Radio Silence.

At 4 AM Thursday morning our sleep was shattered by a piercing alarm, seven short and one long, followed by the officer of the watch announcing there was a fire in the incinerator room.  I immediately went into emergency mode, which is to back up my computer on a portable medium.  In about 10 minutes the Captain came on to tell us that there was a fire in the incinerator room in a place where there should not be a fire.  But “do not concern yourself,” the fire was out and we could go back to sleep.  Easy for him to say.  I ‘m sure I had so much adrenaline coursing around my system that I could have safely eaten a king crab.

The next day during his noon announcement the Captain elaborated.  The crew burns combustible trash in the incinerator and puts the ashes into sacks to off load in port.  Early in the evening when the ash in the incinerator was emptied and bagged there was something still smoldering.  At around 4 AM the smoldering flared and triggered the alarm.  The sprinkler system, according to the Captain, dumped “a plentiful supply of water” on the ashes.  What a mess that must have made.  I don’t know who to feel most sorry for, the guys who have to clean it up, the guys who will have to fill in the paperwork or the guy who emptied the ash.   Our room steward assured us that “It was only a small fire.”

An hour later the Captain came back telling us that we may have noticed that the ship had slowed to a near stop.  One of the diesels had problems and needed to shut down for repairs.  Fortunately we’re in the equatorial doldrums.  When I went up for my afternoon swim my GPS showed us back up to 19.7 knots.

The internet has not been working since Wednesday afternoon.  Today (Thursday) each stateroom got a card telling us that the power supply in the antenna dome has failed and that we will have to wait for spare parts either in Banjul or Dakar, another 4 or 5 days.  In the interim there will be no Internet and phone service is for emergencies only. (On Saturday we got a note telling us there was limited service.)

The ship has had other problems.  Our February problem of “rain” falling in our cabin because of leaky pipes overhead has been replicated in cabins all along our corridor.  The heater in the main swimming pool has an “irreparable error” (according to the note we got) so the water is bracing.  Amsterdam is due for dry dock after our cruise.  They may have waited one cruise too long.

There is some kvetching going on, although most folks are taking this in stride.  In Reunion the President of Holland America, Orlando Ashford, came on board with his family and stayed with us through Cape Town.  During his visit we had a series of parties and the booze flowed freely rather than at several bucks per drink.

The highlight of his visit for, some, was “Beat up the President Day.” Where Ashford gives, what amounts to an annual report, talks about the cruise business, shows us new pictures of ships coming on line, previews the 2020 World Cruise, and opens the floor for questions and comments.


Now we all have issues on a cruise this long.  After three months how can we not?  There are all sorts of minor annoyances (and some bigger ones.)  But to raise petty issues with the President of Holland America… give me a break.

“My TV is not as good as the one I have at home. Unless you promise you will put new TVs on deck three for next year’s world cruise I am canceling!”  You go on a world cruise to watch television?

“Why did you cut ESPN in my stateroom for three days.”  We were sailing in an area of the Indian Ocean where there was no ESPN satellite footprint.  Not making the connection someone then asked “Well why didn’t we have March Madness in the Sports Bar.”  I guess he thought that the sports bar was on cable and not satellite.  The Winter Olympics?  Well then we were in the middle of the Pacific.  Hey at least they got the Super Bowl.

Ashford did get one good natured dig back at us.  Apparently the first day of the trip has the heaviest laundry load. “Do you guys pack all your dirty cloths to have us wash the first day?”  Well no, but….  you can send out laundry every day on the cruise, but on the day you arrive at the ship you may have been traveling for three or four days (as we had) and that laundry all goes into the bag the first day.

I was tired of the winging so I raised my hand.  Earlier in his presentation Ashford said that there were three stakeholders in the cruise business, the stockholders, the staff and the guests.  I suggested a fourth, the ports of call.  I thanked him for Holland America’s past support of the Sitka Summer Music Festival, the Raptor Center, the Holiday Basketball Tournament and for providing kettle drums to the school district.  “That’s why we were on Holland America.”  (I repeated this in a private conversation with Ashford, always the development guy.)  It was not lost on me that the director for corporate giving was in the room.  I got a round of applause and then another company official stud up and said “Hey neighbor, I’m from Ketchikan.”  That changed the tone of the meeting.

So we cruise along in radio silence.  It’s kind of nice.  I have two more posts for Luanda which will have to wait in the queue along with this one and any more that I write.  If we get decent G3 service in Banjul (we didn’t in Luanda or Walvis Bay or in Cape Town for that matter) I might get this out then.  If not we’ll always have Dakar.

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