He bent down to pick it up. The pilot and I averted our gaze. This was not pretty. This could scar weaker minds for life!
The Captain walked back towards us, shorts in one hand and button in the other. The pilot and I fixed our stare forward out the bridge windows pretending that we had seen nothing of the unfolding drama. The Secunni who was steering this tanker full of the most inflammable liquids on the planet was proffered the shorts and button and told to sew them back together. With doleful eyes he looked at me. Almost pleading. What could I do? I took over the steering whilst the poor man left to fetch a needle and thread and unite the button and waistband once more. The pilot was a true professional. He looked at me. I looked at him. Words were not required. The eyes said it all. What could we say? We carried on up the Chesapeake Bay with the Captain half dressed until the Secunni finally gave him back his shorts and I resumed my duties.
They say that a part of all these people that are supposed to be your mentors throughout your junior years stick with you. I have never forgotten to wear my belt.
Since my last posting we have visited Ravenna, Venice, Sibenik and now today, Kotor.
Venice was unseasonably ghastly from a weather point of view. A cold front moved through during the day. It was cold, wet and windy. Not what we would expect of Venice in August.
It was a different story yesterday in Sibenik for it was calm and warm. The low pressure centre had moved quickly into Bulgaria and towards the Black Sea.
This morning we picked up our pilot in Kotor fjord and travelled the 14 miles inland to our berth. I have written much about Kotor in previous blogs. It is one of those places that I never tire of coming too. The sunrise behind the mountains to the east is always stunning. Be it hail, rain or shine the early morning arrival is amazing. I usually urge the guests to get up early to enjoy the spectacle of the sail in. This morning I estimate there was around 30 people on the decks and more on their balconies to enjoy it.
Today was no different. Today was a bit special for we followed in the old Seabourn Pride. Now sold to another company and renamed but still my first Seabourn ship and still a little beauty it was a pleasure to see her again.
We take a pilot for the run into the berth from the sea. Today he joined and we let the two bridge officers pilot the ship to the berth. It was a really good training exercise and a chance to let them practice their teamwork and skills. They did really well under the guidance of the pilot and myself looking on.
Now we are back out at sea heading south into Albanian waters and then Greek waters bound for Corfu.
Normally I like to anchor off the old town in Dubrovnik and send the guests ashore in our tender boats. However, when we arrived the weather was 25 to 30 knots winds from the SSE. If there is one direction that really makes the anchorage untenable in Dubrovnik it is SSE as the sea heaps up inside the bay. The ship can handle it but the tenders bounce about uncomfortably. So I decided to dock in Gruz harbour just north of the city. At least we can still ensure our guests get to enjoy this historic city and all it has to offer.
Whilst alongside I was delighted to present one of our deck team, Gerlon, for promoting safety awareness on board.
The wind dropped slowly throughout the day and by 18:30 it was down to about 15 knots and the rain had all passed through. It meant we could hold our Officers on Deck Epicurean event again. It was of course another stupendous success.
We sailed at 22:30 for the overnight run to Hvar where we are as I write.
Hvar is a little gem on the Dalmatian coast. I actually prefer it to Dubrovnik simply because it is never so busy. Today was no exception. We anchored here. There is no berth available. It was again very windy when we arrived but it eased back through the day.
We have sailed for Ravenna on the other side of the Adriatic.
Finally I must apologise for goofing with posting these past few days. I was asked in some recent emails why I was not posting and the answer is due to a tick in a little checkbox in a sub menu of the program which posts a draft view only to the server and not to the internet. My fault entirely. The check box has been unticked and here you are. Thanks for the emails. It is nice to know somebody is reading this stuff other than me.
After Monemvasia we called at Katakolon which is the port for Olympia. Shortly after we arrived, a sister company ship called Nieuw Amsterdam of the Holland America Line berthed beside us. She was huge. I had not been on one of them before so I went over to her gangway and asked whether the captain was available for a coffee. I was escorted to the bridge to meet Captain Edward Van Zaane and some of his officers. We Captains do like to show off our ships and Captain Van Zaane was no different. I had coffee in the restaurant with him and then took a tour of the ship. Very impressive and not what I am used too. So much space!
I invited him onboard for lunch with his wife. The photo above is the result. I really enjoyed meeting him, his wife and his officers. It is something we should do more often. After all, any excuse for lunch is a valid one in my book.
Today we are in Parga. It lies in NW Greece in the Preveza region and is a little out of the way place I really like. We anchor off and run our guests ashore in our tender boats.
It lies in a sheltered bay dotted with yachts and pleasure boats. The backdrop of tall hills offer it shelter and blue seas lap its tiny beaches. It is great for a wander among nic nac shops and seafront cafes and tavernas.
There was a double celebration today. Some of the officers gathered to present our Computer Officer Roger with a 15 year service award. I first met Roger on the Seabourn Pride and here he is now getting his award from the Company for his long service.
Finally our Bosun had his birthday yesterday. This evening we had a BBQ where his colleagues presented him with a large cake and enjoyed each others company relaxing in the evening sun.
After a very hectic day in Piraeus it was a pleasure to wake this morning and look out of the bridge window to see this sight.
Monemvasia is a small town on the east of the Peloponnese peninsulas in the Laconia region of Greece. It lies on a small island linked to the mainland by a causeway. On top of the island is an old medieval fortress founded in 583. It is also the first port of call on this cruise to Venice. Incidentally, in 2005 I was anchored here on the Minerva 2, the ship I was on before I joined Seabourn. Beside me was anchored Seabourn Pride. I remember looking across at her and thinking what a pretty little ship she was. I did not know then that I would go on to command her when I joined Seabourn.
As you can tell from the photo the water was calm and the sky was blue. This was most fortunate for today was also marina day when we got the toys out of the stern of the ship. The Staff Captain Kai and I took a wander down to watch the Bosun and his men rigging the marina. It is tough doing this. The last time I sat on a marina toy with Kai was in the marina on Seabourn Pride where I was giving him some ship handling tips on a pedalo.
At the end of a successful day we packed it all away. The guests were all back onboard by 16:30 and not a moment too soon. For the wind picked up quickly from the WSW to 30 knots. It was a windy night as we passed along the southern tip of the Peloponnese peninsulas to enter the Southern Ionian sea. Mind you, not enough to disturb our wonderful welcome gala dinner down in the restaurant.
Cruise end once again.
Today I thought I would give you some idea of what a turn around day means to the ship and her crew and my own schedule.
My day started with a call from the bridge at 04:45 informing me that its time to get up, the wind is NW 30 knots, we have ships beside and behind us and we are on time. We came up the sea lane from the south following the traffic lanes to a holding area around 2 miles outside the breakwaters. Here we wait for our pilot to come to us. It was a very windy day. 30 Knots of wind gusting to 40 means we have to plan our arrival very carefully. On this occasion we used a tug to assist us. Our pilot came onboard around 06:10 and the bridge team and I discussed our plan to enter the harbour and get the ship safely to her berth and tie her up alongside.
The tug puts a line up to our stern and we passed between the breakwaters into the harbour. This port is a very busy ferry harbour that serves the outlying islands. They zoom in and out and we have to get in and berth with as minimum a disruption to their schedules as we can manage.
We tied up alongside our berth, let go the tug and bid our pilot farewell. It is 7 am. Even before the last mooring rope is sent ashore the quayside is buzzing with activity. The gangway goes out and is rigged.
The ships agent boards with the port authorities. The customs and immigration formalities are completed. The call goes out on the radio to inform us all that clearance has been granted to the ship and we can start the business of the day.
A ship side door opens. A portable gangway is connected. It is time to start unloading approximately 500 pieces of luggage. All this must be done as soon a possible. The guests can’t leave without their luggage and some have early flights from Athens airport.
The security team check out the quayside to ensure all is well before we send our guests and crew ashore.
A tent, table and chairs are set up on the quay with brochures laid out.
The fresh water pipeline is connected to replenish our tanks.
The farewell committee of the Cruise Director, myself, the Hotel Director and others gather at the foot of the gangway to bid our guests farewell. Sophie the Cruise Director gets distracted by a man with a puppy. yes…really.
The Provisions Master turns up with the chef. There are 5 truck loads of fresh produce and stores to be loaded. Lettuces are checked for quality. Fruit is squeezed and sampled. The good stuff is loaded by forklift into our store rooms. Some is rejected. The chef is very particular.
The Chief Engineer arrives on the quayside. There are spare parts to be loaded. Giovanni and his team are ready for them.
The bosun turns up. There is a crane on the quay. He will use that for his team to wash, clean and paint the ship.
We have been alongside less than one hour at this stage. It is 07:50.
Guests going home on early flights start to leave. Those staying until Venice go on a tour to the sights of Athens.
A small tanker arrives alongside. We will take on 300 tonnes of fuel. It is securely tied up alongside by the deck team. The engineers plug in the pipeline. Pumping begins shortly after our safety checks are completed.
An hour and a half has passed since we arrived. It is 08:30.
New crew arrive. The crew Purser collects them to check them in.
Technicians turn up to service some of our equipment for us.
A Company training officer turns up. Over the course of the next week he will do some training with the crew to enhance their knowledge and brush up with new techniques and practices.
By 10am the guests going home have left. The cabin stewardesses and the housekeeping utilities are in full swing getting the suites cleaned and ready for the new guests. Suite fridges are replenished by the bar teams and the vacuum cleaners are in full flow.
By 11am all the teams onboard are in top gear with the task of getting the ship ready for her new guests and the next voyage to Venice. The Company trainer has discussed his schedule for the week. The technicians have asked their questions and are now head down in various bits of equipment. The stores are coming on. The garbage is going off.
Noon. Time to get some lunch. Take stock of all thats going on.
1pm. Time for a rest. Grab a nap. Phone rings. I am needed for some paperwork. New guests are boarding.
2pm. Get some paperwork done. Voyage reports to check from the just completed cruise. Check with the department heads how we are progressing.
2:30pm. Not long now before we conduct our passenger emergency drill before we sail. Get my speeches ready. Quick read through. Been through this many times but still read through. It is part of the process I go through to get myself ready to talk to the guests. Some will be new to me. Others I will have sailed with in the past. Its important to set the right tone for this.
2:50 pm. Up to the bridge. Time for the passenger drill to start.
3:30 pm drill is over. Quick check on the overall situation. Fuel loading has finished. The tanker has gone. The stores are all onboard. They are being sorted and taken to the various fridges and storerooms. The garbage is still being offloaded. Its all going well.
4pm. Time to sit for a few minutes. 2 hours to sailing time. Check the few emails. It is saturday so not many. Mostly internal stuff. One from my wife Debbie which shoots to priority number one to reply too.
5:30pm On the bridge. Brief the teams ready for departure.
6pm Pilot boards. We get our departure slot in the traffic queue. We sail for Monemvasia.
7pm settle the ship for the night and a long but good day comes to a close for me.
9pm. Write some night orders. These are my instructions to the bridge teams for the night ahead and to prepare the ship for our arrival into Monemvasia at 7:30am tomorrow morning. Have a cup of tea. Catch the latest news on the TV. Wished I had not. All Blacks draw against the Wallabies in the rugby game in Sydney. Should have won that one.
10pm. Bed. Goodnight.
Can there be anywhere in the Med that compares to this place. Yes there are many wonderful islands all with distinct characters of their own. But this place? Well I never tire of coming here. I rarely get ashore but for me this place is all about the beauty of the soaring cliffs and the whitewashed houses perched upon them. No matter what the weather the beauty of Santorini is unsurpassed.
When we sailed from Bodrum I informed the guests to be up and about from 06:30 this morning to enjoy the sunrise as we entered the caldera. The sky was deep blue and cloudless and turned a peach colour as the sun rose. The sea was moving gently under a northerly breeze. There were many guests that were up and about early to see the arrival. They were not disappointed.
We drifted until 3pm when the one anchorage came available for us and we are now moving gently around our starboard anchor.
We just enjoyed our Officers on Deck Epicurean event and watched the sun setting to the west. Deck 8 around the pool lends itself to such an event. Its a perfect spot in which to entertain. The cliffs and houses turned pink, then orange then flame red whilst we enjoyed special delicacies prepared by Chef Martin and his team. The bar staff and waiters moved among us seeing to our needs whilst the Officers served the guests special cocktails and nibbles.
The Greek theme is continuing in the Colonnade Restaurant with a “Greek Market” themed dinner. Foods purchased today in local markets are on the menu. The restaurant is already very busy. Later we will have dancing and music by the pool to close the evening and we will sail at 11pm.
It has been a great day. Santorini has wowed the guests. The ship is buzzing. What more could I want.
It has been a busy two days since my last entry. We berthed in Cesme, Turkey opposite two ships from another cruise line. Our guests mingled with theirs on the quayside. I was told by one guest from another ship that Seabourn Odyssey was a very pretty ship. I gave her a brochure and told her to come cruise with us. A Captain from one of the other ships told me my ship was ugly. I wanted to plant him one on his nose. Clearly he was of limited vision and a tad jealous I reckon. Ugly indeed. These ships must have some of the most beautiful profiles on the ocean. We Captains are very protective of our ships.
Later that evening we held our Club party for our loyal guests and I recalled his comment. One of my guests with many many days cruising with us came to me afterwards and told me that he and his fellow guests were right behind me the next time we ever met the other ships Captain again and we would remind him of the error of his ways. It would appear that Seabourn guests are also very protective of their ships.
The other business of the day came and went. One of our crew is Voltaire. A great name. He is one of the team in charge of replenishing our tanks with fresh water when the Staff Captain requires it to be taken. Normally our desalination plants are enough but there are times when we top up from a shore supply. Here is Voltaire getting ready.
I remember a time about 3 years ago when we arrived in Patmos. There was a visit organised to the famous monastery there and now and again we send some crew on the tours. Two of our men are Voltaire, above and Dante. I often wondered what the monks would have to say if they knew Dante and Voltaire were coming to visit!
Crew cabin inspection then occupied me for the morning. You can imagine that even though we are a small ship there are many cabins that need to be inspected so I enlist the help of a team of Officers. I have a legal obligation to make sure that crew cabins are fit for purpose and maintained thus. By the same token these are peoples homes at sea and that must be respected. It can be rather like checking 150 teenagers bedrooms at times. My idea of clean and tidy can seem a little at odds with theirs if you know what I mean.
We sailed for the overnight run to Bodrum.
After a peaceful night on the Eastern Aegean we berthed here in Bodrum. It is a warm day with temperatures up in the low thirties centigrade. This morning was taken up by our weekly crew emergency exercise. Today we had a simulated incident in one of our engine rooms. This involved all our teams onboard from the rapid response teams that deal directly with whatever the incident is to the hotel support teams dealing with whatever we throw at them. We had “casualties” to exercise our Doctor and his medical team, hurt guests to exercise the support teams and simulated fires to train the firefighting teams. It all went rather well. We always learn from these experiences. New techniques and methods continually evolve.
Tonight we sail for one of my favourites, Santorini.