Zaandam coming into Port Everglades. Photo courtesy of PTZtv.
After securing the okay from governmental and embassy authorities earlier on Thursday, both Holland America Line ships that were stranded at sea with sick passengers docked in Port Everglades on Thursday afternoon.
Zaandam, which had been at sea since March 7, pulled into port shortly after 4:30 p.m., while Rotterdam followed it shortly after. Both ships had been held up just outside of U.S. waters off of the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, awaiting approval from Broward County, Florida, and government officials.
“These travelers could have been any one of us or our families, unexpectedly caught in the middle of this unprecedented closure of global borders that happened in a matter of days and without warning,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line.
“We are so happy to be able to get our guests home and assist those few who need additional medical services. The COVID-19 situation is one of the most urgent tests of our shared humanity, and we must do everything we can to ensure we continue to act in ways consistent with our common human dignity.
“I would also like to extend my sincerest thanks to the amazing officers and crews of Zaandam and Rotterdam,” continued Ashford. “They are heroes who rose to the challenge of taking care of our guests and each other under extraordinary circumstances. All of us at Holland America Line are so very proud of our colleagues for their exemplary leadership and service.”
According to Holland America, guests will begin to disembark today and will continue to do so through tomorrow evening. Critically ill guests will be transported to local hospitals who have approved the transfers and are ready for their arrival.
Guests who aren't ill will be transported to local airports where they'll board charter flights to head home. Those who are Florida residents will head home in private cars.
Guests who are sick but dont' need immediate care will disembark "after they have fully recovered and meet the CDC guidelines for being fit to travel. They will continue to be well cared for on board by the ships’ medical staffs."
There are no plans for crew members to disembark as of yet.
The end to a long journey
Zaandam has been sailing since March 7 and has not docked in a port since it stopped in Punta Arenas, Chile on March 14 after which guests onboard started showing flu-like symptoms.
Holland America arranged for Rotterdam to meet up with the ship and transfer food, supplies, and passengers, in order to help alleviate the workload on Zaandam’s crew during the sailing.
Since the sailing started, a total of four people have died on the ship, two from COVID-19 complications, according to reports.
In a post on Holland America's blog, the line's president Orlando Ashford said that the situation was "a humanitarian crisis" and said the line was dealing with a "'not my problem' syndrome."
The ship was turned away from another Chilean point on March 15 and at one point was not permitted to cross the Panama Canal to get to the eastern part of the United States.
"Nations are justifiably focused on the COVID-19 crisis unfolding before them. But they’ve turned their backs on thousands of people left floating at sea. Are these reactions based on facts from experts like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or fueled by irrational fear? What happened to compassion and help thy neighbor?"
The line this week said it was extending its pause of global cruise operations for an additional 30 days, cancelling sailings scheduled to depart through May 14, 2020, due to the continued port closures and travel restrictions surrounding global health concerns.
Guests currently booked on cruises from April 14 through May 14 will have the option to select either a Future Cruise Credit for 125% of their booking value plus an additional $250 shipboard credit or a full refund.