The master of the cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam, Captain Vincent Smit, talks to Ted Scull during a transatlantic crossing from Fort Lauderdale to Lisbon
Is there a seafaring tradition in your family? Yes, on my father’s side, there were officers who worked for KNSM, the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company of Amsterdam.
When did you go to sea and why? At first I wanted to be an airline pilot, but there is a similar relationship between flying a plane and manoeuvring a ship. I used to cycle to the port area to watch the shipping when we moved to Antwerp.
What was your schooling? I went to nautical college at 16, studied for four years and then got my third mate’s licence. I had two years of sailing time with Chevron on board oil tankers to reach second mate, then moved up to chief officer and went back to school.
When did you come to Holland America? I joined HAL in 1992 and have been involved in the construction of several new ships. I first sailed on Maasdam, then Ryndam and am now in charge of Nieuw Amsterdam, where I am relatively new.
What do you like about this ship? I like the layout, the lighter colours, and she is more state-of-the-art than other ships I have been on. The ship has Azipods rather than two propellers and a rudder. The older ships, though, are continually being upgraded with new equipment, having radars replaced and other electrical aids fitted.
What is this ship like to handle?There is more wind resistance with this ship than others I have served on, but she also has more power. At Fort Lauderdale, our winter base, we occasionally need a tug at the bow when the wind reaches about 25 knots, but with the power of the Azipods we never need assistance at the stern.
Is Holland America short of Dutch officers? Yes; some time ago, some of the nautical colleges closed in the Netherlands as so many young people no longer want to go to sea for months at a time. So HAL recruited officers from Britain, and it works very well. The company mixes them on the ships with the Dutch officers. Recently, there has been more advertising and promotion at schools in the Netherlands to encourage students toconsider a career at sea, and thisseems to be working.
How many Dutch crew are there onthis ship? We have nine on the bridge, seven in the engine room and ten on the hotel side.
What are your favourite areas forcruising? I like Europe best. There is not much to see in the Caribbean, so I don’t go ashore much when we are there. The passengers are more varied on European itineraries, with Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, German, French and Dutch passengers coming on board for the trips.
What do you like to do in your freetime? I live near Eindhoven in the Netherlands with my wife and three children. Iused to go diving but now I like to go biking, hiking and am interested in photography, and have some of my photos displayed in my cabin.
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