Two Holland America Line cruise ships carrying hundreds of sick passengers and crew members are currently anchored off the Florida coast, awaiting final clearance to disembark after reaching a conditional arrangement with local authorities.
Four passengers have died on Holland America’s Zaandam ship, at least two of them from the coronavirus. Nine others have tested positive and 179 more have flu-like symptoms.
It was expected that the Broward County Commission in Fort Lauderdale would vote on whether to allow the Holland America Cruise Passengers to disembark, but sources say a deal has been reached for them to leave the ship Thursday.
The Rotterdam is scheduled to dock at 1 p.m. at Port Everglades, and the Zaandam at 1:30 p.m.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine had previously opposed letting the ships dock at a port in Fort Lauderdale, with DeSantis calling the move “a mistake” earlier this week. He also expressed concern that Florida’s health care system would not be able to handle the sick passengers and crew.
President Trump had reportedly urged DeSantis to welcome the ships during a call with the governor. “They’re dying on the ship,” Trump said Tuesday, during a White House briefing. “I’m going to do what’s right, not only for us but for humanity.”
At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, DeSantis said officials had still not made a decision on whether to allow the ships to dock.
“I obviously am not in control of the port that is run by the counties, in this case, Broward County, and I know they’re in consultation with the cruise ships. Clearly, we’re going to be willing to accept any Floridians that are on board. My understanding is that most of the passengers are foreign nationals. I think that they’re working on ways to deal with that.”
he Zaandam left Buenos Aires on March 7 for a two-week trip through South America. The voyage had been originally scheduled to end in Chile on March 21.
News that the ships will be allowed to dock follows passengers’ pleading for help after Florida’s governor said he did not want the ships’ passengers “dumped” there.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has since dropped his fierce opposition, saying in an interview Wednesday that he wants “everyone to be safe.”
9 passengers will be transported to a local hospital and 45 others who are ill will remain on board the ship. Foreign passengers will be placed on sanitized buses before heading to charter flights home.
Asymptomatic Holland America Cruise passengers from the Zaandam have been moved to a sister ship, the Rotterdam. More than 300 Americans are on the ships and more than 40 are Florida residents.