It’s a Good Thing We Didn’t Need Rescuing…

  • Day 35, Voyage of the Vikings 2019
  • Monday, Sept.2, 2019, At Sea

If the Zuiderdam passengers and crew had needed rescuing while in the waters off Greenland, it could have taken five days. That’s the estimated time till rescue for a ship of our size in those waters.

Capt. Bart Vaartjes shared that factoid during today’s question and answer session with senior officers, which drew a standing room only crowd. His answer came in response to a woman’s question about what life would be like on a ship’s lifeboat, a question that occurred to her after touring Titanic museums and exhibits on this cruise. The chief engineer quipped “very cozy!” That’s true, because 150 people are assigned to each lifeboat.

It’s a big ocean out there, and we have been sailing in areas that seldom see passenger ships of this size.

“That’s why we are so cautious and dedicated to our safety drills,” the captain said.

Many of the questions in today’s session referred to ship operations – how much fresh water the desalination equipment can produce in a day, what the fuel capacity and consumption are, rules for using the fog horn.

Environmental Interest

A number of passengers are curious about the environmental operations. At the beginning of this cruise the Zuiderdam received an award for the top environmental record of all Holland America ships.

Paper waste is offloaded and recycled. Waste water is treated according to its source and once virtually clean dumped well offshore. Ballast water, used to steady the ship, also must be treated, as it transports living organisms across oceans. Food waste is pulverized and dumped, but the cruise line is working on cutting it in the first place. For example, dinners are not cooked until ordered rather than in large batches in advance.

Frequent cruisers don’t always like changes, and they voiced their opinions in their questions and comments. More than one person expressed concerns about all the activities moved to the Crow’s Nest (shore excursions, future cruise consultants, the miniscule library, coffee bar), missing the days when it was just a bar with a great view. (I might add that whoever obviously doesn’t love the Crow’s Nest.)

The hotel manager said all the Crow’s Nests are being expanded into what they call EXC Central, and urged those who didn’t like the change to make their voices heard.

He also acknowledged that the residential production singers and dancers are being phased off Holland America’s ships, being replaced by groups such as StepOne dancers who will travel between the ships.

In fact, he said “If you are missing something, write it down” on the post-cruise survey we will receive via email. The responses go to the ship and the head office.

Dry Dock Upgrades

When the Zuiderdam goes into dry dock in December, many of the upgrades will be behind the scenes – improvements in lifesaving equipment, the engineering department and the crew accommodations. “And, of course, our five cabins,” the hotel manager joked, referring to the captain and four officers on stage answering questions. More substantial upgrades will occur in 2022.

One change new to me is that the hotel service charge is now combined at the fleet level and divided more equitably among the crews all the ships. This means crews who are busy working during dry docks, for example, still get a share. Of course, the service charges — better known as tips — are controversial. Enough said for now.

Our Port Guide Jessica shared some photographs from Aappilattoq, a small village we passed on our transits through Prince Christian Sound in Greenland. The ship delivered 35 boxes of donations to the villagers last week – fresh produce, 65 pizzas, ice cream and other food from the culinary team, school supplies and gifts passengers bought along the way to donate. Almost all the 103 villagers came to greet the team that made the delivery.

Despite their remote location, about half the villagers speak English; there are seven students in school and older ones studying via correspondence; they have TV, cell service and Internet; and cargo ships bring deliveries year around.

When it comes to the Holland America crewmembers, I never hear controversy. They are wonderful. The last comment almost seemed planted – a frequent cruiser said the Zuiderdam crew is the friendliest she has encountered, and everyone cheered. With that, the curtains were drawn showing a stage full of crewmembers while “We Are Family” played over the sound system. It was a fitting ending to this cruise during which we got to know many of the crew.

What are Your Questions?

I plan to write a couple of follow-up posts – about what I forgot to pack (not much), my final sketches, and other thoughts from my first Voyage of the Vikings. I also would like to do my own Q and A. So please post a comment with any questions you would like me to answer, and I’ll do my best.