Holland America Line’s Zaandam and Rotterdam will both arrive off the coast of Florida on Thursday, as guests and crew on both ships await for the okay to disembark from Florida officials.
According to Holland America, there are nearly 1,200 guests onboard who are fit for travel per CDC guidelines and all guests would be transferred straight from their ships to flights home (most will travel on charter flights, Holland America said), with limited person-to-person contact.
The plan is for guests with mild illnesses to stay isolated onboard until recovered and disembarkation “would be at a later date to be determined and only after they have recovered and are in alignment with CDC guidelines for being fit to travel,” Holland America said.
The less-than-ten critically ill people onboard, who need immediate critical care, will be transferred to a local health system partner in Broward County, who has agreed to accept the patients, Holland America said. The cruise line said that the group is the only guests onboard who will require hospitalization in Broward County hospitals.
While there has been reluctance to let the ships dock from Florida government officials, the state’s governor said on Thursday that it was prepared to accept the Floridians onboard. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he was pushing for all guests and crew members on both ships to disembark.
“Holland America Line calls for compassion and reason in the review and approval of our disembarkation plan by Florida officials and we are grateful for those that have supported our efforts.
“We appreciate the support of President Trump in resolving the humanitarian plight of our guests – 311 of whom are American citizens and 52 of whom are residents of Florida. There are also four children under the age of 12 on board,” Holland America said in a statement.”
Zaandam has been sailing since March 7 and has not docked in a port since it stopped in Punta Arenas, Chile on March 14. Guests onboard started showing flu-like symptoms on March 22. Currently, in total, eight passengers onboard have tested positive for COVID-19.
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.
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."
"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.