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HOLLAND
AMERICA
LINE
NOORDAM
NOORDAM
Captain John Scott’s substantial experience at sea has included
everything from working on banana boats and sheep carriers to
commanding some of the most luxurious passenger ships afloat.  He
is presently captain and master of Holland America Line’s
NOORDAM, that company’s latest cruise ship.  Before coming to
Holland America in 1995, he was Chief Officer on the legendary
QUEEN ELIZABETH 2.  As a result, he is uniquely situated to
discuss some of the similarities and differences between a modern
cruise ship such as NOORDAM and the venerable ocean liner.

 Scott takes considerable pride in NOORDAM.  He was the ship’s
first master and stood by her for five months while she was being
constructed at the Fincantieri yard near Venice, Italy. “It was really
quite spectacular watching it all come into the yard.  Dozens of
trucks a day coming in putting all the stuff on.  It was a massive
operation to get it all here.”

  “QE2 is a lovely ship, a beautiful ship.   I thoroughly enjoyed my
time on her.”  Captain Scott points out proudly that he was
responsible for a number of innovations on QE2 including the radar
mast over the wheelhouse, the gangways used in cruise ports, and
the faux-wood paneling on the bridge.  “I can look at the
photographs and say that is before I was there or that is while I was
there or that is mine or that is mine.”

  The two ships are similar in size.  QE2 is 963 feet long while
NOORDAM is 960 feet.  Both ships are approximately 106 feet
wide.  NOORDAM is somewhat larger in gross tonnage: 82,300
versus 70,327.   Along the same lines, NOORDAM carries
approximately 1,900 passengers versus 1,728 for QE2, although
earlier in QE2’s career, her passenger capacity was somewhat
higher.

  At that point the similarities end.  QE2 was built in the late 1960s
based upon a unique design.  Her long, sleek hull was designed to
cut through the rough waters of the North Atlantic and has steel as
thick as a warship.  She is propelled by two traditional propeller
shafts attached to two electric motors which are powered by nine
diesel electric engines.  Her original cost was ₤30 million but
Cunard estimates that it has spent 15 times that amount on refitting
her over the last 40 years including a ₤180 million conversion from
steam to diesel-electric power in 1986.

  Delivered to Holland America in 2006, NOORDAM cost
approximately $400 million and is the latest version of the “Vista”
cruise ship design.  NOORDAM is the fourth ship of this design
purchased by HAL but differs from her sisters in that her stern
superstructure has been lengthened to yield 35 more cabins.  “Our
stern is about 200 tons heavier than the other ships.”  This addition
also required strengthening the ship’s bulbous bow to compensate
for the added weight in the stern.  However, “structurally, there isn’
t much difference between this ship and the three older ships.”

   “This is actually the fifth Vista-class ship built even though there
are only four in our fleet.  P&O’s ARCADIA is basically our ship.  
It originally was to go to Cunard as the QUEEN VICTORIA but it
went to P&O.  Technically, by and large, she is the same.
Structurally and appearance-wise, she is very similar to this.  It was
modified a little bit to make her look more like a Cunarder and then
re-modified in order to make her look like a P&O ship.  She is,
however, one of our five hulls, if you like.  The underwater hull
design has been used by Costa, Carnival, now P&O, and
ourselves.  So, basically, the underwater hull is quite well used.”

  Cunard’s QUEEN VICTORIA, which recently went into service,
also bears a relation to NOORDAM.  “The new one, QUEEN
VICTORIA, is a little bit longer, a little bit more powerful, and
should be a little bit faster.  But basically, she is an improved and
up-rated version of this design.    I’m not sure what the steel
thickness specification is or what the interior fit out is like but they
may be making her more of a liner.  She will be longer and
therefore a little bit sleeker than these ships and then you start to
look more like a liner.”
           
   Instead of a traditional propeller shaft arrangement as on QE2,
NOORDAM is propelled by two “azipods,” which can turn 360
degrees to propel the ship in any direction.  Captain Scott described
an azipod as having “the profile of a rudder.”  At the bottom, there
is the electric motor and the propeller is at the front pulling the ship
through the water.  Having the propeller in the front means that it is
turning in undisturbed water - -  “there is no interference of the
water flow coming out under the ship and around the side of the
ship.  So, then you get a better flow of water on the propeller.  
Whereas conventionally, the propeller is at the end, so you have the
framing, the brackets, and the propeller shaft interfering with the
water flow.  With the pods, you just get a straight pull of
undisturbed water. The azipod is about 5 or 6% more efficient than
the standard propeller because of the better water flow.  [In
addition,] it frees up space within the ship because you don’t have
the electric motor in the stern sheets and you don’t have stern
thrusters.  So, it’s a rudder, propulsion and a stern thruster all in
one unit.  It gives you a lot more power down in the stern to move
the ship around.”

   Whereas QE2 obtains her power from nine diesel engines,
powering NOORDAM’s pods are a diesel electric system and a gas
turbine system.  While Cunard’s QUEEN MARY 2 uses its gas
turbine engine to generate the extra power needed for a transatlantic
crossing, such a system was included in NOORDAM for
environmental reasons. “It was put in for going to Alaska and ports
where we need a very, very clean exhaust.”
      
      While NOORDAM’s hull does not have the same thickness of
steel as QE2, she has very good water-tight integrity.  “We’re
actually more than double hulled.  In many places, we have two or
three rows of tanks.  They have an outer hull, framing, an inner
hull, and quite often we have another set of tanks on top of that.  
The ship is divided into water tight zones down in the lower part of
the ship.  We have watertight doors that slide across and huge
hydraulically-powered doors and we can break the ship into zones.  
We could flood two or three zones.”
 
   “QE2 was built to run across the Atlantic and to do cruising as a
sideline.  This ship was built as a cruise ship.  QE2 is enormously
more powerful than this ship.  We have 48,000 horse power
propulsion-wise and she [has] 130,000 horse power.”  Actually,
Captain Scott noted, no one is sure how much power QE2 has
because when her power plant was built there was no means of
testing the amount of power the system was capable of generating.  
“So they took the propulsion motors up to the limit of the thing that
they could test it against and said okay that’s enough.  So nobody is
ever quite sure how much power you could get out of those
motors.”   As a result, “she has very fine lines and she is very, very
fast.”  Indeed, QE2 is the fastest passenger ship in service, capable
of 33 knots.

  In contrast, NOORDAM can “do about 22.8 or 23 knots.  But, it
depends on what we are doing.  If we are up in the cold latitudes,
then we can go faster.  At present [during a Caribbean cruise], we
are running three AC compressors to keep the air conditioning
going. We are using about 11.9 megawatts of power, basically for
lights, air conditioning, and that type of thing.  We are using about
28.4 [megawatts] for propulsion.  We actually slow down during
the day.  Then, once the galley stops and all the entertainment
stops, the extra electricity goes to the propulsion motors in the pods
so actually our speed varies depending on the temperature, and also
what time of day it is.  We slow down about three quarters of a
knot as everything starts going for the day.”

    While QE2 would be the clear winner in a point-to-point race,
NOORDAM has the edge when it comes to maneuverability.  “QE2
has one enormous rudder and only 900 horsepower bow thrusters.  
She goes very fast in one direction, she goes around corners very
well at fast speed, but when she comes to slow speeds, it can be
very exciting.  Whereas here on NOORDAM, we have got 7 and a
half thousand horsepower bow thrusters and when we turn the
pods around, in the maneuvering mode, we have got about 16,000
horsepower down aft to go sideways.  So, it a completely different
capability of maneuvering between the two ships.”  One result is
that NOORDAM is less dependent on tugs, making her less
expensive to run.

   In addition, NOORDAM’s better maneuverability and shallower
draft make her more suited for cruising.  QE2 could not dock in
many of the cruise ports visited by NOORDAM.  Indeed, Captain
Scott could only think of three ports in the Caribbean where QE2
could go along side.  This is a big disadvantage because tendering
“is inconvenient for guests by and large.  They want to be able to
walk straight ashore.  People do prefer to walk off, more than
anything else.”

   Life onboard the two ships also differed.  “Different style of
passenger, different expectations.  The passengers here have come
for a vacation.  They haven’t come as a means of transportation.   
Operationally, all summer, [on QE2] it was basically the liner run.  
We had to run a different style because of the North Atlantic
weather - - things had to be screwed down, lashed down, a lot
more than we need here.  It came with different expectations.  
Many people use the QE2 as a means of transportation, instead of
flying.  They would come because they wanted to go from New
York to Southampton.  They didn’t come because they wanted to
cruise from New York to Southampton, they had to get from New
York to Southampton.  They couldn’t, wouldn’t, or didn’t want to
fly.  We also had people who were interested in working “

    “QE2, probably because of the run she did, had more people
who were better known.  People, if they were going to New York
from Southampton, some of them were doing it for a short
vacation, five days.  So, there were some celebrities, some well
known political figures, some well known business figures, quite a
lot of old established money.  Here, people are successful but they
are more low key.  You do get some surprises here but on Cunard
you were a little more aware of them.  Also, because officers had
more to do with passengers, you had to deal with them and see
them.”

    In June, it was announced that QE2 would be leaving service in
2008 in order to became a floating hotel in Dubai.  While this
decision has sealed QE2’s fate, the question remains whether the
40 year-old ship could have remained in service.  “Structurally,
certainly hull-wise, she has got 60 years left.”  Along the same
lines, the age of the power plant was not an obstacle to continued
operation.  When the new engines were installed in 1986, it was
predicted that they would last until 2010.  However, “engines are
replaceable.  You can keep replacing parts.  We blew one up back
when I was onboard.  We had to cut a hole in the side and take one
whole engine out.  So, if they had to, they could cut a hole in the
side and just slide them out and put new ones in.  It is not a huge
job.”

    However, there were several issues that did pose an obstacle to
the ship’s continuing viability as a business.   First, there was the
problem of removing the wooden elements of the ship’s interior so
as to make her compliant with the Safety of Life as Sea Regulations
that go into effect in 2010.

    Second, when ships get old their pipes start to go.  In addition,
some of the related operating systems are no longer state-of-the-art
and are costly to operate.  “There are things like she doesn’t have a
vacuum toilet system.  She has the strong-wristed rush of sea water
type ones.  In this day and age, you really have to have a vacuum
system because of the volume of liquid.”

   Finally, some of the accommodations on QE2 no longer measure
up to the accommodations passengers expect on modern cruise
ships. “I think the original One Deck cabins are ageless.  Those
lovely original cabins, they will never age.   Deck Two midships,
the middle section, that is nice.  But where she starts curing near
the Computer room, there are some pretty boxy cabins in there.  
[From a business perspective] whether she is worth gutting those
sections and putting new accommodations in, I don’t
know.”             
Thoughts on NOORDAM and
QE2

An Interview With Captain
John Scott

by RICHARD H. WAGNER
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