Slowly, very slowly I have started thinking about my diet and how I will without fail loose 60 pounds starting June 1st………………..however……………’s not going to be easy. This is not because I don’t have the will power because I truly think I do……………it’s going to be hard because the human body is badly designed. On the surface the human being appears to be a flawed design. Obviously our brains are magnificent and my two fingers can receive messages from Mrs. Brain allowing me to type my blog but in other ways Mrs.Brain is a complete idiot…………….Here’s why.

It doesn’t matter how many roast potatoes I eat, the body tells me that it wants one more. And then, instead of ejecting all the excess fat, the body feeds it to our hearts and veins, and we end up all dead and stuff.

Of course, we can use willpower to counter these demands, but this makes us dull and really boring. You need only look at the number of people in lonely hearts columns who neither drink, smoke, eat red meat, gamble, eat white meat, swear, eat fish or watch TV…………if they did at least one of these things they would have friends and partners………’s that simple.

What I have tended to do when it comes to the business of being fit is not bother. I eat lots, swear, have the odd cigar, eat red, white and blue meat and then I sit in a chair. The upside to this is that I have a beautiful wife and loads of friends. The downside is that I wobble and wheeze extensively while going to the refrigerator for another slab of cheddar and a chicken drumstick

Anyway, in thinking about the task ahead and to prepare for the onslaught of my diet…………… I bought a treadmill.

It was an impulse buy and even though it was on sale, it still cost a lot of money. It arrived yesterday and the first problem was where to put it. Now, it’s a big thing and weighs the same as Oprah Winfrey’s wallet. So, thinking of the deliverymen’s back and not wanting them to drag it upstairs I asked them to please put it in the dining room. This they did…………….. I had a new treadmill ……………..and absolute certain passage into the doghouse when Heidi returns on Wednesday where it will be relegated to the garage for sure.

Anyway………..this morning I awoke bright and purposeful and ready to start slowly building my fitness up and I after putting my Air Jordan’s on off I went…………..hold on………I had other things on as well…………I wasn’t just wearing the Air Jordan’s.

I walked and walked at a 4.0 pace and after what seemed like at least an hour my ankle was tight and I was sweating more than Tony Blair taking a polygraph about the Iraq War.

According to the digital readout — powered by my walking, I might add — I had covered 35 yards. This was well short of the four miles I’d planned, so I had to grit my teeth, pull up my shorts, wind my neck in and push on.

Eventually, after several hours, I’d made enough electricity to power Ohio and I’d reached my goal, so I tried to dismount. But it was no good. My confused brain was so stunned that I had just done some exercise that it had told my legs to bugger off and I just collapsed on the floor. I also felt dizzy and sick and sure enough a few moments later I dragged myself like a slug to the toilet which a few moments later looked like Shrek had blown his nose in there.

It was as I crawled back to the comfort of the sofa that I realized that I had over done it for the first time. My problem has always been that if I start a new project I always throw my heart and soul into it and expect and demand from myself the highest results…………I think with this fitness and diet thing…………..I may have to take my time.

More on that later

It is now with great pleasure that I introduce someone else who has discovered the world of blogging. I came across Captain Albert’s blog a few weeks ago and his description of his adventures in Alaska as Master of Holland America Lines Veendam were superbly written. Therefore, I asked the Captain to kindly answer a few questions for our little blog thingy which he kindly agreed to do. So, first you will find his biography and then his superb answers to the questions.

1. Captain, I have been reading your superb blog with great interest and the readers of my blog would loive to know more about you.
Please can you tell us about your career so far.
Please see my official company bio.

Capt. Albert J. Schoonderbeek BSc, MNI, was born in the eastern part of the Netherlands in a small town called Ede. In 1976 he entered the oldest Maritime Academy in the world, “De Kweekschool voor de Zeevaart,” in Amsterdam and did his seagoing apprenticeship in 1979. Upon graduation he found employment with Holland America Line, the only Dutch company that operated cruise ships. He joined the old SS Statendam in 1981 and has never looked back.

Apart from being employed onboard cruise ships, cruise ships are also the Captain’s hobby. The result of this “hobby” was that he co-authored the official company history, published to mark 125 years of Holland America Line in 1998. This was followed by the publication of a limited edition of the Memoirs of Capt. C Haagmans, who sailed for 54 years, of which 44 were directly with Holland America Line, in a career that spanned two world wars and the heyday of North Atlantic Travel.

When time allows he writes articles for cruise magazines and gives lectures about the history of the Holland America Line. During the Grand World Voyage of 1987, on the old SS Rotterdam V, he met his bride to be, Lesley. They were married in 1991 and currently live in England. As both are devoted cruise fans, they like to take “busmans holidays” on cruise ships of other companies. As the captain says,”it is always interesting to see what the grass looks like on the other side of the fence.” Although he might have a biased view, he is still convinced after several cruises with “the others” that Holland America is the best there is. His latest venture is the captain’s daily blog, so that those who are not sailing with the ship can keep up with where their beloved Veendam is sailing next-

2. You are currently serving aboatd the Veendam. What can you tell us about your ship and her crew and where are you currently sailing to.

The MS Veendam is the fourth ship of the S-class, which was the first series of ships Holland America built after becoming part of the Carnival family. It was commissioned in 1996 and carries 1266 guests (lower bed capacity) and about 587 crew. Currently it sails in the Caribbean in the winter from Tampa on 7 day cruises and from Vancouver to Alaska in the summer, with a 32 day Amazon cruise each fall. The crew, or Team Veendam as I call it, consists of four groups.

Deck and Engine Officers are from the Netherlands and Great Britain, most of the Hotel Staff is from Indonesia and the Philippines although more and more Indians are joining, and Hotel Officers and concessionaires are from all sorts of different countries. I joined the Veendam in December 2004, after having been in command of the Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam, Statendam and Maasdam before.

3. Sailing in a beautiful place like Alaska must be so rewarding. What are your favorite moments you have experienced in this last frontier?

I have been sailing to Alaska since 1982. As a matter of fact on June 25, I will make my 225th cruise to Alaska. That means for me Alaska is a mixed blessing. I love the scenery as it is always spectacular, on the other hand I have been there so many times that I know most rocks by name. Last cruise we were the first ship of the season to enter Glacier Bay. As they had had a very severe winter the whole of Glacier Bay was covered in snow all the way down to the water line. It was spectacular and I had never seen that way in all those years. Another one was while sailing through Grenville channel, south of Prince Rupert. In the middle of the most narrow part of the channel was a Moose, serenely and majestically swimming to the other side. We stopped the ship and the moose slowly swam past the bow. When just on the starboard side of the bow, it turned its head towards the bridge which a sort of look “what are you doing in my territory?” and swam on to the beach. That was an impressive moment as it made us realize that we are only visitors.

4. From a navigational point, does Alaska have any challenges?

Most of the navigation is done by pilots both in Canadian waters and Alaskan waters. The challenge is to keep the Bridge team fully focused on the team work between pilots and ships officers. It is important that at all times both parties know from each other what the other one is doing and so it is truly a team effort here to provide safe navigation at all times.

5. Are there any other ports that as a Captain hold special memories for you?
I like the ports that have a scenic approach, such as Vancouver, Oslo, Sydney and some others ports where you also dock in the middle of town.

6. What has been the single biggest change you have seen since you began your life at sea that has made your job on the bridge easier?

I think the degree of automation that has become the norm. Sailing with 10 navigators in 1982 on a 700 passenger ship to 6 navigators on a 1200 passenger ship, just because there are less manual things to do. The combination of Radar with chart underlay and GPS has made life a lot easier as now we can sail on the minute and stay exactly on the track line wherever we are. So If I say that I will arrive at the pilot station at 05.42, I can and will be there at 05.42 and that gives operationally a lot more certainty.

7. Holland America has such a brilliant reputation. What, in your opinion, is the secret to this great company that has so many loyal passengers?

Simple answer. A great marketing & sales machinery and an even bigger dedicated employee base that delivers what has been announced, e.g. what the guests expect is what we deliver. The crew of the Veendam takes ownership of the experience that Holland America is and each crewmember takes it quite personally if a guest is not satisfied with something. When possible we try to satisfy that guest even if it is beyond what can reasonably be expected. We sail with the highest repeat ratio in the industry and many guests return to us, regardless of ports and route, just because they are happy being on board.

8. What are your social responsibilities on board?
It depends a bit on the route we are doing. In Alaska with so many standby’s social life is very limited as most of it takes place in the evening and then I am in bed due to nightly standby’s and chance of fog.

Standby’s are area’s of difficult navigation which require the presence of the captain on the bridge. Such as area’s with strong currents, narrow fairways and tight corners but also during periods of reduced visibility (fog). As these occur at varying times, the times that I sleep are never the same and thus I can not always be out and about. Required items are: Captain’s Welcome on board party, Renewal of the wedding vows, Who is who party and the gathering of the Most Honorable Society of Holland America Line Mariners.

On cruises outside Alaska, or for that matter Norway which is similar, I enjoy the dining with guests, and on the longer cruises try to throw dinner party’s for larger groups of guests which is really appreciated. When time allows there are day and evening walk-abouts just to show my face and answer questions.

9. I have enjoyed reading your blog. How and why did you start to write one and do you think you will keep it going for some time?

I was toying around with this idea for quite a while. I could publish another book, but that takes time and money and only reaches a limited number of people. Thus with the internet becoming more and more used by everybody, even by the older cruise guests, I thought, why not a blog. People always want to know what the Captain does and this gives them a bit of and idea about what goes on behind the scenes. So, I obtained permission from our Sr. VP Fleet and I started last year April. It is not in my character to start things as a whim, so with company permission, I will probably continue to do this for the remainder of my career. If it is a text only blog it takes me about 30 minutes each morning during breakfast to write down a draft about yesterday’s experiences, and then later on in the day 10 minutes for spell check and upload. When there are photos involved it takes a bit longer and thus those only happen when I have a spare moment.

10. And finally, as is tradition on the blog, please can you fill in the blanks.

You are hosting a Captain’s table and you first have to choose the menu.


Main course ( 2 choices )”
Indonesian Rijst tafel and Shrimp Provencial

Banana with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce

You now have to choose your dinner companions.

1. Your favorite TV personality
I do not watch television apart from Dutch, German and English news and the
History and Geographical channels.

If I had to make a choice it would be Sir Terry Wogan, English presenter.

2. Someone to make you laugh
President Bush.

3. A musician or performer
Celine Dion.

4. Someone from the cruise industry
Stein Kruse, Holland America Line’s president and CEO. Now the company is so big, the Captains seldom get the chance to talk to their boss.

5. Someone from the world of sport
Tiger Woods, I would love to find out, how he manages to remain sane while being in the spot light all the time.

6. A beautiful lady
My wife.

Thank you Captain and I hope you will continue to blog when you can as you obviously are a talented writer. Thank you on behalf of us all.

It’s Sunday and now I can finally move again I will spend the rest of the day reading and watching TV. I was hoping to watch the NBA finals but the BBC and other channels obviously do not feel that Basketball is popular enough here in the UK and instead they will show the Jamaican Domino Championships Live from Winston’s Beach Bar in Montego Bay, Jamaica……………or if that’s not thrilling enough I see that on UK Gold which is a cable channel, I can watch a night dedicated to Dallas, or on ITV we have a documentary about the Royal Family. …………………..Thinking about it that could be one in the same.

There have been reports in the tabloid press of Prince Harry pinching a supermodel’s bottom in a nightclub before screaming back to Buck Palace in a Audi R8 supercar………….there you go…………..that’s our JR Ewing sorted then…………driving around in fast cars and fast beds with the rich and tanned.

The Queen would of course be Miss Ellie………..quiet………refined and even though she has a dysfunctional family around her she is always………….the boss.

Then there is Prince William who is the serious one of the family with a good heart and totally loyal to his family and faithful to his wife Pam Windsor and who one day will take a shower and realize that his life was just a dream……………he isn’t a Prince and Heir to the throne ……………………but a taxi driver from east London.

I am trying to think of a role for Prince Charles but I can’t think of anyone from Dallas with ears the size of jug handles and really bad eyesight.

So, it’s a night of TV and then another treadmill session tomorrow…………but a much shorter one this time. I am doing this for myself and although many caring people who are my friends tell me that I should loose weight I am doing this because I know it’s time and June 1st the games will begin.

I don’t believe in reincarnation but if I did I want to come back as a Lion. Nobody suggests a lion could catch more wildebeest if it spent less of its day lounging around in the sun.

Our stomachs are designed to demand food and feed fat to our arteries for a reason. I don’t know what the reason might be but I suspect it may have something to do with global warming………………….. everything else does.

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.