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20 June 2009, Kieler Kanal, Germany.

At Elbe Pilot station ships converge that are going up river to Hamburg and beyond or to the Kieler Kanal. So there is quite a bit of traffic going on at any time. Luckily the river is very wide and plenty of room for everybody. The Prinsendam and the German pilot were both on time which meant he was onboard at exactly 07.00. Planning it on the minute we travelled up river with a speed of 16 knots (13 knots on the engines and 3 knots of flood current) for our scheduled arrival time at the locks at 10:00. This 10:00 hrs. comes from the Holland America brochure, e.g. our cruise plan. Traffic in the Kieler Kanal is down by about 30% this year due to the credit crunch and thus we could keep this schedule. No other ships in the way. The locks were waiting for us as soon as we arrived. While approaching the Brunsbuttel lock we saw dark clouds gathering above us and as luck would have it, it started to pour down the moment we were going into the lock. Not just any poor down; now for five minutes we had severe hail and sleet coming down and the Prinsendam has open bridge wings……….

Holland America offered this year an “overland tour” to the guests while the ship was going through the canal. About 25 people participated and they were landed while the ship was sitting in the locks. I assume that they must have seen the canal before and now wanted to experience it from the other side. The idea was that they would reboard at the end of the canal in the Holtenau locks, provided that the ship was coming through on schedule.

Kieler Kanal plan

While we only had one pilot for the North Sea Canal, today we had several. One from sea to the locks, one to take us into the first locks, one to take us halfway through the canal, one for the rest of the canal and one for taking us out of the Canal. The 3rd one brought two local helmsmen with him and these two guys actually steer the ship through the canal. The pilot does the communication and the speed adjustments so that the ship travels no faster than the allowed speed and arrives at set times at wider parts of the river to allow opposite traffic to pass by. No orders are given at all, the helmsman just steers and keeps the ship in the middle where possible and steers over a little bit where needed for opposing traffic.

An important part of our preparation for the Canal was the lowering of our Radar Mast. With the mast up we are 46 meters above water, with the mast down 39 meters and the canal bridges clearance height is about 42 meters. I had tested the lowering of the mast a week ago to ensure that everything worked and just before the canal, the Bo’ sun used a hydraulic pump to get the mast down. I made a mental note to ensure that we were going to put it up again as soon as we were out of the canal as it has some of the navigation lights (Not under Command lights) on it. We seldom need those but we have to be able to show them when needed.

04.06.08 Prinsendam 007 The Canal is not that wide so it is of the essence to stay in the middle.

We had to go very slow a few times so that we could meet opposing ships at the passage locations, where the canal has been widened and we had to stop once at such a passage for opposing traffic and to let a ship behind us go by. The canal administration has divided all the ships into six classes, depending on size, draft and width. The Prinsendam is falling under class six and that means that we go the slowest of all. No more than 7.5 knots at the max. Thus, as soon as you have these slow downs or waiting moments, you go behind schedule. And so we did. Per company schedule we were supposed to be out of the locks at 1900 hrs. but we just made it by 20.00 hrs. Shipping dictates what happens in the canal not the brochure. Thus the overland guests, who had been kept up-to-date all day long about our progress through the canal, had to wait for about 45 minutes. However the locks were full of ships so it was fascinating to watch that while waiting.

04.06.08 Prinsendam 012 Sailing through the lush green land of Schleswig-Holstein.

This year we added Kiel as an evening call on the program for the first time and that made it difficult for me as I now had to decide whether to go to Kiel or not. The call was only four hours and we were already an hour delayed. However the pilot said that I would be able to make it in 45 minutes if I really lay it on. Well if that was not a challenge then I did not know what would be. Had it been an hour later, then I would have cancelled the call but now I could still give our guests three hours ashore and the passenger terminal is right in down town. “Kieler Woche” or Kiel Festival Week started today and that is something you have to see. It looks like a State Fair in the evening but then the German way. So we sailed as quickly as possible out of the locks, down the Kieler Fjord, swung rapidly around off the dock, came sideways, put lines ashore and had the gangway in at 20.59 with the first guest going ashore at 21.05. The pilot was suitably impressed with the whole procedure. As long as there is not too much wind, the Prinsendam can hold up with the best.

It was the first call for the Prinsendam at Kiel and the harbour authorities came onboard for a quick visit and to present the First Call Plaque. Not every port is doing it anymore as there are too many cruise ships around but the Germans are sticklers for tradition so they keep this tradition going. And so it should be. I exchanged the ships plaques with them and all was well in the world.

We sailed just before midnight and I was glad to leave. It was only a short stop but during the time alongside the party noise from the shore was deafening. Nice for a short while, but tomorrow a lot of our guests will be on the early morning tour to Berlin and they need their sleep. Not something you get when blaring disco noise is droning over your balcony.

We will have the Warnemunde pilot tomorrow morning at 05.00 and will be docked by 06.30 if I can swing on arrival or earlier if I go nose in. I need to be early for the Berlin tour. The train to Berlin is leaving at 07.00 so that it can depart before the commuter trains start going. It will be Sunday in Warnemunde so I can catch up with my sleep during the day and also catch up with my blog.

Follow these links for some photos from shore side by ship lovers in the canal.

2009/6/20 canal bridge Grünental/Kiel-Canal – photo’s by Michael Brakhage
Hi Res photo
Hi Res photo

  • Frank

    Dear Captain Albert–

    I very much enjoy your reports but since the change of “house” I am not getting them in my e-mail as I used to. I tried to subscribe again and got a message that my e-mail was “already subscribed”. Something has not transferred over!

    Frank in Sunny Santa Barbara, CA

  • Ann Poehling

    Captain Albert,
    I so look forward to meeting you when we board the Prisendam on August 7 for a 30 day Northern European cruise. I have followed your blogs periodically and always enjoy your comments and information, and now especially since I will get to experience first hand all the wonders you describe. My husband and I did the 2008 Grand World Voyage of 114 days on the Amsterdam, and all the “world cruisers” raved about your ship, so we look forward to sailing her. Can’t wait!!!! Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to share your thoughts on your blog.

  • Tony Llewellyn

    Will we be receiving the blog by email any time soon? Or has this now been discontinued? I am not getting any answers from HAL.



  • John Lacy

    Dear Captain Albert –

    We enjoy your blog very much and are glad you are now on the Prinsendam, on which we cruised the Eastern Meditteranean in October.

    Will you still be on the Prinsendam in the summer of 2010?

    Thanks again.

  • Vicki

    Tony, I asked about this and got a reply from Captain Albert on the 21st to this effect:

    on 21 Jun 2009 at 10:39 am3Captain Albert
    Good morning,

    I have passed this on to our computer wizards and the links should have been restored. Let me know if you ahve any further problems.

    captain Albert

    I thought I would give them a day or two to fix the problem. We need to remind him if it doesn’t get cleared up soon.

  • Captain Albert

    Good morning,

    schedule for 2010 should be roughly the same. may until aug. Then november until jan 2011.

    Hopefully we will meet

    Captain Albert

  • Norberto

    My wife & I were in the the just finished cruise Amsterdam-Greenwich and it was fabuluos.Our sincere thks to you and and the ship crew.
    PS-Besides the terrific time we had we also won the raffle for the 7 day Caribbean Cruise for two.

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