A three-week journey along the coasts of two continents and two oceans has come to a temporary halt for the cruise ships Zaandam (IMO 9156527) and Rotterdam, (IMO 9122552) which has been allowed to dock at Port Everglades, southern Florida.
The Zaandam suffered an outbreak of Covid-19 and found herself unable to disembark sick passengers in Chile or Mexico, and struggled to obtain permission to transit the Panama Canal. Florida too looked as if it might turn the vessel away, with Governor Ron DeSantis concerned that, even though the state had the available hospital beds, Floridians might need them in the future. President Trump used a news conference to interdict on behalf of the cruise passengers and the liner company, Washington State based Holland America Line.
DeSantis backed down after a unified command, consisting of federal, state and local authorities reached agreement on a plan for repatriating the Zaandam. The Broward County Commission gave final approval to the plan, which is to be paid for by the cruise line, early on Thursday April 2nd.
DeSantis said on Thursday that “these two ships have US citizens on board. I think the Zaandam has 40, 50 Floridians, so I think we have an interest in making sure these folks come safely”, adding that the arrival plan provided for a “controlled exit.”
Holland America said that 311 passengers were US citizens, 52 of them residents of Florida. Those living near the port would drive home, the cruise line said.
After docking at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, medical personnel immediately began off-loading 13 severely ill passengers and one crew member, who were then transported to area hospitals.
About 100 passengers and dozens of crew aboard the Zaandam reported influenza-like illness; four passengers died, at least two of them with the presence of coronavirus.
Nearly two-thirds of the Zaandam’s original passengers – those who cleared a medical screening – were transferred to the Rotterdam before the ships were granted passage through the Panama Canal on Sunday March 29th.
At least 26 passengers known to still be symptomatic but not requiring hospitalization were remaining aboard the ships in port until they become well and declared fit for travel under federal health guidelines. Holland America said its medical staff would care for them.
Most of the remaining passengers began disembarking on Friday to be transferred straight to chartered flights home. Holland America Line said that “out of an abundance of caution, these guests will be transported in coaches that will be sanitized, with limited person-to-person contact and while wearing masks”.
Until April 2nd none of the Zaandam’s passengers had been off the ship since March 14th; they had been confined to their cabins for the past 10 days, according to the company.
None of 1,180-plus crew members from the two ships will be allowed off in Fort Lauderdale.
2000-built, Netherlands-flagged, 61,396 gt Zaandam is owned by HAL Antillen NV care of Holland America Line NV of Seattle, Washington state, USA. It is entered with Steamship Mutual and with UK P&I Club.
1997-built, Netherlands-flagged, 61,849 gt Rotterdam is owned by Hal Nederland NV care of Holland America Line NV of Seattle, Washington, USA. It is entered with Steamship Mutual and UK Club.