I left North America around mid-November in a snow squall for northern Italy across the water from Venice to a city called Mestre. In Mestre is an industrial yard called Fincantieri Navale which is the shipyard where every Holland America Line vessel for at least the last 18 years has been built. I’ve been a part of every build since 2010’s Nieuw Amsterdam but this year I was joining from the contractor side rather than the employee side of things. What I initially thought was going to be quite different turned out to not be very dissimilar at all - the real differences were not having to take part in the drills and not wearing a uniform. The things that were in common were the sudden changes in availability of hot water, elevators, power, trips out to the coffee machines. Having mentioned the coffee machines... some of the best coffee I’ve had has come from machines located outside in an industrial shipyard. Ridiculous!
It never ceases to amaze me how a ship goes from massive pieces of metal to a floating hotel - at the risk of sounding like a Discovery Channel announcer, it’s really a marvel of modern engineering. Not a small endeavor in either time or man power, the end result after over a year is a ~99,000 ton ship. In the main theatre, the Worldstage, there is a 270 degree video wall which encompasses the majority of the space and a video ring which can fly in and out. Made up of somewhere around 15 million pixels, the wall is driven by two disguise media servers. In addition to the LED surfaces there are also four laser projectors which put content onto the floor for the show Step One Dance Comapny presentation of Humanity. These projectors are fed by another three disguise servers from the control booth in the Worldstage. Despite the amount of technology that we put into the theatre it’s only a small percentage of the amazing tools (and toys) that get installed on this small city.
Anyway, we were in the yard for a couple of weeks and then we sailed from Venice to Rome for the “shake down” or soft opening cruise and, following that, we left for a trans-Atlantic voyage to Fort Lauderdale. Quite a few days at sea but the ship was in pretty good shape with only a few minor bugs to work out and the crew was great. We hit land four or five days before Christmas and I flew from Fort Lauderdale to St. John’s Newfoundland to spend Christmas with the family - it was a pretty good time except for the fact that a bunch of us got sick; fortunately no one transmitted their illness to my niece. All in all, after having been away for 6 weeks I got home just before New Year to end off 2018 in Ottawa.