For the first time in almost a month, passengers aboard an illness-stricken Holland America ship put their feet on dry land this morning.
The Zaandam, with four dead aboard, nine confirmed coronavirus cases and 200 more that are sick, finally docked in Fort Lauderdale overnight after an arduous, frustrating journey in which the boat was turned away from a half-dozen ports on its South American itinerary.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis finally relented and allowed the Zaandam – as well as its sister ship, the Rotterdam, which took on some of the Zaandam’s healthy passengers – to dock at Port Everglades late Thursday night.
According to the Associated Press, 14 critically ill people were removed from the Zaandam first and taken to Florida hospitals, followed by Florida residents and other passengers. Buses were taking people healthy enough to travel directly to the airport and directly to chartered flights, avoiding the terminal.
“This is a humanitarian situation, and the County Commission’s top priority is protecting our 1.9 million residents while providing a contained disembarkation option for people on board who need to get safely home,” Broward County Mayor Dale Holness said in a statement late Thursday.
Holland America initially said 45 people who were mildly ill would stay onboard the Zaandam until they recovered, but the docking plan released later Thursday indicated that 26 passengers and 50 crew members were ill. Two of the four dead had COVID-19.
Carnival Corp., which owns the Holland America Line, said the Coral Princess – its last ship carrying passengers to a U.S. port since the pandemic was declared – will arrive on Saturday with more than 1,000 passengers who have been isolating in their cabins, including 12 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
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