After we had departed Mykonos. the weather had looked grim.  A storm was developing off the coast of Libya and was predicted to be over the island of Malta on our day of arrival.  Even our weather programmes were forecasting 40 knot winds from the east-north-east, straight into the harbour.

I had never been to Malta before, although I knew  a great deal about it; I had been brought up on its history, its role in WW ll as the keystone to the Mediterranean, “he who held Malta, held the entire Mediterranean”.  Several convoys of merchant ships sailed from U.K. in an attempt to provide food, munitions and fuel to the beleaguered island  and it cost many ships and many lives.  One of the ships i sailed on as a cadet which had run a convoy to Malta, had the cannon dents of a strafing aircraft across the metal of its Bridge-front.

Back to the weather; the following day and the day before our arrival, it appeared that the storm had slowed its progression north and I may catch a break from the stronger winds.

Sure enough, as dawn broke and we approached Malta, wind was down to around 23 knots, manageable for the Amsterdam.  Rough seas though and we had to turn through 90° to provide a lee for the pilot boat and its pilot.  As soon as he was on, it was ‘hard to port’ and the approach for the very narrow harbour, scarily narrow in fact.  Once inside 1 breakwater it required a hard turn to port around the inner breakwater and then avoid drifting in the turn towards the rather large lump of ramparts to starboard, before trying to come to an abrupt halt, swing through 180° and dock.


Outer approach, the turn for the pilot and then back for the entrance

The harbour, entrance right, dock bottom left

The dock and the turn off the berth.

 The day was special, my daughter Samantha, her husband Ant and 2 of my grandchildren joined here; I’ve been grinning from ear-to-ear ever since  🙂   We also had one our Fleet Captain’s join; the position, which is usually for about 2 years, is held by a few sea-going Captains who are tasked with visiting the Group’s vessels and assisting in refining our Bridge practices.  All-in-all a busy day and I didn’t have the opportunity to explore.  Karen did though and some of her photographs are posted, along with some of mine.

The view from the Bridge

Restaurants and apartments to our left, Valletta itself in the background

The view across the harbour

An elevator took one from ground level up to the city level

The fort overlooking the impregnable harbour

Karen went to Mdina (sic) and the ancient citadel

Inside the walls

In Valletta itself



Departure was something else.  The wind had picked up and, as we experienced later, was blowing 38 kts outside the breakwaters.  Inside the harbour it was gusting up to 27 and off on our starboard side.  It was a matter of getting enough speed to reduce the amount of effect from the wind.  In good British vernacular, we “took off like a robber’s dog” 🙂  and were up to 7 knots in 3 ship’s lengths, by the time the breakwaters came into the equation,  up to 10 and we threw her around like a destroyer.  The sight of the open sea, albeit with rough seas was most welcome and, having done another hard turn to port to provide a lee for the pilot, we set courses for Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

12 thoughts on “Valletta”

  1. Captain Jonathan,
    What a dramatic and informative blog. Again, kudos for your navigational expertise, descriptive commentary , video and photos. So glad for you that you were able to enjoy some family time. Hope the weather improves and you enjoy smooth seas.

  2. OMG! We’ve been to Malta but I have never appreciated what the captain goes through to get us into the harbor! Kudos to Captain Tim Roberts and Captain Andre S. And to you too,of course! I love reading your side of the GWV … This is the part I would enjoy the most (except for the not getting off the ship part!). We have our first sea day of this voyage (there are only 5 in a 50 day voyage) and I will try to put together a ‘first impressions ‘ for everyone who has asked. Love to Karen and Hazel from Dubrovnik.

  3. Captain Mercer, this Valletta report is outstanding. I have been following your blog of this cruise because I have a friend aboard. The charts with ship’s tracking lines, the time-lapse videos, the photos, and the commentary are always wonderfully informative, reminding me that a cruise ship voyage is not just about fine dining and personal attention, but is at all times the serious business of seamanship of the first order. You took things a step further in the Valletta report by acknowledging the heroic efforts of those souls on Malta, and those supplying her from the sea, during WWII – truly an epic story. Thank you, Sir. Well done.

  4. Malta info:
    The cross on the flag of Malta is the honorary “George Cross”, granted to Malta by the British king to honor their bravery in WWII. (Might win a drink in the bar with this trivia).

  5. Hi Jonathan ,
    That brought back memories. We’ve been to Malta a couple of times. Have a great time with family. Give them our love . S&

  6. Captain, your experience was well illustrated in your approach and departure. You made it look effortless. Great job.

  7. Beautiful pictures again. Thank you so much for sharing. I especially like the picture of the restaurants and apartments, it looks like menorahs on the wall. ?

  8. Dear captain Jonathan,

    I really enjoy your posts, pictures and time-lapse movies. Regarding that last one, what setting do you use (the interval between the frames)?

    Best regards,


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