Crew Office - First Cruise

CREW OFFICE - THE FIRST CRUISE 


Crew Office - The First Cruise is available now! GET IT HERE

Crew Office: Crew Drill!, is soon to be released.
( September 2013)

This second installment of the Crew Office series deals exclusively with onboard safety practices, and crew training. How safe are cruise ships? How well trained are the crew, and what kind of training do they receive? What daily practices go on around the ship to keep you safe? Are their jails onboard? What does security do exactly? Medical emergency, man overboard, fire, environmental emergencies, and more, are covered.

If you would like to be notified when Crew Drills is released, you can put your name on the " CREW DRILL ALERT!" mailing list on the left. Don’t worry, you won’t get spammed, you will only receive notice of when Crew Drill is available.

Crew Office: The First Cruise; Going Behind The Scenes Onboard Modern Cruise Ships

Crew Office – Crews Ship Blog, announces the release of "Crew Office: The First Cruise", a compilation of behind the scenes cruise ship information and advice.

(PRWEB) August 22, 2013
With the cruise industry in the news every day, avid cruisers are asking serious questions about cruise ship safety, cruise costs, onboard health issues, and more. Crew Office: The First Cruise, gives insight into the real world of cruise ship operation, and helps answer those questions, or gives the direction needed to find the answers.
Crew Office: The First Cruise, is a downloadable collection of articles on cruise ship operation. It gives advice, and information, on the onboard issues affecting paying cruise guests, and the unseen things that go on every day behind the scenes onboard a mega cruise ship.
Crew Office: The First Cruise, is written by a veteran cruise ship officer with over 15 years of experience onboard the Cruise Ships of Princess Cruises, Oceania Cruises, RSSC, P&O Australia, and more. He has held onboard positions in Passenger Logistics, Crew Administration, Guest Services, IT and Technology, and Human Resources and Crew Training, and has expert firsthand information on cruise ships, and their crew.
 GET IT HERE


My cabin steward said I could…

Not all crew onboard a cruise ship know what’s going on. That’s not a slander. It’s the truth. You should be aware of information you get onboard, or more specifically, you should be careful where you source your information.

Onboard the ships I have heard more crew “guess” at an answer they did not know than I have heard give the right answer. Even on the web, as I browse through other crew blogs and websites I am amazed at how liberally some of them toss out false information, or misrepresent the lines they work for. Most of them rarely ever made it past dining room waiter, or cruise staff, and maybe worked onboard a year or two, but they will tell you every answer you want to know with absolute authority. It’s the evil “assumption” that is to blame. Crew members, or ex crew members, assume that something must be correct and so they tell it that way.

Onboard the ships, it is not uncommon for the stateroom stewardess to be asked questions ranging from dining room issues to destinations issues. It is true that many of these excellent workers do their best to answer your questions, they make excellent assumptions, but they are the experts in taking care of your room and not in the dining room menu and not in the disembarkation procedures. If you want to know about tours, go ask the tour staff. If you want to know about disembarkation, go ask the reception desk who to talk too. I know many feel that as cruise line representatives they should know every answer and be responsible for every complaint you have. But it isn’t possible.

A passenger once complained about the safety of a boating tour, and asked who was in charge so they could complain, the steward told them to talk to the Captain. The steward assumed that since the Captain was in charge of our shipboard safety, he must also be in charge of the tour boat saftey. The correct answer would have been " I believe the shore excursion manager could best assist you".

The reception desk is in place to assist and guide you. They will help you find out whatever you want to know. However, it is worth pointing out that if you have an inexperienced receptionist, or a new one, your information might not be exactly accurate. If you think perhaps reception has not given you the most up to date information, or if you have received conflicting information, then ask for the supervisor. No one will be angry if you do.

I am not saying that crew do not have a responsibility to have correct information, they do, and as long as they follow these three golden rules there will never be a problem;

1) Do not make things up.
2) Do not guess or assume.
3) If you don’t know the answer, tell the guest you don’t know and that you can help them find out, and then go ask your supervisor.

Sadly, not all crew follow the three golden rules.

One time, on one line I was working for (which I will not mention) I was standing at the reception desk when a person came to enquire about a tour refund on their account. The receptionist printed the account out, looked at it and hummed and hawed over it. Finally the receptionist said to the person;

This is very complicated, I can see that you should have refunds but they are not on the account yet, our accountant will be applying them overnight and then you can have the credits moved to wherever you like”.

The person looked confused, but chose to not pursue the issue, which they should have because;

1) Room statements are not complicated, if they are then you need to see someone who can fix that ( supervisor).

2) You can not “see” from a room statement if a person is “due” refunds, you can only tell that if you check with the refunding party, IE: if destinations are going to refund someone, you need to call destinations and ask when the refund will occur.

3) There was no accountant working at night on this cruise line, the receptionist made that up.

4) You can not always have credits moved to wherever you like, there are often rules attached to refunds and credits.

( all this would vary slightly line to line)

The point is that this receptionist did not know what was going on, and did not give the information the person needed. If you get information that is confusing and makes no sense go to the right people, or if you’re talking to the right people ask for the supervisor. Don’t just accept the confusion and assume that the credit, or whatever you’re depending on, will magically appear.

I know, I know, it's their job to know these things. I am just telling you that quite often, they don’t. We don’t all get together and talk about stuff, and interdepartmental communication can, at times, be unsuccessful.

The moral of this story is; consider the source of all onboard information.

If you’re asking your waiter when you should meet for your tour, consider the source.

If you’re asking your destination staff if the pasta has seafood in it, consider the source.

If you’re asking a man in coveralls fixing a pipe where the best shopping ashore is, consider the source.

If your asking reception about financial issues and the reply is more akin to a senate hearing on tax reform than information about your bill, then consider getting ANOTHER source.

Life on a Volcano


It’s hard to believe; especially now in the wake of the eruption of the Iceland Volcano, that people willingly live under, and on, massive volcanoes. In fact they live on active massive volcanoes that are actually erupting. Taormina is shadowed by the largest active volcano in Europe, Mount Etna. Mount Etna is an active, erupting volcano. In 2007 it erupted violently enough for the 400 meter high plume of lava to be seen from space. In 2008 it did it again this time followed by more than 200 earthquakes in the area. I mean, why? Why would you live on this beast? If you ask me you are taking your life loosely in your hands, and asking for trouble. But, what will happen if Etna does erupt powerfully enough to destroy Taormina? We will see it on CNN and hear about the tragedy that destroyed the poor citizens of Taormina and how unfortunate and tragic it is, when really, they were asking for it. Just my opinion but honestly, would you live this close to an active spewing Volcano that has destroyed villages in this century? Would you let your children play around its crater of hot lava? No? So then why would you live on it? It is beautiful, but why risk it? Click on the image to see a larger version, yea it's another panorama, I'm going through a phase...

Fun in Funchal

Finally, after 8 days at sea, we reached land! Funchal, in Madiera, is quite a lovely little town. I went wandering to see the sights and was really impressed with the beauty of the place. I took a couple panorama shots which, I think, underline that beauty. Click on them to see full size. On a " cruise tip " note I should add that when you walk from the pier to the town you will be hassled frequently. NOT by the cab drivers as you would expect, they won't say a word to you, but by the people selling fishing tours, catamarans, and surveys. Yea, the surveys I don't understand either, but on my walk from the ship, at the furthest point of the pier, to the town I was asked about fishing, catamarans, or surveys 7 times ( and it's only a 15 minute walk). So, when in Funchal, enjoy the great scenery, restuarants, and shops, but be prepared to be harrassed by the local "three". Maybe just wear a t-shirt that says; "NO fishing, catamarans or surveys...Obrigada"!

Also, you will see exchange offices everywhere so do yourself a favour and exchange your USD ashore, not onboard where you eat a service fee as well as an inflated exchange rate.



Day 4 of 8 crossing the Atlantic
Water, water everywhere. 4 days into an 8 days crossing. A crew member takes in the view.

Kotor of the HILL people!

In a very secluded part of the Mediterranean, on the coast of Montenegro, is an absolutely astonishing little place called Kotor. The name sounds more like a barbarian hero.. like Conan.. " I am KOTOR of the HILL people!" But in fact it’s a primeval town, first settled by ancient Romans in 168 BC. Over the centuries Kotor has been controlled by several different empires but the most significant was the Venetians who ruled Kotor from 1420 to 1797. It was the Venetians who built the amazing walled city that you see today. ( please click on pictures to enlarge)

The old town itself is completely surrounded by huge defensive walls, and as you look up the three hundred meter mountain that Kotor sits at the base of, you can see that the massive walls completely enclose not only the city but the mountain itself. At the very top, with a commanding view of the city and the bay, sits the fortress of San Giovanni, or St. John, which was the Venetian stronghold. The Venetian influence also extends into the old town architecture. All the buildings and narrow streets are very reminiscent of Venice… without the water.

The great thing about Kotor, is that even though it is a UNESCO world heritage site, you can still climb the one thousand steps to the top and go inside of the fortress and explore. Nothing is blocked off and nothing is barred from the public. Probably it should be in order to protect this amazing ruin, but right now, you can still climb it and explore it. You do have to pay two euro per person at the entrance to the climb up to the fortress, but that’s all.

Today I was lucky enough to make the climb with three beautiful girls (brilliant motivation if you’re a guy…); Amber, who you have met before, Claire and Linh. Here they are at the entrance gate to the climb up the fortress, kind of doing a Charlies Angels thing... I said kind of. Claire and Linh work in the Spa, and Claire is actually the onboard fitness instructor. Yea, I know what you’re thinking; pretty fearless move to go on a thousand step climb with a fitness instructor, but she was kind and didn’t take off sprinting up the steps like a gazelle leaving us all behind. Instead she maintained a moderate pace and let us all feel much more fit than we probably are. Of course on the way up, everyone we passed knew Claire. It seems almost all of the guests who have been frequenting the gym also wanted to make this climb, and they all made sure to let Claire know that after this climb they wouldn’t be making it to the gym. In fact, I think I’ll be skipping my evening gym session as well… don’t tell Claire.

The climb isn’t as punishing as it seems when you first look at it, but if you’re not fairly active you might find it a bit of a test. If you do ever get to Kotor and make the climb to the fortress my advice is try and take the little side paths and explore on your way up. Don’t just follow the normal path or the people in front of you. There is plenty to discover all the way up (or down). At one point where the normal path went right, we went left. We passed a man coming down this path who told us in three languages that there was no way through (he just kept trying until he saw understanding dawn on our faces), but we went anyway. It turns out there was a way through, you just had to climb up some very steep ancient stairs, pinch through a narrow remnant of a corridor and climb through what looked like an old fortress window. Most amazing of all was that while we were trying to find a way through we came across a huge chamber cut into the mountain. It was a little scary in fact. It was very dark inside and we had to actually enter the huge room so our eyes adjusted and we could see a little bit. I, of course, sent the girls in first to check for spooks and spiders. This is them entering the spooky room.

As you can see it was an amazing chamber, it kind of reminded me of a scene from Beowulf. This is the kind of room they gathered in; a huge fire roaring and torches alight along the walls. Everyone eating and drinking and partying… of course then Grendle came and killed everyone for making too much noise.

There is something eerie about standing in a room like this, with so much history. What was this huge room? Who entered here? How many centuries has it stood? What things went on inside these walls? There is also something eerie about standing in an ancient stone room with a 30 foot ceiling when it’s dark and you can’t see what’s looking down at you (yea, that’s right, I’m talkin’ about SPIDERS again…). If you ever do make this hike, take a flashlight with you. If you find the big scary room it will come in handy.

It took us about forty minutes to make it to the top and St. Johns fortress. If you’re going to make the climb give yourself two hours or a bit more to allow for side path exploration and all of the photo stops you will make. You might want to take some water along with you as well. It’s a bit strange to me but with all the little grassy areas along the climb not one local has thought to open a little refreshment stand! On a sunny hot day like today, after climbing all the way up, I would easily drop six euro on a cold beer. This is my third season visiting Kotor and not once has anyone thought to get a few fit high school teenagers to carry a couple coolers of ice, coke and beer to the top and sell it for 300% profit. It kills me that no one is doing this. If I lived here, I sure would.

All in all I would say Kotor is a must see, and St. Johns fortress is a must do, and when you get back to the bottom you can reward yourself with some of the best pizza and ice cream in the med, all available in the old town.

Santorini; calm within chaos


Santorini, Greece sits 980 feet above the water, on the edge of a sheer cliff. It is essentially sitting on the rim of a colossal volcano, an ancient one, overlooking the central lagoon that is the caldera leftover from a massive explosion that took place around 3600 years ago. This tablecloth from the Stani Tavern pretty much gives you the idea.
To view Santorini from the sea is impressive. All along the tops of the remaining volcanic islands the white buildings are densely packed together giving the illusion from a distance of a dusting of snow along the tops of the cliffs.

Many visitors to Santorini arrive by cruise ship, as we did, and visit the main town of Thira. After a tender ride from ship to shore (cruise ships can’t dock in Santorini) you can make your way up the 980 foot cliff face to Thira either by cable car, donkey, or on foot. I personally recommend the cable car; for only three euro you are whisked quickly to the top and the view as you ascend is brilliant. Also the cable car doesn’t reek, defecate enroute, or try and clobber your legs against the road walls as it climbs, unlike some of the more disorderly donkeys. Going up on foot is also not recommended, again mainly because of the donkeys… or more accurately what they leave behind.

Santorini is a truly popular sightseer destination in Greece, well known for its startling views, and wicked night life. We were day trippers so we couldn’t enjoy the celebrated night spots, but I have it on good authority that if you enjoy nightclubs and bars, Santorini will not disappoint you.

The narrow streets of Santorini, typical of many old Greek towns, are snugly filled with shops, restaurants and clubs… and tourists. It is hectic and chaotic, yet it is easy to find some peace and order amid the chaos if you look for it. Almost everything in Santorini is along the Cliffside because every restaurant, club, bar, and hotel wanted the best views and so everyone clamored for their place along the cliff edge. As a result, it is not hard to find a nice patio bar or restaurant sitting on, or even extending beyond, the edge of the cliff allowing you an amazing panoramic view of the lagoon below. There is something particularly serene about sitting in the sun, with a beer in your hand, and looking down on the world. Even though you are surrounded by the buzz of the busy Greek town, all the chaos can not penetrate your “cone of silence” as you survey your kingdom.

Of course, caveat emptor; be aware that the better the view, the higher the prices will be. We were sitting in a lovely location with excellent view as you can see from these pictures, and a simple Greek salad was ten euro. That’s about twice the price of a restaurant further in from the edge.

All in all however, I would say Santorini is deserving of its reputation. Even for a day tripper or cruise ship traveler it is an amazing place to witness, and it has something to offer everyone. But if your leery of heights, you may want to stay to the inside streets and away from the cliff edge cafes and bars.

Einstein’s not dead; he’s slinging Doners in Kusadasi.

For me, Kusadasi never gets tired. You can get everything you need and it’s all within walking distance of the port. No taxi, bus or trouble required. Of course the vendors can get on your nerves sometimes; with their constant requests for you to come into their shop or restaurant, but then again they are always happy and (usually) polite, and the attempts they make at guessing where you’re from are always entertaining. Today I was from Chicago and my friend Amber was from Japan, at least according to the vendors. Then again I would rather have storekeepers inviting me in, asking me what I want and guessing where I am from than ignoring me like in many western stores.

Every time I come here I see something new added to the shopping or eating experience, today it was Einstein’s. While we were walking around and browsing the street shops we were also on the hunt for a Doner place for lunch when we came across Einstein. We passed by him at first, but like two small elementary particles we were drawn back to Einstein. It turns out the service was great and the food was good, and of course the prices were relatively low (pun intended). So if you are going to Kusadasi and want to enjoy a good Doner served by Einstein, I recommend him. When you’re done your lunch I promise Einstein will be happy to pose for a picture with you like he did with my friend Amber. (She does look a little Japanese I suppose).

You have to admire the capitalist business model that Kusadasi has become. Whatever you want, literally, is available with a smile. Over the years this tourist port has adapted to what the visitors and tourists want. Not just the cruise ship tourists but all tourists. If last season several tourists asked around for a “jingle jangle” then the next time you visit Kusadasi I guarantee you there will be three “jingle jangle” shops open. They want to sell you what you want to buy. Everything from genuine articles to genuine fakes all conveniently available in one easy to access place.

Of course some very entrepreneurial vendors branch out and offer several types of service or sales from the same store front. I couldn’t help but be impressed by Billy’s Jewelry and Real Estate. As my friend Amber put it, “not looking for any land, then how about a nice new watch”?

Of course Kusadasi, and Turkey in general have much to offer any visitor; thousands of years of culture and history, and of course apple tea and hookah’s. But if you’re anything like most of the crew onboard the cruise ships and you just want to do some quick shopping and barter for some great deals and have a nice lunch, then you can’t beat Kusadasi.

The Hindenburg, Nazis, and the most interesting cruise ever conceived. It’s all in the Virgin Islands Daily News.

I never really knew much about St. Thomas history. I never really cared much to be honest. I knew it was a typical busy Caribbean cruise port loaded with ships of every line disgorging eight to twenty thousand tourists a day depending on how many ships are in. I also knew it had a good Chinese food restaurant close to the pier. That’s all I needed to know.

In short; St. Thomas is an efficient tourist machine that can handle all of our cruise industry needs for tourist and crew member alike quickly and easily (and with a smile).

But why is that? Why can they? How did this come to be? This is what I had never cared about; the how’s and why’s. Then by accident I happened across an old newspaper page in the news archive of the Virgin Islands Daily News.

It was a full page advertisement for “the most interesting cruise ever conceived” posted by Cyril E. Daniel; his phone number was 174 and also 175 (he must have been very successful to have two phone numbers). As you can see the ad was for the S.S. Macoris, a French cruise ship departing round trip from St. Thomas in August of 1933. And don’t forget “NO PASSPORT REQUIRED”. This was, after all, a cruise that took place seventy seven years ago.

Seeing this interesting ad made me start thinking about St. Thomas and its cruising history. I started reading through the archives of the VIDN. Reading about some of the most interesting history of the world while at the same time learning about St. Thomas and how it became the cruise hub of the Caribbean. I was fascinated by it. The scans of actual newspapers made it feel more like being there. It made the history feel “more genuine” than a text book. I would read the old articles and get such a deep feeling of the time.

I learned that St. Thomas didn’t just happen to become the most popular Caribbean cruise port in the Caribbean by chance. No, there were many, many factors that lead to it. Not the least of which was the desire of the population of St. Thomas to BE the number one cruise destination in the Virgin Islands. They have always studied the rankings. Look at this snippet of “where they stand” from September 8, 1961.

Of course St. Thomas had a rich and long history and was a major port for trade before cruising became chic. But around 1860, with the development of steam ships and the ability of countries to import directly without stopping in St. Thomas, things began a slow downturn.
Eventually, the grand American and European flagged transatlantic ships began making stops in St. Thomas in the 20’s and 30’s. This made things look bright for the small Island, but not for long. The war in Europe broke out, and all the grand liners were converted to troop carrying ships and this immediately put the breaks on what could have been prosperity for St. Thomas. An excerpt from the Governors report of 1940 printed in the February 1, 1941 edition of the VIDN points this out.

I found it amazing to see an small story for the newest American “dealer of destruction”, the B-26 bomber, on the same page. This means that St. Thomas was analyzing the cruise industry and how they could capitalize on it even while the world was at war!

One very small snippet of world news, before it happened, also caught my eye in the archive. It is a small mention that another type of cruise ship, the dirigible Hindenburg, was on its way to New York. Printed almost a year to the day it would explode in Lakehurst. There are several mentions in the archive of when the Hindenburg is making trips around the world. Perhaps the USVI had their eye on trying to capture some of that cruise traffic before the tragedy on May 6, 1937.

Of all the articles I read in the VIDN, one short article on the cruise industry stood out more than the others. It was probably written by the editor and manager of the VIDN at the time, Mr. Melchior. It was published in the May 28, 1946 edition. It is a brief and succinct point of view piece on “The tourist trade”. You could also consider it a fifty six year old state of the industry speech.

Probably unnoticed at the time, this small piece is visionary. It sums up exactly what St. Thomas needed to do, and did do (for the most part), to become the Caribbean king of cruise ports. Well done Mr. Melchoir (or whoever else wrote it), and well done Virgin Islands Daily News for helping St. Thomas remember over the past eighty years that cruise ships, and cruise ship passengers, do not have to come to St. Thomas. They choose to come. What was said in this article sixty three years ago is still as true as ever today. It leaves no doubt that St. Thomas was very concerned for the future of its tourist business, mainly the cruise ships, and is definitely at least partially responsible for the number of modern cruise ships sailing the waters of the USVI today.

The article is a bit big to post so I will leave the link instead. I encourage you to read it. It is very insightful. I have left several other links to items I found of interest in the archives of the Virgin Islands Daily News. I hope you enjoy reading through the past as much as I did. Thanks to the Virgin Islands Daily News, I am looking forward to returning to St. Thomas, one day, and appreciating a little more deeply what it is they have built (and also having a good Chinese…and buying a good camera…).

The tourist trade. It is May 28, 1946. The first cruise ship since the end of the war is coming to St. Thomas. The Stella Polaris. What can St. Thomas do to ensure the growth of this valuable and essential industry? Are they ready?

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=qqoNAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ei4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=2353,2979351&dq=cruises


May 24, 1941. Hitler and the Suez! An article reporting on Hitler’s plans to take the Suez and the battles over many of the now popular cruise routes like the Dardanelles.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=aK0NAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ki4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=6367,4368280&dq=nazi

August 29, 1947. A good season ahead. This article talks about the return to cruising of many of the converted troop ships, and mentions the very first cruise ship sunk by the Germans in the war, a Cunard ship.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=NK0NAAAAIBAJ&sjid=gi4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=2638,1251748&dq=cruises

January 3, 1951. Good news for the cruise business. Furness agrees to extend the ships time in port so more people can shop and visit.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0uEJAAAAIBAJ&sjid=iUMDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5206,81546&dq=cruise+ship+entertainment

March 9, 1956. Ashes of cruise director strewn in harbor entrance.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=IFQKAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wkYDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4078,1203487&dq=cruise

January 5, 1965. Drugs found onboard the S.S. France in St. Thomas! Heroin.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ImMJAAAAIBAJ&sjid=y0cDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1751,174690&dq=cruise+ship

October 16, 1967. 11 ships to call in October! Bringing more than 7000 tourists! This includes the Queen Elizabeth carrying 1200 passengers. Of course today, it would only take two or three ships to make seven thousand tourists. Very soon, with Oasis Of The Seas, one ship by itself will bring five thousand.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ke4JAAAAIBAJ&sjid=zUQDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3630,3062707&dq=cruise


August 27, 1969. Just when, how and why did Florida become the centre of gravity for cruise ships? Blend the new jet airlines with cruises into a cruise flight package.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=BWMJAAAAIBAJ&sjid=o0cDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3052,4132102&dq=cruise

May 28, 1974. Jump forward in time seven years, and 326 ships are due over the summer.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=uXIJAAAAIBAJ&sjid=eEcDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2368,2898037&dq=cruise

November 7, 1980. Jump forward another seven years and 571 ships are due to arrive. The constant efforts of St. Thomas to become the leader in the Caribbean over the past thirty five years have paid off.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=b08KAAAAIBAJ&sjid=nEYDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4801,1016866&dq=cruise

May 28, 1980. The largest cruise ship ever to resume calling in St. Thomas.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=HxoKAAAAIBAJ&sjid=fkcDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5091,4165578&dq=cruise


To search through more of the VIDN archive, it is easy to use google. Go to:

http://news.google.com/archivesearch/advanced_search?ned=us&hl=en

Under “find results” type in a word like ‘cruise” or “war” or etc.
Under “date” type in a year range like 1930 – 1950
Under “source” type in “virgin islands”

S/S United States

Will this great American icon be torn to shreds? She is one of the few classic and historical liners still around, and after escaping the indignation of the scrap yards for the last forty years, her luck might finally be running out. The SS United States is owned by NCL ( Norwegian Cruises owned by Star Cruise Lines). They once had plans to restore her and put her to work on the Hawaii run with NCLA, but of course we all know what happened to NCLA, and the plans for the SS United States died along with it. So now she is berthed in Philadelphia, rusting away while her fate is decided. Rumor has it NCL (Star Cruises) has said they will not sell the ship for scrap, or to a foreign owner, but I wouldn't bet on that.

Why not just sell her to a foreign owner so she can be put to service as a low cost party cruiser like so many other old cruise ships? Well because! This is the SS United States, the greatest ocean liner ever built in America!

She was a technological marvel of her time. Built with heavy subsidization by the government and built to military standards she actually was a duel purpose vessel. You could say she was not a passenger ocean liner at all but a military ship used as an ocean liner when not on active duty. That’s why she was so amazing. She had duel engine rooms in case of attack. No wood onboard, all fiberglasses so she was fireproof. She had extensive aluminum used in the superstructure so she was light and was over powered for speed. She was compartmentalized in such a way that half the ship could fill with water and still float. She was the fastest ship built. She could do twenty knots in reverse and her top speed of 44 knots full ahead was classified for years after her construction, and still holds the record for cruise liners. She was the first to utilize five blade propellers; the fact is she was a surprise weapon on stand by in the cold war era because of her great speed being able to transport thousands of troops in half the time it would take any other country. All of this, plus her name and the fact she was made in the USA makes her a national icon. You can not simply sell a national icon like the SS United States to just anyone, not if you don’t want tomatoes thrown at you.

I have thought about it, and I am the first one to say how much I love classic old liners, but we need to be realistic. They are just that, classic old liners. Look at the Norway, which was the old SS France, and the pride of France at one time just like the SS United States was the pride of America. There will be nothing at all left of her but pictures and memories. She is ripped apart on a scrapping beach in Alang, India. Her great history cut up and sold off.

There is an effort to preserve the SS United States as a hotel, or a museum, and still some talk about making her a viable refurbished cruise ship. Let’s be honest. None of that is financially viable. She has been stripped to the bones. Her four steam engines, although still onboard, would never be used. You would have to rebuild completely preserving only her outline. It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Even then, she would not meet the quality of the modern cruise ships and would require constant repairs and maintenance. To make her a hotel or museum would also cost millions, millions that would probably never be recouped in revenue afterwards. Not to mention that NCL (Star Cruises) probably also wants to recoup the millions they have spent keeping her tied up all these years. A hotel or museum is not going to make that kind of money. They say it is costing $1000.00 per day to keep her tied up. Who can afford that these days? That is irresponsible money handling.

It is true, that 50 years ago the SS United States was a symbol of the nation that built her. But she is not that SS United States any more. For all intents and purposes she is dead. It would be more cost effective and more realistic to just build another SS United States much the same way Cunard has rebuilt the Queen Elizabeth. She has been tied up and wasting away for forty years! Over twice as long as she was sailing! How long must it be until we realize it is not financially viable to restore her? It has not been so for four decades. I doubt that will change.

But at the same time, she is a grand old lady and can not simply be sent to Alang like the terrible way the Norway was wasted. Horror of horrors no! So what to do? How to stop losing money on her while she rusts away tied to a pier, but at the same time preserve her for all time with the dignity due a statesman?

Sink her.

I can hear it now… WHAT! Sink her!! You’re MAD!

But think about it. Make her into a national park. It’s good for the economy; a national park makes jobs and creates tourism which brings in money. It’s good for the ecology, its good for the recreational divers. It’s good for everyone. You can place a placard, a memorial, anything. We all know artificial reefs are good for the planet. So let’s take the great lady and save her the indignity of Alang. Let her serve a purpose and become a memorial all at the same time.

Granted, she would need some clean up done before then, but it would be allot cheaper and more financially responsible than refurbishing. It would be a gift to the planet, maintain her dignity, and create something people could use for centuries to come. After all she has already had all asbestos removed. Unlike the Norway which had not.

Of course, if you think me insane and feel that she should be saved, and if you think it can still happen, you should visit the following web site and get involved.

Above image is borrowed from this website

They have an online petition, take donations, and also suggest other ways you can help save her. It’s also a good read about the SS United States. I am going to join the petition myself. I think she should be a reef, not saved, but I do NOT want her to go to Alang. That's just rude.
This YouTube video is done by them as well.

Catch a bus to the aft end

Talking about the Oasis, and pondering her general splendiferousnes, got me to wondering about the Freedom ship. Remember the Freedom Ship? More of a city at sea complete with an airport on top? I always suspected a con, or if not a con perhaps just grandiose dreams. Anyway, I went back to the website, and sure enough it had an update on it. A year old rather indignant lecture about how they are not a scam, which to me clearly indicates a scam, and an icon promoting the supposed CEO of Freedom Ship Inc, Norman Nixon, for President. It doesn’t say president of what, but one would assume the United States. (http://www.freedomship.com/)

It is obvious this is not real. Everything about it is wrong from the start. The web page is weak and has no substance. You need only look at the “itinerary” page to see a hastily put together map showing a rudimentary world cruise itinerary, as done it seems by someone who has never even been on a cruise, to get the full feeling of a con. The details of the “real estate” section and the inconsistent general rules of occupation feel like they are meant to put across a false feeling of organized legitimacy. Of course the biggest tip off should be the lack of financial information or financial direction… well that, and I have never seen anything about it on FOX news or CNN. Although it DOES have its own YouTube video!



But if it's a con or not isn't the point. The point is it's an intriguing idea!

Isn’t a version of the Freedom ship where the next logical steps in cruising are leading? If the economics of scale prove bigger is cheaper (do you see anyone building smaller ships these days?), and if a new world financial order is developing in which responsibility and accountability are paramount, then isn’t this one possible future? Ok maybe not a community and “way of life” as described in the Freedom ship information. I don’t know how well that would fly financially unless it was a retirement community. But what about a massive, slow moving resort and entertainment park at sea? Wouldn’t it be great, for example, if Disneyland was always on the move? I don’t mean a teeny representation of Disneyland like a Disney cruise ship (as great as they are). I mean DISNEYLAND baby, the whole supercalifragilisticexpialidocious experience! Everything except the parking lot! I have four kids. The cost and logistics of traveling to the nearest park is prohibitive. But what if it was coming to me? How about it kids? Should we embark the Disney Gigantasourous for a week? We can embark just outside Porto and get off four days later in Lisbon then catch the train home? Oh.. and in two months the Six Flags Holyhumungus will be passing our coast again as well, just in time for summer!

Technologically it must be possible already. After all we can float massive oil rigs, and what about the four floating airports in Japan with MegaFloat runways? Granted the airports don’t move, yet, but the oil rigs do. (http://www.srcj.or.jp/html/megafloat_en/index.html)

Oasis represents a clear quantum leap from any other cruise ship build and is a natural evolution. Oasis evolved from Voyager. Voyager evolved from a class before that, and so on. Once Oasis class proves itself a financial success then the next logical step is to build upon that success. You could build more of the same, but eventually you must evolve and compress the success of multiple Oasis class ships into the next evolutionary class. Finally, at some point however many generations and classes down the line, you have something that is very much like a five hundred acre floating resort and entertainment park at sea, complete with airport and transit system. Something so large you can catch a bus to go to the aft end.

The only thing required for anyone to build a ship even bigger and better than the previous one is a person with vision, a solid business model (something to evolve from), massive financial backing, and some uber ship builders with a facility in which to build something that has never been built before. The evolutionary process generally provides for all of that as well. If you had the resources for the first, you can generally find the resources to improve on the second.

I don't think Freedom Ship Inc is real. I doubt a bunch of engineers with no experience in the cruise industry and no previous track record could just worm hole forward to a point that industry leaders have not yet reached… but maybe they are trying. I will reserve benefit of the doubt to be fair, but I won’t be sending them any cash.

Either way I think it’s an idea that’s coming, or at least a similar version of the idea. I think the only real question is which cruise leader or resort tycoon (or combination) will do it first?


Paradilla please

It is a vegetarian’s nightmare. It’s a place where cows outnumber humans 3 to 1. A place where sheep outnumber cows two to one. A place where more beef is consumed per capita than any other country in the world and you can’t walk two feet without hitting a steak house or barbeque pit. Yes, Montevideo is truly a unique city in South America. Where Christmas is called “family day” and the national drink is tea, Montevideo is quite unlike the hulking countries of Brazil and Argentina which surround it.

Today we went to do what everyone does when in Montevideo; no, we didn’t go shopping for leather goods, we went to eat barbeque beef and drink sangria. Of course it makes sense that in a country where cows outnumber people leather would be plentiful and cheap, but we were not in the market for that particular bovine byproduct.

You are never disappointed with the beef in Uruguay, and the barbeque pits have been barbequing beef in the traditional open flame wood barbeques for centuries. A good piece of meat, a hot fire with good wood (and of course a handful of rock salt) and viola! A meat feast fit for a meat loving king. Wash it all down with a pitcher of sangria and watch the tourists and locals walk by in the avenue. No afternoon could be better.

Of course, you’re going to have to deal with the drummers. You see, unlike Argentina which has little black history, Uruguay has been home to African Uruguayans for hundreds of years. Freed slaves from Brazil immigrated into Uruguay and became part of the culture. So now, wherever you go in a tourist area, you are destined to hear the energetic sounds of the candombe. Candombe ( which means "place and dance of africans") is the drum beat developed by the musically inclined descendants of the freed Brazilian slaves, and it does not seem to be in any danger of fading away. This means that while you sit with your friends at a steakhouse or barbeque enjoying your sangria and massive slab of beef, your conversation will be periodically drowned out while a wandering group of colorfully dressed candombe musicians stops and hammers out a rhythm or two for you. This instantly reduces any conversation to pantomime and sends sound wave ripples through your glass of sangria. I can’t say I am a huge fan of the wandering drummers, but others seemed to enjoy them and the musicians made a fair dollar from the tourists. A little tip; Make eye contact, raise a camera or give a smile and the wandering drummers will stay and entertain you even longer. This might be handy if you’re vacationing with your mother in law or having lunch with your boss.

Of course carrying the name “The oriental republic” it is not surprising that Uruguayans have a small obsession with tea. Everywhere you look, like the hooka in a Turkish cafĂ©, you see tea cups with silver straws. Uruguayans love it so much many of them carry tea cups and straws with them wherever they go. Yerba Mate is the tea of choice, and not being a tea lover myself I have never really gotten into the swing, but if you find yourself in Montevideo, you might want to try the national drink obsession while you’re swaying to the rhythms of the candombe… After you have had your beef and sangria of course.

Ushuaia all over again

It’s been almost seven years since I was in Ushuaia last, and nothing has really changed. It’s still cold and windy, it’s still the southern most port in the world only a stone throw away from the south pole ( or so the wind feels), and it still has only two Western Unions. Yes, just like Ushuaia, nothing has really changed for me in the past seven years, and just like seven years ago I am still trudging about the world in search of Western Unions to send money from.

Even though it's seven years since I was here last, and even though it has probably been fifteen hundred or so different port calls in between that last visit and now, just like an old matriarch elephant remembering where a water hole is, my aging creaky brain seemed to instinctively remember where the Western Union was.

I left the ship, instantly began to shiver in the fifty degree temperature, battled the wind down the long pier and headed in the direction my gut sent me. Yes, it all seemed familiar, too familiar. The memory is a funny thing, sometimes it remembers absolutely wrong, and sometimes absolutely right. This time, it was right, but hard to believe. Had nothing changed in seven years? The dangerous crosswalk with no traffic light outside the port was the same. The long steep climb up the side street to the main road San Marin still had uneven concrete half steps and uneven sidewalk. Everything I looked at was exactly the same as I remembered it from seven years ago, just a little older and more faded; just like me.

Well, at least I knew where I was going. I climbed up to the main street, looked down to my right for the Correo ( post office) and sure enough, there was the familiar yellow Western Union sign outside the same old post office building. As I walked to the post office and climbed the old wooden steps, I started to remember something else; and as I rounded the doorway and walked inside the building the lineup of around 50 people didn’t surprise me.

I also remembered that seven years ago I was able to use US dollars, but I am old, so not trusting my memory entirely I did the “rude tourist” and forced my way to the front of the line to ask a quick question; well two actually. After asking the girl if she spoke English and having her say “yes”, I asked if I could send American Dollars by Western Union. The girl at the counter nodded her head. Fine, I went back to the end of the line and waited my turn. It did not take so very long, maybe twenty minutes until I was at the counter. I told the girl I would like to send money with Western Union, she smiled, reached under the counter and handed me a Western Union form. Then she asked me to go to the table to fill it out so the rest of the line could move on. Ok, I WANTED to ask why they don’t put the forms out so you can fill them in advance, but I didn’t. I just took my form, went to the table, filled it out and got back in line with a new group of fifty people. While standing in line the second time, I looked around the post office and I swear the same posters and bulletins are on the wall now as seven years ago. In fact, I am pretty sure the girl I spoke to was also here seven years ago. She seemed very familiar.

Finally, when I made it to the counter the second time, I presented my form, my passport and my cash. She looked at my form, looked at my passport, looked at my cash, and told me pesos only. You can imagine I felt a little flabbergasted and angry, but, I have been around. I have been in many countries like Argentina and I know very well that getting upset will not change anything. The only way to win at this was to do it their way. Fine - I smiled at her, the same girl who told me dollars were ok; I smiled at her and said thank you, and left the post office to go change my money.

I found an exchange house just a block up the street, right where I remember it being, which probably means I went through this seven years ago. Wish I had remembered that more clearly. I stood in the line at the exchange for about fifteen minutes, got to the counter, handed over my passport and my cash and waited. I waited patiently while the girl at the counter eyed my money. She rubbed it. She bent it. She tried to smudge it. She held it up to the light. It was obvious she was very suspicious of the American hundred dollar bills. This is not unusual and happens in many countries. Finally, after she decided to accept most of the bills, she handed back several that she wasn’t willing to change. Fine, ok by me. I exchanged what she would accept and headed back to the post office to join the line of around fifty people for the third time. This time, my memory was working a little better and I got ahead of the game by FIRST getting a new form and filling it out with the amount I wanted to send in PESOS, not Dollars. I was confident. I stood in line and watched the girl at the counter. I observed her as one might observe a rival before meeting them in battle. It could be my imagination, but I am pretty sure she was observing me as well.

After about twenty minutes, it was my turn to approach the counter, but just before I could, my rival threw me a fast one and closed her window. Now I was suddenly faced with a new opponent, a man who sat at the window on the right. Ok, fine. I prepared for the worst and went to the counter. I handed him my Western Union form, my passport, a neat stack of Pesos all arranged head up and out in a neat stack, put my pen down on the counter beside my passport and waited. He took my form, read it over, looked at the Pesos, looked at me and asked me in Spanish if I worked on the ships. I replied that I did (in English) and he nodded and began to type.

A rush of victory filled me. I had won! It was only moments before he was handing me a Western Union receipt and confirmation and calling the next person in line. I stood to the side of the line for a moment, basking in the warm glow of my success. I put the receipt and my passport away in my pocket, and headed out into Ushuaia all over again. The next thing on my agenda before returning to the ship was to go to the Farmacia and get some Nurofen (Advil), I seem to remember one just down the street that wasn’t too much of a hassle…




The Love Boat…soon will be making another run...

I think I have mentioned before that when I was younger I was a huge Love Boat fan. It’s probably the main reason I ended up working at sea for Princess Cruises. When I first joined Princess I tried and tried to get a contract onboard the Pacific Princess, the original Love Boat. All my coworkers would tell me I was crazy and not to do it because she was old and not up to the standards of the newer ships in the fleet, but still I wanted to have my time onboard the ship that Doc, Gopher, Julie, Isaac and of course Captain Stubbing sailed into all of our hearts. I never got the opportunity. I was onboard her several times of course visiting friends when we were in port together, and it was true what my friends were saying, she was getting older, but still there was something about her. After all, she was the Love Boat!

Despite everyone telling me how she was smaller and older, they all had fantastic stories about their time onboard her. It seemed to me it was a different Princess Cruises when the Love Boat was sailing the seas. Everyone that had sailed her seemed to have enjoyed their time onboard and they all had great experiences and shared a crew camaraderie that is not common on the big ships anymore. Even the small ones really.

Oh well; to me the Love Boat will always be a legend. I happened to be in port with her just the other day and noticed she was sporting some new colors. The old Love Boat has been reborn yet again! There is still life in the old girl yet. After she left the Princess fleet in 2002 she went to Spanish operator Pullmantur, and as of a month or so ago she is now flying the livery of Quail Cruises, a brand new Spanish cruise operator. Judging by their flyer it looks to be a bit of a party line. Drinks included and shooting for the younger market segment. Look out EasyCruise, other people are gunning for your demographic!
( Download the Quail Cruses brochure here: http://www.quailtravel.es/img/crucerosOK.pdf )

I am a bit surprised she’s been chartered by a new start up, but pleased all the same. After all she is 38 years old. Perhaps Quail Cruises have given her a bit of a refurbishment and oiled some of her squeaks and plugged some of her leaks. I hope they sail her for some time to come because for me it will be a lonelier sea without the original Love Boat still sailing around somewhere.

EasyPeople

EasyCruise has finally come out with another ship, EasyCruise Life. She started sailing last month. The concept of easy cruise is .. well, easy. Minimalist cabins, pay for the cruise passage only, pay for everything else onboard from food to housekeeping services. Also, they maximize the port time sailing for only a few hours at a time. Basically it’s an express bus service to a series of destinations so you can enjoy the time ashore, not onboard. It’s for those people who don’t really cruise for the ship but for the destination. But still… are the prices that great? I randomly chose a cruise from their website;

Port of embarkation
10/07/2008 Thu
Depart 19:00 Marina Zea, PiraeusAegina 21:00 - 03:00
11/07/2008 Fri
Mykonos Town, Mykonos 12:00 - 08:00
12/07/2008 Sat
Parikia, Paros 11:00 - 08:00
13/07/2008 Sun
Kamares, Sifnos 12:00 - 02:00
14/07/2008 Mon
Embark from 14:00 Marina Zea, PiraeusDepart 03:00
15/07/2008 Tue
Itea (for Delphi) 12:00 - 04:00
16/07/2008 Wed
Vathy, Ithaki 12:00 - 06:00
17/07/2008 Thu
Gaios, Paxos 12:00 - 07:00
18/07/2008 Fri
Agioi Saranta (for Butrint) 12:00 - 08:00
19/07/2008 Sat
Corfu Town, Corfu 10:00 - 05:00
20/07/2008 Sun
Preveza, Greece 12:00 - 05:00
21/07/2008 Mon
Argostoli, Kefallonia 12:00 - 08:00
22/07/2008 Tue
Zakynthos Town, Zakynthos 12:00-02:00
23/07/2008 Wed
Kiato (Mycenae, Corinth, Nemea) 09:30 - 02:30
Port of disembarkation
24/07/2008 Thu
Arrive 07:00 Marina Zea, PiraeusDisembark 09:00

This cruise would cost me an astonishing $1800.00 USD per person! For that price I get one Standard cabin with window that has twin beds with duvet and en-suite bathroom with shower. Approx 12 sqm. ( see picture) Sleeps up to 2 people. Considering it is not much more than a bus service, isn’t that price pretty close to a normal budget cruise? I mean I found 14 day Mediterranean cruise on Fred Olsen for the exact same price, but that includes food, housekeeping and other standard services so in reality the Fred Olsen cruise would be cheaper! So, what exactly is the benefit to EasyCruise these days? Of course EasyCruise tends to be in port more, but the other lines have real ships. Then again, this EasyCruise Life actually looks like an ok ship on the inside… comparing it to a real cruise ship might be like the difference between a hotel and a motel I suppose.

I don’t know. To each his own. I have never worked for them and never cruised them so I have no first hand experience. I was just interested to see a new ship and amazed to see the price of a Greek Island cruise. I thought EasyCruise was supposed to be a super cheap minimalist cruise focused on maximized port time. Didn’t they used to sell cruise transport for around 20 euro’s a day or something? I found a web posting from last year where a fellow says he got a week of Greek island cruising in this same category cabin for 200 euro. Maybe the Sky TV “cruising with Stelios” made them popular and raised the prices. Or, maybe it’s because like Stelios says himself in this video.. now they have to figure out how to make money from it”.


All in all it DOES look like fun…. Actually, the party scenes remind me of P&O Australia cruises. That's is another REAL cruise line you can go on for the same price or less, and they seem to party the same way and also have the younger demographic.

I once applied for a job with EasyCruise, back when the EasyCruise line was just being talked about. I thought it sounded exciting. I am glad I didn’t get the job because the line did not grow as predicted. I remember during the initial telephone interview the fellow I was talking to said to me “ So your from Princess, I normally don’t hire Princess people, they all have something about them which I don’t like…” To which I replied “ You mean training, quality and intelligence?”. I never got a call back. I can see now from this video and others like it on YouTube, they were never looking for quality experienced people. They were looking for EasyPeople.. I’m not quite sure what that is… but I know it’s not me.

UPDATE: As of end of 2009 EasyCruise was sold. Guess it was a REALLY good thing I did not get the job!!

"That's not a lie! It's a terminological inexactitude...also a tactical misrepresentation." Alexander Haig

I found an interesting cruise related site. I am not certain if I like it, or if I want to give it my support. What I do know is the webmaster running it is working long hours and is certainly dedicated. I can appreciate that. I also find the whole website terribly amusing because I work in the industry it reports on.

It seems to me you tend to find two kinds of cruise related website or blogs these days; either they are preaching the glories of cruising and how amazing and wonderful ALL cruise lines are with a site or blog laden with advertisements cruise deals and so many special offers you find it hard to navigate (all geared to make the owner money of course). Or you find a website or blog determined to expose the cruise industry as a demonic industry governed by the Dark Lord himself, ALSO heavily loaded with advertisements.

This frustrates me because being a member of the cruise industry I know the truth, and the truth is that like everything in the world there is good and bad to be found. Yes the crew work long hours, yes there can be discrimination onboard, yes citizens of some countries have longer contracts and etc. There are very reasonable explanations for all of this.

The website I came across however is decidedly one sided. The site reports exclusively on the bad things that happen at sea. It tells of missing people, murders at sea, accidents, dangers, bad crew, discrimination, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – MASS HYSTERIA! (Yes that’s a quote from Ghostbusters)

On the one hand, I find this one sided reporting of the industry to be EXTREMELY amusing! Then on the other hand I find it very disappointing for being so single minded and narrow focused and at times even unfair. Yes I know that what is said on this website could at times be true. I have been crew purser, I have been logistics, I have been on the admin side of things. In fact many of the ATROCITIES at sea reported on this site have to do with P&O Australia. I have worked for P&O Australia and I know what is true and what is not. Still, deep inside I know that there is always more to be said.

Look at it this way; you could launch a similar site about anything. “True stories of COPS behind the scenes”, “True stories of what goes on at the HOTEL”, “True stories of the MORGUE!”, and etc and etc. It is often easy to find the entire negative in any individual venture. Then again looking at this site you see the amount of material posted is EXTREMELY limited considering the size of the cruise industry. In my opinion this points out that on the whole the industry is good. After all how many cruise ship employees are working at sea right now? I don’t know for certain but the figure is in the area of two hundred thousand or more not counting those on leave yet the crew complaints listed are numbering in the 2 digit range. This must indicate something right?

Like I said I know firsthand that many of the things reported on this site can happen. I have seen many of them happen myself. I think my point is that they are not ALL prevalent and do NOT dominate the industry. Some crew ENJOY the job and have a good time. Not all cruisers have problems.

So my bottom line is this; this website amused me, made me ponder the cruise industry and gave me pause to think... ALSO they have an EXCELLENT listing of video from crew video to rough sea to sinking ships. Based on that alone I think it is worthwhile for all cruise enthusiasts to take a look. HOWEVER, please use your common sense. Keep in mind SCALE! Just because it reports this or that, consider it against the size of the whole industry. Just because you see video evidence of ONE crew party do not judge all two hundred thousand crew over it. If things were as bleak as this website points out, we would be seeing these reports on CNN, FOX and MSNBC... Not just cruise bruise.

So visit, enjoy, learn a little, but keep your perspective.

A word of warning; this site reports news relating to crimes on cruise ships which may or may not be factually based and are very serious and often disturbing. I do not vouch for the accuracy nor support the claims of the web author. I just found the site interesting, even if overly one sided to the negative. What do you think?

www.cruisebruise.com

So close, but yet….

They say home is where the heart is. If that is true, then I guess my home is Portugal, specifically Lagos Portugal which is in the Algarve. Why? Well because that’s where my wife and kids are now. We moved there from Romania some time ago. Mostly for the kids because it’s a beautiful resort area full of beaches and of course my kids love the beach.

Why do I even mention that? Well, because we are stopping in Lisbon, Portugal today. This morning we sailed in passing under the “25th of April Suspension Bridge” which is almost an identical twin to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco and coincidentally was built by the same people. Built in 1966, it is 2.2 kilometers long and crosses the Tagus River which flows into the Atlantic. The bridge was originally named after Portugal’s dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, but after the revolution which cumulated on the 25th of April 1974 people started calling it the 25th of April bridge. It was pretty rainy and bleak this morning when we sailed in, so the photo is not that spectacular, but trust me; it is an impressive bridge. Even more impressive is Lisbon’s Vasco da Gama bridge which is an amazing seventeen kilometers long and is the longest bridge in Europe. However you can’t sail under that one. ( Partial picture of Lisbon below)


It’s a strange feeling being in Lisbon because I am so close to my family, but still so far. Lagos is about 4 hours away from Lisbon, too far for me to go visit because I would never make it back to the ship on time for sailing. Unfortunately this is the only Lisbon stop we will make and even though it was planned for Andreia to come and visit me on the ship and bring our oldest son along, Murphy and his laws got in the way and that won’t be happening either. So, here I am, in Lisbon, so close to home and yet so far.. oh well. Only a few more days and I am off on leave anyway. I think I will survive.

Lisbon is a nice city, but honestly, I am not much of a huge city lover. Lagos and the whole Algarve area on the other hand is wonderful. If you like beaches, blue water, shopping, festivals and fun. Give Lagos a try. It’s really a great place with two thousand years of history. In fact, Lagos was originally populated by Celts and the name Lagos is from the Celtic language. Maybe that’s why I like it, we share a common ancestry. Then again, maybe I like it because my kids like it so much. If you have kids, Lagos is a great resort for the family. ( My triplets playing in the waves in Lagos)

79 AD

"Ash was falling onto the ships now, darker and denser the closer they went. Now it was bits of pumice, and rocks that were blackened and burned and shattered by the fire. Now the sea is shoal; debris from the mountain blocks the shore. He paused for a moment wondering whether to turn back as the helmsman urged him. "Fortune helps the brave," he said, "Head for Pomponianus." by Pliney the younger (ad 61-113)


One of the most impressive things to see in Europe these days, well, assuming you don’t live in Europe, and also assuming you are a bit of a history buff; is mount Vesuvius and it’s two historic ruined cities Pompeii and Herculaneum. We have all heard the story of the devastation that took place almost two thousand years ago, and many of us have been there to tour the ruins of the once great cities and witness first hand the tragedy of the contorted body casts of the victims.

But did you know that Vesuvius has not been silent since that historic eruption in 79 AD when Pliny the Younger watched from Misenum as his uncle, Pliny the Elder, sailed his fleet of Quadriremes war ships across the Bay of Naples to rescue Rectina and as many people as he could from the doomed land? No, in fact, Vesuvius has erupted more than one hundred times since then! The most recent eruption in modern times being in March 1944 when Vesuvius erupted with enough force to destroy the surrounding villages of Ottaviano, San Sebastiano El Vesuvio, and Massa di Somma, not to mention eighty eight U.S. B52 bombers with engines clogged from the ash. ( this photo of Vesuvius erupting in 1944 by Jack Reinhardt, B24 Tailgunner during WW2)

Today however, only sixty years after it’s last eruption, people live carefree along the bottom of the great volcano. A little over three million of them in fact. The mountain is quiet, and actually seems to radiate a sort of calm over the area as it slumbers.


For me, Vesuvius is one of those famous historic sites that brings your imagination to life. Seeing this peaceful mountain now, and then remembering the destruction and devastation it caused and the cities it destroyed can bring Goosebumps to your skin. This powerful ancient beast not only killed thousands with it's massive eruption, but made it’s own ancient snapshots of some of its victims, forever freezing them in time so that future generations like us could still bear witness to its power two thousand years later. ( The cast of a man who seems to be covering his face from the rushing cloud of ash, instantly preserved in time, a snapshot of destruction left to us by Vesuvius)

Today, you can actually climb to the top of Vesuvius. Have an intimate relationship with this infamous mountain and follow the spiraling path to its rim. It is a historic national park area now. If you have never had the chance to see Vesuvius in person, you know what I always say. Go, go now. It’s worth the effort.

And what became of Pliny the Elder who in 79 AD sailed his ships across the bay to study the phenomenon of the erupting Vesuvius and rescue the people? Well, the wind was not cooperative. Favorable to those who wanted to go to the danger yes, but unfavorable to those who wanted to escape. I will let Pliny the Younger tell it in his own words, the words of the only surviving eyewitness account that is considered reliable;

“They tied pillows on top of their heads as protection against the shower of rock. It was daylight now elsewhere in the world, but there the darkness was darker and thicker than any night. But they had torches and other lights. They decided to go down to the shore, to see from close up if anything was possible by sea. But it remained as rough and uncooperative as before. Resting in the shade of a sail he drank once or twice from the cold water he had asked for. Then came an smell of sulfur, announcing the flames, and the flames themselves, sending others into flight but reviving him. Supported by two small slaves he stood up, and immediately collapsed. As I understand it, his breathing was obstructed by the dust-laden air, and his innards, which were never strong and often blocked or upset, simply shut down. When daylight came again 2 days after he died, his body was found untouched, unharmed, in the clothing that he had had on. He looked more asleep than dead." Pliny the Younger