A Captain, a Bubba and a Sister

April 3, 2008 -

John Heald

Two important things returned to my life today and in order of importance, here they are.

1. My Underwear which was returned with my suitcase which decided to finish its vacation in Barbados.

2. Heidi.

The two are as we speak bonding by the washing machine and after some harsh words in the beginning Heidi and my underwear seem to be friends. This morning started early as I arrived at 9 am to collect Heidi from the airport and once again we are home. After Heidi and the Hazmat team have done the laundry she will start the packing again for our

European trip. I am already being summoned to show her what I need so this will, with your kind permission be a shorter blog than usual.

However, I have to admit something to you all…………I am a big baby…………a big girl’s blouse………a Mummy’s boy. As you saw from the photo of the car and the seagull poop yesterday I was at Mum’s. I hate being in the house alone, I hate the stillness, I hate having nobody to talk too, I hate………ok……….it’s because I can’t cook and I was sick of eating cheese……so last night I had dinner at My Mum and Dads and stayed the night.

She cooked Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower and it was divine.

OK, let’s get quickly into the news. This year marks a momentous time for Carnival

Corporation with many new buildings being added to the fleet and undergoing Sea Trials today is the beautiful new Holland America vessel The Eurodam. This gorgeous ship will be christened by Her Royal Highness Queen Beatrix of Holland………..Heidi wants to go

……and therefore I thought it would be wonderful to have a chat with the Flagship’s Master……….so continuing in our series of interviews with ship’s Captains I proudly present Captain Jeroen van Donselaar.

1. Captain, please can you tell us about your career at sea so far.

I just completed my 21st year with Holland America Line. I started in 1986 as an apprentice officer aboard Noordam. After completing my studies at the De Ruyter Maritime University in Vlissingen, the Netherlands, I became fourth officer on the Nieuw Amsterdam. I continued to rise through the ranks until I was appointed captain in 2002. Since then I have been the Master of several HAL vessels, the flagship ms Rotterdam, its sister Volendam and the last four years on the Vista class ships Oosterdam, Westerdam and Zuiderdam. I also was in charge of the nautical supervision of the building of the Zaandam in 1999.

I was born in Kampen, The Netherlands, have always admired the sea. As a teenager I was invited onto the bridge of a ferry sailing across the North Sea and that experience made such an impression that I decided to pursue a seafaring career.

2. The Eurodam will be a special vessel and I am sure you must be excited in being the Mater of Holland America Lines flagship. What involvement have you had so far and what will your priorities be once you walk onboard.

Well I just came off the Zuiderdam last month and am now enjoying my time off at home on Long Island, New York. I will be joining the vessel relatively late at the yard on April 29th. The main reason for this is scheduling. Since the inaugurals of the ship will not be just the main event in Rotterdam but rather a series of events lasting all the way until September in New York HAL management wanted me to do a longer term rather than be relieved shortly after delivery which is the way captain’s were scheduled on previous newbuilds. In other words my involvement has been relatively limited. Based on my 4 years Vista experience I have submitted a series of suggestions for improvements for the Signature class, some of which I know have been incorporated in Eurodam.

When I walk aboard my first priority will be my own familiarization as I will be a couple of steps behind and closely followed by the preparations for the various inspections the ship will have to go through before it can enter service and the inaugurals of course.

3. We have all been ready the Eurodam blog and it has been fascinating watching her “come alive.” As her Captain what would you say will make this ship that extra bit special?

The name Eurodam in itself is special already. It signifies our European heritage and Holland America Line’s commitment to European deployment of its ships. As the first Signature-class ship, the Eurodam will be the largest ship Holland America Line has ever operated and it is also the largest passenger vessel ever to fly the Dutch flag.

The ship will have some wonderful new amenities that none of the other HAL vessels have. An enlarged and enhanced vessel developed from Holland America Line’s successful and popular Vista-class ships, the first Signature-class vessel, Eurodam will feature several alternative dining venues, including a stunning pan-Asian restaurant with panoramic Ocean views. The popular Explorations Café – powered by The New York Times – will be integrated into the traditional Crow’s Nest. Other additions include an Explorer’s Lounge Bar, a new specialty restaurant adjacent to the Lido offering traditional Italian food, a new atrium bar area, and an enhanced and reconfigured show lounge with theater-style seating.

Staterooms and suites on Eurodam will introduce an inspired and a distinctly different décor and will include new exclusive, spa-themed and scalloped verandah categories. Staterooms also will feature Signature of Excellence premium amenities: plush Euro-top Mariner’s Dream beds, deluxe waffle/terry cloth robes, Egyptian cotton towels, flat panel televisions, DVD players, make-up mirrors with halo lighting, massage showerheads, professional grade hair dryers, fresh flowers and complimentary fruit baskets.

This ship truly deserves all the attention it will be getting. But what makes the ship very special in my opinion are the crew and officers. I have seen some names already and I know we will have a fantastic team.

4. So, the naming ceremony is over, and the ropes are let go and you take her away from the pier. Can you tell us where you will be navigating the ship to and are there any destinations you are particularly looking forward to sailing to?

The ship will be deployed in the Baltic out of Copenhagen for two months after which she will make her way across the Atlantic to New York via the British Isles, Iceland and Newfoundland. New York will serve as the homeport for the Eastern Canada – New England season with some very exclusive New York to Quebec cruises, including a two-day stay in Quebec. We then sail to Fort Lauderdale, FL for 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruises.

In particular I am looking forward to returning to the Baltic, an area in which I have enjoyed sailing tremendously while on the Maasdam and Rotterdam.

Norway’s famed fjords and Scotland’s Highlands are highlights of the ms Eurodam’s 10-day maiden voyage of northern Europe, set for July 5, 2008.

A three-day prelude cruise will sail July 2 from Rotterdam to Copenhagen, calling at Hamburg, Germany, prior to the maiden voyage. The 10-day round-trip maiden sailing departs from Copenhagen, Denmark, and calls at Oslo,  Ålesund, Vik, Flam and Stavanger, Norway; Newcastle Upon Tyne, England; and Edinburgh (via  South Queensferry) — the premium line’s second highest rated port of call — and Invergordon, Scotland. Newcastle — a maiden call for Holland America Line — offers 2,000 years of history and a picturesque backdrop with its location on the left bank of the River Tyne.

5. So much of a Captain’s job these days is spent not just on the bridge but in other tasks as well. Can you describe as best you can what some of those non-navigational jobs are……….for example……….during the first few weeks of the ships life what will some of the tasks you will undertake.

This is very true indeed. These days the job of a Captain is more like a process operator versus the old-fashioned seafarer. I am always on the bridge during arrivals and departures when either I or the chief officer handles the ship. Other circumstances where my presence on the bridge is required is during heavy weather, zero or reduced visibility and traffic situations. I spend a good 3-4 hours per day on paperwork, making sure all new operational directives are properly implemented as well as catching up on business emails. Other than that I like to manage by walking around and making myself as visible as possible both to guests and crew. In particular on a new ship it is important to check that the operation is up to standards in all respects. This varies from observing crew performance, dealing with newbuild inspections, public health inspections; flag, port, state and class inspections; and quality control of the cruise product.

6. I have been at sea a long time myself and have seen many Ship’s captains with their own superstitions while they are onboard? Do you have any that you can share with us.

Well I used to have them but I have thrown them overboard – well not literally! Being appointed Captain for the first time is an occasion that no one will prepare you for. One has a lot of responsibility as Chief Officer but you always have a higher authority onboard you could seek advice from or who would make the tough decisions. The first few months as Captain are a bit of a shocker and you could find yourself believing old superstitions but you grow over it quickly and gain confidence.

One of the stranger superstitions that I can think of is one of the ship’s bell. This bell could never be removed from the forecastle or else it would lead to terrible misfortune for the ship and her crew. During the recent New Year’s Eve celebrations on board the Zuiderdam we took the bell from the forecastle and put it on stage in the show lounge to ring in the New Year. The bell was not returned until the next morning and I am happy to report that we made it through the night! So much for superstition!

7. Holland America Line has one of the longest and proudest traditions in the cruise industry. What makes them so special and what amenities will the fantastic Eurodam offer her guests.

This is true; Holland America Line is been around for 135 years. It is one of the oldest companies in the Netherlands. Throughout its history, Holland America Line has carried more than 10 million passengers from Europe to the New World and to vacation destinations across the globe.

Today’s Holland America Line brings together the past and the present as a modern cruise company. We carry forth the strong traditions of the past, especially those of hard work and putting our guests and their shipboard experience first and foremost in everyone’s minds. This is emphasized through our mission statement of creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences every time.

In 2003 the company embarked upon its Signature of Excellence initiative to focus on product enhancements in accommodations, service, dining, itinerary development and enrichment programs and activities. Totaling more than $425 million, Signature of Excellence enhancements added features such as the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine magazine — a state-of-the-art onboard show kitchen where more than 60 celebrated guest chefs and culinary experts provide cooking demonstrations and classes — Explorations Café powered by The New York Times, teens-only activity areas and all new stateroom amenities highlighted by flat-panel TVs and plush Euro-top Mariner’s Dream Beds.

Holland America Line is recognized today as the leader in the cruise industry’s premium segment. Holland America Line’s fleet of 13 ships offers nearly 500 cruises to 314 ports of call in 97 countries, territories or dependencies. A 14th ship, the 2,104-guest ms Eurodam, will be delivered in June 2008. Two- to 108-day itineraries visit all seven continents, including Antarctica, South America, Australia/New Zealand and Asia voyages; a Grand World Voyage; and popular sailings to ports in the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, Canada/New England, Europe and Panama Canal.

We have a great past but with the new ships we are headed for an even greater future. The Eurodam will offer even more choices in staterooms, dining and experiences compared to our other ships.

8. How does Captain Jeroen van Donselaar relax while onboard and while on leave.

I do go ashore but not that frequently. Whenever I do and come back on board something will have happened -Murphy’s Law. I enjoy swimming and diving on one of our newer destinations, Grand Turk Island. Other than that I make use of the gym and like walking laps around the wraparound deck. I play electric guitar – a Fender Strat – and find this a great way to blow off steam. I’m not sure if others around me actually enjoy my music. Unidentified individuals have on occasion shut my cabin door -while I was playing inside!

During leave I am never bored since my wife, Pam, and I recently bought a new home on Long Island. Let’s just say I have my work cut out for me until long after the Eurodam sails! I like to carry out home improvements by myself and this keeps my days off well filled.

One of my major interests is trains, both live and scale models…..One of these years I hope to revive my 1:22.5 scale LGB trains layout in our basement. I thoroughly enjoy the railway preservation scene that exists in the UK. Once a year I take a trip by myself to enjoy some scenic railway in the UK. My favorites are the North Yorkshire Moors railway, the Settle to Carlisle Line and the Heart of Wales route. One day I hope to have covered all of the existing network in the UK. Weird as it may sound I also enjoy walking abandoned railway tracks and discovering disused stations…There’s 1,000’s of them in the UK.

9. You must be very proud to serve alongside some great people. Can you introduce us to your Senior Officer team and maybe tell us a little something about what their responsibilities are.

There is an excellent team, headed by Chief Engineer Frand de Vries, Chief Officer Andre van Schoonhoven and Hotel Manger Stan Kuppens at the yard already and I know they will do an excellent job with Quality Control and preparing the ship for service.

Andre van Schoonhoven

As chief officer aboard Eurodam, Andre van Schoonhoven is responsible for all of the safety and lifesaving systems on board, as well as developing testing and maintenance instructions for each system.

Van Schoonhoven also orders all of the spare parts for maintenance of the safety and lifesaving systems, assists in planning Eurodam’s bridge layout, looks after the mooring decks and paint store, implements the evacuation plan in the event of an emergency, oversees the lifesaving and firefighting plans, and as crew teams arrive at the ship he trains them in safety, security and lifesaving.

During Eurodam’s outfitting, van Schoonhoven will order safety equipment like fire extinguishers, lifejackets, personal protective equipment for all three on-board departments and all of the nautical and security equipment needed for gangway and tender operations.

Born in Harlingen, a small port city on the north coast of the Netherlands, van Schoonhoven attended nautical college on the island of Terschelling. In 1988 he joined  Holland America Line on Rotterdam, and from there he sailed mainly on Nieuw Amsterdam and Noordam, where he met his wife, Claudine, who was working in the front office.

In 2000, van Schoonhoven got his first assignment as chief officer on Wind Surf, and eventually he became part of the inaugural team of Prinsendam when the ship transferred to the line in 2002.

He and Claudine reside in Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines — Claudine’s home country — with their three sons: Alexander, 13, Willem, 9, and Lucas, 3.

Chief Engineer Frank de Vries

Holland America Line veteran Frank de Vries will serve as Eurodam’s chief engineer when the ship debuts next July. The Dutchman, who hails from Ysselmuiden, the Netherlands, has been stationed at the Fincantieri shipyard since April 2007 as part of the supervisory team overseeing the construction and outfitting of the vessel.

His primary role is to make sure that all of the specifications are being met. Additionally, de Vries is there to make sure that all of the spare parts are ordered and stored on board; crew are being trained on new equipment and by the time of delivery they are familiar with the ship’s technical systems and layout and are able to safely operate it. As chief engineer of Eurodam, de Vries will oversee a team of approximately 65 officers, petty-officers and crew.

After graduating from the Willem Barentsz Maritime Institute, de Vries joined Holland America Line’s Statendam in 1979 as an apprentice engineer officer. He progressed through the ranks and was named chief engineer of the previous Westerdam in 1992.

De Vries met his wife, Hope, in 1986 aboard Rotterdam, where she was a ship’s nurse. She has since retired and now sails full-time as a “spouse on board.” When not on board, the couple enjoys sailing, biking and cooking. They also spend part of their time in Hope’s native Savannah, Ga.

Hotel Manager Stan Kuppens

As hotel manager on ms Eurodam, Stan Kuppens will be responsible for almost everything except the bridge and the engine room. His purview includes the restaurants, kitchens, bars, Housekeeping Department (guest and crew cabins, laundry, tailor shop and public areas), front office (guest relations, controller, human resources, night manager and purser), shore excursions, concessionaires, entertainment and medical services.

It’s a big job, but it is a position that Kuppens has been preparing for his entire life.

Growing up in the town of  Nijmegen, in the eastern Netherlands, Kuppens enjoyed sailing and watching boats on the Waal and Rhine rivers. A precocious world traveler, his parents had taken him to more than 10 countries before he was 10 years old. Through his early travel experiences, Kuppens developed a fascination with other cultures and a desire to meet people from around the globe.

He recognized that the hospitality industry would enable him to combine his love of travel and his affinity for people into a career. While studying at the University of Hotel Management, Kuppens managed a company that catered conventions and entertainment functions.

He says his proudest moment was having the distinct honor of personally serving Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

After graduation, he entered Holland America Line’s multiyear management training program.

Kuppens has sailed with Holland America Line and Windstar Cruises for 16 years, and has prepared for and sailed multiple Grand World Voyages. After completing the 2002 world cruise as food and beverage manager, Kuppens was promoted to hotel manager on the line’s flagship, ms Rotterdam.

In 2004, he transferred to the new Vista Class of ships to oversee the introduction of ms Westerdam. Following that successful inaugural, Kuppens was asked to move to Venice, Italy, to oversee construction of ms Noordam.

He moved back to Venice in 2008 to oversee construction of Eurodam, the first Signature Class ship.

Kuppens, his wife and newborn daughter live in the small town of Oosterbeek (close to Arnhem), in eastern Netherlands. When on vacation, he says he enjoys traveling and participating in an occasional game of soccer.

10. Finally, and is tradition on my blog I wondered if you could fill in the blanks here. The scenario is you are hosting a Captain’s table and you need to choose the menu for dinner………..using all Dutch traditional food and then choose your 7 people to dine with.

Well this is tough…outside of the Netherlands one does not find too many restaurants that serve traditional Dutch fare…There must be a reason for that. I like to cook but my favorite dishes are more French style. I enjoy it a lot when the whole house smells like boeuf bourguignon or cocq au vin, both dishes have to simmer for many hours.

Anyway, if I would have to put together a Dutch dinner this is what it would be like:

Here we go…


APPETIZER: This would be a seafood platter with raw herring, smoked eel, smoked mackerel and shrimps.

SALAD: For us Dutch this is not a course but a mere side dish. I would suggest a simple salad with a vinaigrette dressing and blue cheese crumbs.

MAIN COURSE – 2 CHOICES: 1) Stamppot Andijvie. This is in essence mashed potatoes mixed with thinly sliced pieces of andives. It comes with a traditional Dutch meatball and gravy. This is a winter dish -lots of calories to keep you warm!

Choice 2) Although not Dutch -but given our colonial history I will take it anyway, Rijstafel. Made popular by the rich Dutch plantation owners and traders in the Dutch East Indies -now Indonesia- the very best Indonesian cuisine has to offer. The base ingredient is fried rice and comes with beef and chicken in many different ways cooked with many different spices.

DESERT: hopjes vla with slagroom, this is butterscotch pudding with whipped cream.


SOMEONE FROM THE WORLD OF THE CRUISE/OCEAN LINER INDUSTRY…………………….Captain Stephen Card. He is the painter who paints all those fabulous ship paintings that adorn the stairwells of the HAL ships.

SOMEONE TO MAKE YOU LAUGH…………………George Carlin or alternatively Jay Leno

SOMEONE FROM THE WORLD OF SPORT………………..Anyone who can make me ski better than I do now!


ONE POLITICIAN OR ESTEEMED MIND……………..I really want to say Bono of U2 but I’ll go with Dave Evans aka the Edge, U2’s guitarist. I need some help to understand his delays and effects.

ONE BEAUTIFUL LADY…………………..My wife Pam and my mom.

Thank you Captain so very much for taking your time to answer these questions. We have 1.7 million readers around the world who will enjoy your interview very much.

What a terrific interview and I am sure we all wish this brilliant vessel bon voyage. We will catch up with the Captain and crew once they start sailing.

Now, I see from the comments that you are all enjoying Bubba’s Alaska blogs. Carnival Corporation is of course leading the way again in Alaska with 17 vessels from Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruise Lines and Holland America Line providing guests with a trip to the last frontier that is Alaska.

Here then, sponsored by The Waffle House is Bubba’s latest adventure.

Day 3 Alaska Fam – March 31, 2008 – Whittier

The day started at 8:30am this morning in the lobby of the Anchorage Hotel Westmark where the CCL team was ready to start with their exploration of Whittier & some of the post cruise tours for the northbound Alaska run.

After a quick stop at Starbucks (yes, there are Starbucks in Alaska, at least in Anchorage so far) we were on the road.

The drive out was a beautiful scenic drive along the mountains on one side of the road and waterfront on the other side. It takes about an hour and a bit from Anchorage to Whittier. On the drive Ross the Sr. Shore Ex explained some of the benefits of the post-cruise tours, airport transfers and how the debarkation process works in Whittier. If you are doing a northbound Alaska cruise you will need to arrange some transportation from Whittier to the airport. It does mention that when you are booking a northbound cruise, and you can actually book the transfer. You can also purchase the transfer when you are on board during the cruise. The price is the same either way. Some folks arrange their own private transportation. But don’t expect to walk off the ship and arrange something there on the pier. Whittier is a VERY small town. In fact the year round population is about 300 people. It is one of two port towns where the water does not freeze. The other is Seward, Alaska. A lot of cargo comes in through Whittier the heads up towards Anchorage. Whittier was originally a military establishment and the buildings there still look that way. In fact the main building in Whittier is where EVERYONE in the town lives.


This is the main building in Whittier.

There are a few other buildings in town. Few fishing companies, the cruise terminal and that’s about it. It’s a secluded town, because there is only one road in and out of Whittier. That road is one lane. It’s also the same road the train comes in and out of town as the road is a tunnel through a mountain. It is a very interesting place, unlike most towns I have ever been.


The little a frame you see in the distance in the entrance to the tunnel out of town.


This is a picture of the terminal in Whittier….obviously this is not taken during this trip as it’s a little too early for the cruise ships.

All though there is not much in Whittier, there are some great excursions destinations near by which make a great end to a northbound cruise. Plus it’s like giving yourself and extra port of call on your grand Alaskan adventure.

There are about 4 or 5 different excursions that are offered in Whittier.

There is the Portage Glacier Cruise & the Blackstone Glacier cruise. Both of these excursions will take you out in small boats (about 100-pax max) for an up-close ride to the faces of these amazing rivers of ice. These boats are made to get right up next to them plus you will have excellent narration of the area, you’ll even get to see and touch samples of glacial ice.



This is the Portage Glacier.

The Alaska Wildlife & Museum Tour!

If you didn’t see a moose or a bear during your cruise, here’s your chance! This tour will take you to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center which helps to rehabilitate injured Alaskan Wildlife. Plus you will also visit the Alaskan Museum of History & Art where you can learn more about Alaskan Culture.


The Bison


Yes…..That’s a bear in a tree hanging out.


The Moose trying to escape the snow.


The other Animals in the Sanctuary

Grant is the tall guy on the left, then Kat, James & Ross

The guy who looks like the Michelin Man in the front is me. Nobody told me it was black jacket day.

The last one I will mention for this day (there are more so check them out) is the Alyeska Mountain Resort Lunch & Alaska Native Heritage Center.

First you head over to the ski resort where you will take a cable car ride to the top of the mountain for some great pics and you have lunch at the top.

Then they will also bring you to the Heritage Center where if you are interested in learning about the Native Alaskans this is a fantastic exhibit. Filled with representation of all of the Native Alaskan tribes. They have shows with Native American costumes and dance. Plus when you head out back of the main building, they have an area where they have different types of homes that are from the different areas of Alaska to show you how the natives lived. THIS IS FASCINATING. During our trip today we had a gentleman named Rain who showed us around filled with great tales of how his people once lived.


Some of the many displays at the heritage center.


This is Rain inside one of the native homes talking about one of their canoes.


Outside one of the native home displays.


The front entrance to the heritage center.


This is the main stage where they do the dances and a giant map of Alaska. Each color on the map represents a different tribe of the Native Alaskans.

It was a great day and tomorrow we are off to Juneau, the capital city of Alaska where we will have lots more adventures for me to report to you. It’s been a busy day and an early day tomorrow, so I gotta hit the sack. Bedtime for Bonzo. Talk to you again tomorrow.


Thank’s Bubba mate and we look forward to the next chapter………..do they have Waffle Houses in Alaska?

Many of you know my mate Al Ernst Carnival’s 433rd best comedian. Here is a photo of Al and as you can see he has had an accident.


Al was running a Marathon when he accidentally dropped the triple cheeseburger he was eating while running and slipped on the pickle snapping his tendons……..we wish Al well and he should be applauded for still flying to the ships to entertain Carnival Guests. Al is the best one-legged comedian in the fleet.

So, I apologize for the shortness of the blog today but where duty calls I must follow and my duty is packing and closing the house down again. I see from the comments that my sister Suzanne or Sue Drip as I have always called her has slapped on a comment on the blog thingy. She is a merchant banker and lives with her husband Paul and my amazing niece and nephew Luke and Isabelle.

You know, I was always a bit cruel to my sister. I remember one day she was upstairs in her bedroom getting ready for a date. She was 16 so must have been 20………anyway we were both living at home and the door rang…………it was Suzanne’s date………I opened the door and there stood the strangest looking thing I had ever seen………..he had green hair……and for some reason was wearing leg warmers.

He said that he was here to collect Suzanne…….I looked at this young man………his hair looked like someone had sneezed on him and his leg warmers made him look like someone from the movie “Fame”……….so……I did what any big brother would do……….I told him that Suzanne had chicken pox and was highly contagious………..he left without a word.

To this day I have never admitted to my Sister what I told young Booger Head so while I am at it I should also admit that it was me that put pop rocks in her cat’s litter tray and also I was the one who on the day of their wedding let myself into their house…….took all of her husbands Paul’s underwear……soaked them in water and put them in the freezer………..oh yes………I was also the one who took all the screws out of the legs on your bed so when it collapsed it wasn’t because Paul is a stud……………….oops.

So, we are off to Copenhagen and stand by for lots of photos and blogs about our European adventure ready for Carnival Splendor.

Hope you will join me


Your Friends

John and Heidi

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.