After 6 of the most amazing years of my career at sea I have left Seabourn Odyssey in the capable hands of Captain Stig Betten. When I first joined Seabourn Stig was a Staff Captain on the Seabourn Pride. It was with a sense of some satisfaction that I handed command over to him.
I first took command of Seabourn Odyssey in this very port of Istanbul, on this very same berth in July of 2009. To walk down the gangway and take a peek at her over my shoulder as I left in a taxi for the hotel was quite something I can tell you.
In no particular order here are some of my most memorable moments:
1. The World Cruise of 2010 surely must be one of the most memorable not only for me but for all the guests that did the entire 108 days start to finish. What a World Cruise. We chased 2 cyclones and saw one of the most vivid sunsets as we left Tahiti that I have ever seen. So much so that I interrupted dinner service with a PA announcement that all guests must come and see it. Chef was not happy. The leg from Long Beach to Hawaii was very up and down with a long swell rolling down from the North. Chef had apoplexy when his soufflés kept sinking as they came out of the oven. We altered course 30 degrees to calm the ship until the soufflés had all been served. I was the chefs best friend.
2. I took the ship on her maiden world cruise into my home port of Christchurch with my wife and 2 sons on the bridge with me. I had never ever had the chance to take any ship into a home port before. The pilot came onto the bridge and said welcome home Captain. That was emotional. I made the front page of the local paper.
3. We went into Hong Kong harbour. The previous day I told the guests to get up early as this was a truly iconic sail in. They all got up. There was thick fog from the sea all the way to the berth. We saw nothing! I was mortified. But we laughed when one of the guests later in the day gave me some photos from a previous visit to show me what we would have seen.
4. We rescued three fishermen given up for dead in the Pacific.
5. I was asked by a guest about motorcycles and cars as he saw from my biography that I was a bit of a petrol head. I said the worst car I had was a Ford Escort and the best was my VW or BMW. Turns out he was the owner of the Ford motor company. I nearly died when he told me.
6.I renewed the marriage vows of 14 couples. I said farewell to a guest who was seriously ill and was on her last cruise before going home for her final days with her family. That really humbled me. Sometimes it is easy to forget the reasons people come cruising and that some people save for a lifetime to do it.
7. One lady told me I spoke perfect English for a Norwegian. I kept a dead pan face and was proud of myself for holding my tongue.
8. I have met young people among the Officers and crew from all corners of the globe. I have watched them grow and move up the promotion ladder and gained a great deal of satisfaction from seeing that and being a small part of it.
9. My family have accompanied me to parts of the world that most people only ever read about or see on the TV. For that I count my blessings.
10. Finally I sit here in Istanbul airport looking back on the last 6 years thinking hey what a ride it has been. What a blast. I sincerely hope the next 6 years will be as much fun.
To all my readers who have shared sea miles with me on the Seabourn Odyssey I thank you all. I hope you have had as much fun as I have. For the next 2 years I will be travelling between the ships. I will continue to blog on my travels and if you should see me onboard come and say hello.
I leave you with a few photos taken since my last posting.
The run across the Adriatic from Venice was calm and restful. The forecast was for stiff winds from the NE caused by an area of low pressure over the Balkans but we missed them. Arriving at Triluke Bay however the influence of the depression was evident in the moody sky that awaited us. The waters were still. The sky was not. We were supposed to run our marina watersports this day but due to the sky I delayed just to see what the weather was going to do. I am glad I did for the wind increased to around 25 knots as this large thunder head passed close by us.
An hour later the sun came out and shone for the rest of the day. The temperatures rose nicely and the wind dropped to almost calm.
From then on until today we have had temperatures in the mid thirties and upwards with high humidity to contend with.
We had a busy day at Nydri anchorage for this was crew drill day. I had taken on the role of devising the drill and being the assessor to judge how well the teams coped with my “emergency” and whether there were any learning opportunities to be had. My drill was a chemical acid spill in our main storage locker down on 3 deck. One of our storemen was pretending to be unconscious suffering from fume inhalation and with acid burns to his arms and face.
The scene was set. We initiated the drill with a phone call to the bridge and sat back and watched. The first rescue team arrived and used their equipment to good effect. The team leader in the red helmet directs his men to approach with the fog lance. This is a long tube with a special nozzle on the end connected to a fire hose to reach into tight places or into places keeping the men away from any dangers. Once the acid on the deck was diluted with water an entry could be made.
The casualty was removed to the fire team controls set up area where he was attended too by the medical team.
Our knowledge of chemicals, their hazards and how to deal with them were all tested. I was satisfied with our performance. The teams did well. The hardest part of all was getting the casualty to safety without risking harm to any of the fire teams.
We are now steaming for Piraeus at the end of another cruise. Our Officer on deck event was a huge success despite the heat and humidity. Next cruise will take us across the Aegean to Istanbul.
Venice was very busy today. Very busy. Every Tom, Dick and Harry was messing about in boats on a Saturday morning in Venice lagoon. We wound our way along the snake like channel to our berth. We were the smallest ship by far in the cruise port. With us were the Norwegian Jade, MSC Poescia, MSC Lyrica, Splendour of the Seas and Riveria. It was a hot and steamy morning when we arrived. The humidity meter was maxed out but this did not deter our Seabourn guests from enjoying the sail in. The Observation bar and deck 6 forward were packed. Our staff served coffee and sticky buns to our guests at 6am. I was delighted that so many had come out to enjoy the spectacle that is a Venice arrival. I waved to them from the bridge. This iconic port is up there with the likes of entering Port Jackson in which lies the city of Sydney, with Rio De Janeiro and Vancouver. No doubt you will have your own favourites.
Once alongside our berth the organised chaos began. The first task was to offload all the baggage. Our gangway needed to be moved. The baggage train driver was not happy with its position. He could not drive his carts near enough to the conveyor belt. He gesticulated in that Italian way. We compromised. He calmed down. The luggage rolled off the ship. Is that a salmon luggage tag or pink? Magenta you say. Oh! Looks reddish to me. With only 2 guests in transit we had a full complement of guests to bid farewell too and a full list to board. Lots of happy smiling faces leave. A certain ring adorned a very special finger. That ring has a special story to tell. “We are staying at the Danielli” says one couple. I make a mental note of that. Stewardesses made up suites and the bar staff restocked fridges with Grey Goose, Blue Sapphire, Red Bull and other colourful libations, engineers refuelled the ship, we offloaded our garbage carefully segregated to recycle, the navigators reprogrammed all the bridge gizmos for the trip back to Triluke Bay, weather forecasts were downloaded, the Provisions Master restocked his storerooms with all the essentials ranging from toilet rolls to caviar (both equally as important), carpets were vacuumed, surfaces were polished, painted, oiled, sandpapered, swept or a combination of any of these, chefs cooked, mechanics tweaked engines, electronic officers do whatever it is they do to make things work again and I sit and wonder what it is that I have forgotten to do. I tick off tasks on my list, say hello to agents, service technicians, Customs Officers and grumpy mooring men because I decided to shift one of my mooring lines to a more advantageous position. I pointed out to our agent that a rather tatty and dirty looking Italian flag hanging limply from the terminal building was a sight for sore eyes. It was removed. It was replaced by a brand new one. It flapped lazily in the thick air. We all took a breath.
Our new guests boarded. We held our passenger drill, we waited for 2 guests held up in a water taxi, they boarded, we sailed. Passing the Danielli Hotel we saw the two guests that left this morning waving from a balcony. We waved our big white wooden hand designed for such occasions back at them to bid them farewell. I hope they saw us. The ship took a small list to port as the railings were lined with guests taking photos of the people taking photos of us in San Marco. We joined the traffic lanes across the Adriatic. I left the bridge and sat in my comfy chair in my cabin. Another Venice was over. A hot shower was required and achy and knotty shoulders eased. I wrote this. I caught up with events at home. An email from Debbie my wife brings me up to date with life at home. The All Blacks have beaten the Springboks at Rugby. Aha! I knew that I had forgotten something. I have not had a cup of tea all day. I’m gasping. The kettle awaits. Goodnight.
Compared to a rather windy week last week in the Aegean this week so far has been a lot better. It was breezy in Monemvasia where the wind rose to 30 knots. This little lady passed by, blown I suspect from her foraging grounds. Being something of a beekeeper myself I was delighted to see her. I gave her a few drops of water which she sipped and flew off to carry on her duties.
Once we rounded the bottom of the Peloponnese peninsulas the weather changed entirely. The temperatures soared as the wind dropped. At Katakolon which is the port for Olympia 32C was the order of the day. A light Nly wind did its level best to keep some semblance of freshness about the place. It failed. Utterly. This was a sticky shirt day. Time to retreat inside.
The following morning we arrived at Nydri on the island of Lefkada which lies to the north of Cephalonia. There was not a sign of air movement. Nothing. The sea was glassy and the sky was clear. A light haze lay on top of the water along the beaches.
The thermometer climbed to 34 C. Could it get any hotter? An area of high pressure lay over the stiletto of Italy. A ridge extended its reach over us ensuring calm seas.
The pilot boarded us at the entrance to Corfu harbour. He said we were lucky as yesterday was 42C in the town. I asked why we were lucky. He said it will only be 41 today! It was. Now I can stand the heat. The humidity is a different beast altogether. I spent the day in the air conditioned interior of the ship. At the gangway, one of our guests was applying sun tan lotion before venturing out. Her wedding ring slipped off her finger, bounced twice on the quayside and disappeared into the dock between the ship and the quay wall. She was understandably mortified and left on tour resigned to the fact she had lost it. Whilst she was away we hired a diver and retrieved it for her. When she returned I gave her the ring back. She calls me Hero whenever she sees me onboard. Her husband thanked me for saving him the nightmare of dealing with an insurance company. Men!!
We are now in Dubrovnik. It is another hot day. There is a breeze coming off the hills behind us so it is not as much of a sizzler as yesterday but it is still hot. It should be another good day tomorrow. I hope so. It is marina day tomorrow.
Mornings in the Aegean Sea usually go something like this. Dawn rises. It is flat calm with a few clouds high up in the sky. The sunrise is usually very pretty with peachy coloured eastern horizons. By 11am the morning zephyrs riffle the water and the ship starts a lazy swing around her anchor. By 14:00 the wind has picked up to around 15 to 20 knots. Usually from a north east ish direction causing the ship to dance around her anchor and give our tender drivers something to think about as they transfer guests from ship to shore and back. Zorba the Greek was reputed to have said, “Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean Sea.” I think he must have liked it.
Molyvos lies on the island of Lesvos which is the third largest Greek Island. It lies on the NW extremity. Mytilene lies on the East side of the island. Molyvos itself is a world heritage site. Behind it lie the ruins of ancient Mithymna where a Byzantine fortress dominates the skyline. This is the ships maiden call here. The local mayor visited and presented us with a plaque from the port and some literature on the area and island. I did not get a chance to go ashore and visit the place but it appeared to have a nice feel about it.
The cruise ended up on berth 1 in Istanbul harbour. Unusually we were the only ship in harbour. It was fantastic to have the place to ourselves. Here our Security Officer Ernie, Restaurant Manager Altin, Hotel Director Daniel, F+B Manager Daciano and one of the local staff line up to bid our guests farewell. I was there too of course behind the camera.
As I write we are in Kusadasi. Also in port is a much larger ship that I am informed carries 2300 passengers. Alongside her is an even bigger ship with 2800 passengers on board. The carpet sellers of Kusadasi will be happy. We are on the other side of the harbour all alone. I like it. I like it a lot!
It has been hot, windy or a combination of both for more than a week now. Mykonos, renowned for its windy climate was like standing in front of a giant hair dryer. With temperatures in the thirties celsius and winds around 35 knots it was essential to keep drinking water. Our guests are loving it. Other than the recent heatwave in the UK temperatures rarely climb this high back at home for many guests. The unlucky ones lie in the sun and go from a pale white to a not so pale white then scarlet. The lucky ones go a honey colour then amber and some even go the colour of mahogany. They are the real sun worshippers. All the while being served cooling drinks and face towels and occasionally spritzered with a refreshing facial spay as they enjoy the pool deck.
There was a brief respite when we were at anchor in Santorini. A NW breeze kept the temperatures around the high 20s C. It was welcomed. If there is no wind here temperatures can soar.
In Marmaris Turkey we docked beside quite a large marina. Yachts and sailing boats adorned with flags from around the world wait to be used. Many millions of dollars just sits here being scrubbed and polished and scrubbed again waiting for the day an owner will come and take it out to sea to get salt on it requiring a bit more scrubbing and polishing. On a stunning day none of the big boats moved. They did look quite pretty though.
To keep a ship like this running sweetly requires a lot of tender loving care. There are many tasks that need to be performed on a daily basis. Here our Chief Electrician Gospodin on the left and our Electronics officer Indrek go about replacing an illumination lamp in one of our bow thruster control panels. You would think such a simple task would require a few minutes work. Wrong! The whole gubbins needs removing just to get access to the offending lamp.
Today we are in Izmir in Turkey. I think it is the third largest Turkish city after Istanbul and Ankara. There was not a breath of wind this morning and a thick haze over the mountains to the east of the city gave the sun an amber tinge as it rose to its lofty heights.
It is expected to rise once more to above 30 C. I will remain in the air conditioning. I will leave the open decks to the sun lovers.
We are sitting in Kusadasi Turkey listening to the news that the Southern UK is at boiling point with temperatures in the 30s C and Greece is at a different type of boiling point. Interesting times we live in.
I rejoined the ship in Piraeus after my week in Miami and got straight back into the swing of things. The crew were busy getting the ship ready for our new guests. The cruise would take us from the West Aegean across to Rhodes in the East and from Santorini in the south to Limnos in the north and on to Istanbul.
It has been a calm cruise so far from a weather point of view with temperatures in the mid 20s Celsius which is rather pleasant. Not too hot to be out and about and not too cold or breezy. In Rhodes the Provision Master and his team took on board a large quantity of stores to replenish the ships stock rooms and that will keep us going and the chefs supplied with their ingredients for a few days to come.
Next stop was Patmos where we anchored off the small port and ran our guests ashore in local tender boats. It was another fantastic day. We are truly blessed with the weather so far. It makes such a huge difference to peoples vacations.
Today we sit in Kusadasi. The ship has emptied this morning. The guests are going to Ephesus among other tours and also into the local shopping arcades for some retail therapy. We are here alone. No other ships. I can’t remember the last time we were here alone. It is bliss. I will leave you with a few photos taken in Kusadasi.
Finally, many of you will know I live in New Zealand. Now and then my wife Debbie sends me photos taken when she is out and about walking. This one was taken on Woodend beach close to where we live. Bearing in mind it is mid winter there, it looks rather pleasant.
I confess I have been a bit remiss in keeping the blog up to date. Since my last post the ship cruised to Venice. Then I left the ship for one week to go to Miami to a conference. The participants were senior members of our office in Seattle and senior members of ships from the Seabourn and Holland America fleets.
The conference was most enjoyable and informative. I met up with colleagues that I had sailed with in the past in Seabourn. One Holland America Captain’s face cut through the fog of ages past in my brain. Turns out we sailed together back in 1983. Our paths diverged and here we are, all these years later, sitting in the same conference room together.
I flew from Venice to Miami and back to join the ship yesterday in Piraeus. Today we are in Santorini at anchor. It is a little breezy but it is sunny and warm.
I will leave you with a few pictures that I took on the cruise to Venice but did not upload.
What a stunning morning it was when we arrived at Patmos. A number of Greek warships occupied our usual anchor spot so we were a little farther from the port than I would have liked. Not to worry though because the sea was flat calm, the sun shone and it was warm. The Greek warships actually looked like ex Royal Navy vessels.
It was a superb day to wander ashore on an island that was once described as the Jerusalem of the Aegean. The Monastery dominates the island sitting atop its lofty perch. The biblical connections of the island assured it of many visitors over the years. The small port is actually worthy of a stroll itself.
Next port was Rhodes. It is in my view one of the best Greek Islands. The walk from the ship into town is 10 minutes if that. The walled old town is wonderful. It has a good archaeological museum and the Order of St John used the town as its base for many years. The palace of the Grand Master of the Order remains and is well worth a look. The mixture of mosques and churches hints to its turbulent past. Further afield the Acropolis at Lindos is worth a viewing and of course the old harbour that was once guarded by the Colossus of Rhodes still remains to this day. I did not get a chance to see any of it this time as we had a busy day. Rhodes is a chance for us to give the ship side a clean and touch up the scuff marks caused by tugs and fenders rubbing on the side. A lot of fenders are black rubber and leave nasty looking smudges on our nice white paint. The top parts of the ship sides can be around 35 metres above the quay and needs a special lift called a cherry picker to access it. Dont ask me how it got that name. Picking cherries is not what it is for.
After we left Rhodes it was time for our officer on deck event. This is a lovely evening event where we gather together with the guests around the pool for an epicurean style pre dinner party and is a chance for as many of our officers as possible to serve the guests canapés. It is always a success.
Finally, today we arrived at the spectacular island of Santorini and drifted for the day off the town of Thira. I have described this place many times in past blogs and you can see more here.
Superlatives were invented for this place. You need to see it to believe it. Whitewashed houses perch on sheer cliffs of pumice and coloured rock. It's simply staggering. Not sure I could live in them with sheer drops over the garden wall. Nonetheless it is picture postcard stuff.
Now we are heading for the final port on this cruise, the Port of Piraeus near the city of Athens. It is sure to be a busy day but more on that later.
Since we left Istanbul on a cloudy and rather gloomy afternoon we have visited Myrina on the island of Limnos, Mykonos yesterday and today, Kusadasi. Unfortunately I had to cancel the call in Myrina for when we arrived at our anchorage the wind was so strong that to run my tender boats would have been too much of a risk. It is always a tough call to make to cancel a port as I am acutely aware of the disappointment to some guests it causes. However when the chance of injury to somebody getting on our off a tender or possible damage to my tender boats is high then I must make the call.
So we spent the day at sea heading south among the islands to Mykonos. The wind was from the NNE and once we turned south the ship was very comfortable. The forecast was for light winds in Mykonos.
The forecasters were hopelessly wrong. Dawn dawned. The wind was still stiff from the North and the sky was still heavy and steel grey. Mind you it had warmed up somewhat. We anchored in the harbour. Tucked up in the north of the bay in which Mykonos harbour lies affords some shelter unlike the anchorage at Myrina was is totally exposed to winds from the North.The sky did struggle to clear and by around midday there was a suggestion of sunshine around.
We successfully ran our boats all day in Mykonos right into the ancient harbour. The hills to the rear of the port are covered in houses and apartments and shops and cafes. All are painted white. The white paint salesman does well I would imagine. White would suggest that perhaps the sun does get here eventually and warms the place up. The old windmills would perhaps attest to the fact that more often than not Mykonos is windy. The lack of any sizeable trees may confirm that notion.
So now we find ourselves in Kusadasi. The pilot boarded. I have known this pilot for quite a few years now. There have only ever been 2 pilots in all the years I have been coming here. He came to the bridge under another gloomy sky. The forecast was for light westerly winds. The forecasters got that wrong too. It was blowing stiffly and it was murky. This is most unusual for Kusadasi. I asked the pilot where the summer was. He told me that if I found it would I be so kind to send it back for it should be much better than this by now. We had a small moan as is our want and docked the ship. The lovely view from my cabin window has been obliterated by a leviathan that has docked beside us and towers above us. I can see right into a number of cabins right across from me and I guess they can do the same to me. I have drawn my net curtains.
I went for my usual walk around the ship and came across this studious fellow.
This is Ned, Chief Engineer doing his arrival paperwork. It served as a timely reminder that I should go and do some of mine too.studious