Captain’s Log: Mercer Back Cruising the Grand World Voyage

Jan. 4-5:
I joined the “Amsterdam” again, yesterday, yet another World Cruise beckons, a circumnavigation of the globe; 32,500 nautical miles, 38 ports of call and 113 days.

Many guests will do the entire cruise, whilst others will do ‘segments’; parts of the voyage which appeal to them, for example, Port Everglades, Florida to Sydney, Australia or Sydney to Hong Kong. In other words, one has choices.

The World cruise Captain does not change, so I will be doing the entire circumnavigation, a long time when one considers the work and the hours involved, however it is the epitome of the Navigator’s art, one uses all the experience gained over the years and then some; isolated islands and bustling ports always provide challenges.

We Captains do all our own ship-handling, probably the most rewarding of my many responsibilities and certainly the most enjoyable. Imparting knowledge to up-and-coming officers is always a satisfying experience. I have on occasion seen an officer handle a ship and realised that they are going to be a ‘natural’, they have a feel for the ship and how it will behave in varying conditions.

Read the rest of this post HERE.

Jan. 6: at Sea
A sunny morning and it’s 82⁰F/ 29⁰C, calm and all is well with the world. Making 16 knots towards Puerto Limon; the morning has been taken up with paperwork, (the bane of Captains). Every time I’ve been ‘out on deck’, I have been approached by past guests and engaged in endless conversations, it’s just as well that when I go to the Lido restaurant, my lunch is usually a salad, this has the benefit of not going cold while I talk. :)

This evening is our first formal night and for me, Introductions. This involves standing on stage and introducing my key staff. I used to dread public speaking when I first started on cruise ships, no amount of training helps, (not that training exists), however now it’s relatively straightforward and an excellent opportunity to set the ‘tone’ of the cruise. As most, if not all, of the key staff are returning personnel, names present no challenge, remembering their biographical information is quite another matter, so, just like the old school days, writing it several times seems to do the trick; I’ll find out in a few hours.

Read the rest of this post HERE.

Jan. 7: at sea
The ship went to dry dock in San Diego, just before Christmas and we had our underwater hull painted, all the weed, flaking paint being blasted off and fresh, new paint applied. I already notice the difference, she is certainly moving through the water faster than I am used to.

Introductions went well, my memorising the officer’s bio details paid dividends, 11 staff and no memory lapses, thank goodness.

It must be a record, I had my first question about whether we’ll make Easter Island today; the norm is to ask after we have been through the Panama Canal and thus in the Pacific. There’s something about that pesky island, it’s on the ‘bucket list’ and does not have the ability for us to dock, taking guests ashore in our own tenders is the only means of landing them. More about that after the 21st, our calling date. (On the other hand, for once it may be kind to me and all you will see are pretty photos). :)

Read the rest of this post HERE.

Jan. 8: Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
This small port nestles in a bay, it has only 2 jetties and a container wharf. Swell can be a challenge here, although today is was more northerly and the breakwater offered some lee from the worst of it. Nevertheless, I backed in, so that the swell, or what there was of it, came onto the bow, rather than the stern…

…I popped ashore briefly, to take some photos from the harbour and just outside the dock gates. Most guests did something ‘ecological’ be it zip-line or rain forest, Costa Rica is, of course, famous for it all.



Goodies arrived in the cabin last night, the 2014 World cruise bag and journals; each guest receives them, it’s part of the experience. (Goodies are regularly gifted during the voyage).

Read the rest of this post HERE.

Jan. 9: The Panama Canal

A long day, a call at 4 a.m. and up to the bridge by 4:30; we are 6 miles from the breakwaters of Cristobal, at the north entrance to the Panama Canal. The radios are constantly busy, vessels calling in for orders, others reporting positions.

We turn onto a southerly heading, aiming for the entrance between the red and green breakwater lights; there’s a strong current setting us east and the Officer of the watch has to allow 8⁰ of set in order to counter it.

Our orders are to be at the breakwater entrance at 5 a.m., we pass through them at 4:58, reducing speed sufficiently to allow agents, officials and pilot to board all the while continuing our route down the channel…

…The Canal, between entrances is 51 miles in length and has three sets of locks; Gatun, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores. Gatun has a flight of 3 locks and takes us ‘up’ approximately 80ft, or 26m. From here one enters Gatun Lake to Gamboa, 32 miles and then into the Culebra cut, this is 8 miles long and 150m wide, it can only be transited ‘one way’ at a time, so north and southbound vessels are timed in order that either all north or south have cleared it, prior to the ‘other way’ entering.

The Cut takes us to Pedro Miguel locks, which lower us 28ft, 9.4m into another small lake and thence to Miraflores locks, which lowers us the last 50 feet, 16m to sea level.

Going into Gatun Lock.

Going into Gatun Lock.

The new Gatun Locks under construction.

The new Gatun Locks under construction.

Read the rest of this post HERE.

Why One Shouldn’t Anchor in Gatun Lake:
While transiting the Canal yesterday, after our fly-by of the new Gatun lock, we passed many ships at anchor, waiting either for their exit to the Caribbean via Gatun; or their turn to transit southwards.

The pilot asked me if I wanted to anchor or preferred to slow steam until our Cut passage was ready. I replied that I would rather steam; “good idea, look at this” was his reply. Whipping out his phone, he proceeded to show me some photos and a video of a recent incident on a ship anchored in Gatun Lake.

To watch the video of what happened, click HERE. But the below photo is a hint :)


Jan. 13: at sea
A morning spent answering emails and participating in our Fire drill. All was going quietly until just after my ‘voice from the Bridge’.

The Officer of the watch called me and asked me if I could come to the Bridge. Upon my arrival, she pointed out a fishing boat away on our port side; the crew could be seen waving shirts and life jackets and they were obviously not doing it for fun.


We lowered a tender and off it set towards the boat. One of our Spanish-speaking ladies from the Front Office was aboard, it was unlikely that they would speak English. Once our tender was near the boat, communication began. It appeared they had a ‘broken’ propeller and that they had been there for 3 days. They had managed to get in contact with their owner and they expected a boat to come and tow them back home the next day.

Their dilemma was that they had almost run out of water and food, hence them trying to attract our attention. This was a relatively straightforward fix and so the tender came back to the ship and, having had water and provisions loaded, it set off back to the boat.

The fishermen were extremely grateful and once all provisions were loaded, the tender returned and once secure, we resumed our voyage.

Read the rest of this post HERE.

Jan. 14-15: Callao, Peru
We had low-lying fog again, however this is the norm for this area and one could see the larger vessels. Embarking 2 pilots, we made our way through the buoyed channel; pleasingly, they made no attempt to take the conn, instead electing to chat about this and that as we progressed.

Into the harbour and a swing off the berth, we are to back onto a pier which is 68 metres shorter than the Amsterdam, so I drop an anchor before proceeding astern. This to give us an additional option open should the wind increase from the north; our forward lines are all leading back to the end of the pier, we have nothing keep the bow alongside, should the wind come up, the anchor will assist if it does.

We ‘ring off’ our engines at 0700, (an old-fashioned term from when telegraphs were used). Our Guests are eager to disembark on tours of Lima, about 30 minute’s bus ride away and various nearby attractions; others leave for Machu Picchu.

I jumped on a bus, joining a tour of Lima, although I have been here before, I did not have anything I could post here, so camera at the ready, off I went.

The Presidential Palace.

The Presidential Palace.

Facade of the Cathedral.

Facade of the Cathedral.

Archbishop’s garden.

Archbishop’s garden.

Stay tuned for more posts.

Note: Captain Mercer began his own blog, and you can read each post and follow him on the Grand World Voyage at Each date in this post also is linked to his blog.


Join the Discussion


  1. Arnold Sitorus January 22, 2014 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    please permit captain, I’m arnold sitorus, from Indonesia, may I ask how long the captain working in HAL?

  2. Jonathan January 23, 2014 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Hello Arnold, I have been working for HAL since 1995

  3. PatriciaB January 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Nice to see this blog starting again for this year’s World Cruise!
    Loved the photos and the interesting commentary. Captain Mercer never fails to inform and amuse!
    Encountering his wit and graciousness long ago on the Ryndam in a question/answer interview with Chief Officer Lye. They were a cruising vauderville show and that hour was one of the thing we remember most about that Panama cruise.

  4. Jack and Phyllis January 23, 2014 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    Captain, we are sorry that we couldn’t be aboard this year but happy to know that the Amsterdam is in good hands for the World Cruise again. We will follow you and hope that you will be our Captain next year. Thank you again for your consideration regarding Corregidor last year.

  5. Charlotte Van Hoorn January 23, 2014 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    So cool when HAL plans for the ships to be in port together. Prinsendam and Amsterdam. Reminded me of being on the Nieuw Amsterdam when the Amsterdam arrived in Spain and it did prompt me to inquire about the World cruise and we were on a segment the very next year!

  6. Beth Smallridge January 24, 2014 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Hello Captain Jonathan! So glad we found your blog! My parents are on-board until Sydney. If you happen to see Ann and Bill (Basil) Doumas, please tell them Ethan and Colin say HI! We miss them so much but know they are having a great time!

  7. Varena. F. Henry January 26, 2014 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    I’m happy to find this so I can follow the cruise as I’m not on board the year! Ill miss the wonderful food in the lido, the delightful Indonesian wait staff ! They were delightful! With 6 world cruises the lido food at night was bout the best I’ve ever had, the variety, and the preparation was outstanding ! Vfh

  8. Leslie g Neese (Celeste) January 29, 2014 at 9:43 am - Reply

    I feel as if I am on the World Cruise, thanks to your blog……I do miss your noonday ships sayings……Travel safely dear Captain and I look forward to traveling on your ship in 2015, the GOOD LORD willing and the creek don’t rise…..

  9. Larry & Karen Constable February 28, 2014 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    Hi Captain Mercer,
    It is good to read about the World Cruise. We had the pleasure of meeting you and your lovely wife Karen last year on the World Cruise. We are 5 star mariner and hope to be on the Amsterdam in 2015 which we hope to see you both. You wrote about Easter Island, we were one of the lackey ones that got to tender to the island that day, it was one of the roughest rides that we had in the 115 days of our trip. But being the good Captain that you are, you did everything in your power to get the passengers to the to the Island. Have a safe trip home.
    Hope to see you both in 2015.

  10. SIS April 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    Captain ! I hope you still get this email of mine on your email somewhere in the system ???
    I can’t comment on your present for days, now. The photos don’t show either, and the bottom part of your entry is not giving me a “post comment” box. I’m using the system of public libraries in town (if that is the problem ???) Please see if you can get the “gurus” of the network to solve my problem! Others seem to be able to comment :(

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