27th February to 2nd March
Well, where to start? I left you as we departed Adelaide, the gateway port for Perth, Australia, heading north in the Indian Ocean towards Bali, Indonesia. Our President and CEO Stein Kruse, his wife Linda, Sally Andrews, our VP Public Relations, and Gerald Bernhoft, Director Mariner Society, joined us in Adelaide for our ‘Mariners Appreciation Days;’ they do this every year, for a few days during the World cruise. We have a vast number of guests on the World cruise who have sailed with us before, some of whom have over 2,000 days with us! Our days were filled with presentations, talks and dinners and I must have put on a couple of lbs/kgs in the process, it was a ‘food fest’ amongst others.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, Cyclone ‘Rusty’ was heading for north-west Australia, its position, initially, was not far from our intended route and coupled with that was Tropical depression N⁰18, to Rusty’s west and also forecast to move close to us. There was much poring over weather charts and interrogating of Australian Met pages on the web as we moved north.
The challenge with cyclones in this area is that their movement is totally unpredictable. Hurricanes in the Atlantic have, at least, some chance of prediction, however here, they can turn and twist in any direction, even reversing course and coming back to bite you. I’m pleased to say this was not the case on this occasion and ‘Rusty’ behaved impeccably (for us anyway, but not the residents of NW Australia, who experienced 100mph/160kph winds and had the equivalent of their annual rainfall, 9” or 220mm in a few days).
Similarly, N⁰18 fizzled out, presumably, having seen us coming and obviously wanting nothing to do with us. The seas of course were affected though and we encountered reasonably large swells and 30 knot winds as we paralleled the Australian west coast; that having been said, the sun shone and our hardy sailors (aka, guests) seemed unaffected.
We had 1,450 miles to steam from Adelaide to Bali and we averaged 17 knots. I have to say that the “Amsterdam” is an ideal ship on which to make these passages. She has wonderful sea-keeping qualities as her hull ‘form’ and finer bow, make short work of even the most stubborn seas.
Originally, our itinerary had us arriving at Tenah Ampo, Bali, here we were to anchor and tender guests ashore. Late last year, I became aware of an alternative port, 23 miles to the south-west of Tenah Ampo, this was Benoa. This port has been in existence for some time, however it has been mainly used by smaller cruise vessels, capable of negotiating the tortuous, shallow channel to the dock. The Indonesians, in an effort to attract larger vessels, had embarked on a programme of dredging and this was brought to my notice by a 2nd officer who was, at the time, on board the “Amsterdam” and had a home nearby. Further enquiry revealed that it was now possible for larger vessels to berth there, us included, although the narrow channel was still a challenge. Enquiries were made as to berth availability on the 2nd March, which was in the affirmative. Our corporate officers were still reluctant to commit until fate played her hand and the tender pier at Tenah Ampo was wrecked in strong winds, Benoa was a ‘go’.
We arrived off the port at 7 a.m. on (our) Saturday morning, only to find that a large, local ferry occupied our berth and wasn’t expected to sail for 2 hours. I seldom lose my temper, however that morning I was furious, although tried to maintain some decorum while ‘seething’ inside. To have had confirmation of a berth and then be told, on arrival, that is wasn’t available seemed the height of inefficiency, not only that, it was downright rude. Everyone was inconvenienced, my guests had tours arranged, over 700 family members of our Balinese crew were waiting on the pier to see their mums and dads and our call would be shortened by an hour or more…..
Anyway, the ferry eventually left and we entered, navigating the winding channel with a strong flood current behind us; I had intended to swing in the harbour and back towards the berth, this would have made departure easier, however to save time we went straight in, port side to. Gangways out, ship cleared and everyone able to enjoy the day.
That evening we held our annual event, a different theme every World Cruise and tonight’s would be ‘Pasar Malam’ or Night Market. Our Staff Engineer Joost and his team had spent months in preparation; building bamboo huts and bridges, a rice field and tropical rain forest, to name but a few. We had invited ‘market stall’ proprietors and stands of Bali batik, wood carvings were present. Local musicians and dancers too, a Gamelan band, Wajang puppet show, Sinden singers, Suling flute players and an Angklung orchestra. Beautiful Balinese ladies (and handsome men) performed Balinese dances. Some cycle taxis, or Becak-Becak circled the lido, taking guests for a ride for a $5 fee. All monies were being donated to the ‘Rainbow Foundation’ rehabilitation centre, which looks after children.
The guests had a blast and I did the ‘rounds’ before returning to my cabin, we had a difficult manoeuvre coming up and needed some rest.
All went well as we slowly moved astern into a turning area; what with anchored fishing boats, sandbanks and the Seabourn Quest it was all quite exciting. 🙂
We are now in the Java Sea, sailing for Makassar on the Island of Sulawesi and, no doubt, more adventures.
Jonathan Mercer is Amsterdam’s captain.