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Aboard ms Ryndam: Course Correction
Hurricane Paula, or being diverted on your cruise(s)
October 2010

ms Ryndamby Karen Segboer

I was sitting in the Pinnacle Grill on HAL’s RYNDAM last week, right in the middle of my lobster dinner, when Captain Smit came on the public address system and announced that, because of a quickly forming tropical storm, our cruise would be re-routed in the extreme opposite direction. We were supposed to sail from Tampa (our embarkation port) to Key West, which we did that day, but mounting evidence that evening indicated it would become a very bad idea to head straight into an area of the Caribbean where a hurricane was developing. There was a quick change of plans and course to the far eastern Caribbean and the Bahamas and Grand Turk.

This came as a surprise to me, since I had no idea this storm, which came to be known as Hurricane Paula, was even out there. I usually watch weather and current events happenings, especially in the Caribbean or other places I might be sailing - the North Atlantic, the route to Bermuda, for example. Paula came at us from almost out of nowhere.

On every cruise document you will read, if you don’t know this already, is a disclaimer about the cruise line changing the itinerary and ports of call on any given cruise for reasons of safety. Many Bermuda cruises have been diverted to New England and the Canadian Maritimes area for just this reason. It’s disappointing if you really wanted to see Bermuda, had never been to Bermuda before, or had an event to attend once you got to Bermuda by ship. The cruise line just wants to keep you safe and happy (i.e. not sea sick). They also want to protect their crew and staff ... and their ship ... all a big investment, plus maintain the trust of their passengers that they will do the right thing.

I had the opportunity to talk with Captain Smit on our last full sea day and heard that he got a lot of flack from RYNDAM passengers for making that decision. He indicated during his initial public address announcement that he had conferred with his crew, with the main office back in Seattle and with weather forecasters before making his decision to re-route all of us away from our original destinations. I think he made the wise choice that evening and throughout the cruise, and I maintain that it remained the best choice under what had to be difficult circumstances.

I’d done a Central American itinerary close to what this one was supposed to be back in 2000 on the now-gone Premier SEA BREEZE, nee FEDERICO C., a small but much-beloved former Costa ship. We’d sailed to Belize and to the jungles of lost Mayan civilizations, we snorkeled off Roatan in the country of Honduras and we stopped at Carlos n’ Charlies on Cozumel. Key West, curiously, was also on that itinerary, too, but we never made it there because of rough seas prohibiting us from docking or tendering. Kismet had us stop at Key West on our cruise last week before we got displaced by Paula. I very much wanted to see this part of the world again, to explore the ancient Mayan civilizations beyond the ports, to do some snorkeling in the beautiful waters off Honduras, which is why we chose this cruise. Was I disappointed? Yes, but I didn’t want to ride into a hurricane, either. I’ve done many rough crossings across the North Atlantic during winter months; in fact, many times I look for such trips and dates, and I particularly used to love the QE2 for such crossings. I’m not afraid of a little rocking and rolling while onboard, but I do not want to be in Harm’s Way, I don’t want my fellow passengers to be uncomfortable - what pleasure is it to get dressed up for formal night and enter a near-empty dining room because three quarters of the ship is back in their cabins or lined up at the infirmary for seasickness shots? That’s not fun, for me or my fellow passengers.

Also, the truth of the matter was that our western Caribbean ports of call might have suffered damage due to Hurricane Paula. We might not have been allowed to dock or tender in had we actually reached the ports in Belize, Honduras, and Costa Maya, and our tour operators might not have been able to service the ship’s passengers because of this. We might have literally weathered a hurricane to get someplace we couldn’t actually go to and enjoy anyway.

Yes, the Captain made the right decision last week and so did Holland America Line. Even though it was not what I expected - an adventurous week full of Mayan ruins and out-of-the-everyday excitement, it was a super vacation. I got to enjoy a wonderful cabin with a spacious balcony plus all the amenities that come with a suite. We were treated royally by HAL. The ship was great, the food wonderful, and the pampering splendid. The weather was beautiful on our new route east with only an hour or two of rain as we passed north and out of the Bahama Straits as Paula turned south and into the north coast of Cuba. Our seas were like a pond, smooth and silky. All along the way, the RYNDAM crew kept us up-to-date on the location and track of the hurricane we were trying to avoid and did so successfully with the aid of an experienced crew. Imagine if we had gone about our pre-appointed route? Poor Captain Smit was damed if he did and damed if he didn’t, poor guy. I was sorry to hear that the cruise line, the Captain, and the folks who made a very wise decision had to take so much flack.

Related:

See Karen's October 2010 Ryndam Cruise Review here on CruiseDiva.com.

Holland America Line - Cruise Reviews

Holland America Line - Cruise Line Profile


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