Passengers finally disembarking from coronavirus-stricken cruise ship
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Editor’s note: This is a developing story that has been continuously updated with the latest information. Some comments refer to earlier versions of the story.
Holland America has arranged five charter flights out of Fort Lauderdale departing today and Saturday to take the majority of Zaandam’s 1,250 passengers to major hubs where they then will connect to flights to their home states and countries.
Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades allowed the Zaandam and a sister ship that had taken aboard some of its passengers in recent days, Rotterdam, to dock Thursday afternoon after days of negotiations between the line and local, state and federal officials.
Zaandam had been on a multiweek odyssey that saw it turned away from multiple countries as it tried to end a sailing that began nearly a month ago.
Passengers initially boarded the vessel in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 for what was supposed to be a two-week cruise around South America. Just a day later, the U.S. government recommended that Americans stop cruising, and within days Holland America and other lines had announced they would suspend operations.
Countries such as Chile began turning away Zaandam even before the first cases of illness appeared on board, on March 22. In the end, the vessel had to sail more than 5,000 miles from the southern tip of South America to Fort Lauderdale to find a place to offload passengers.
Along the way, 250 passengers and crew reported influenza-like symptoms, which are similar to COVID-19 symptoms. Only a handful were tested for coronavirus, with the majority testing positive. Four passengers died during the long journey, with two of the dead passengers testing positive for the coronavirus.
Only passengers not experiencing symptoms of illness will be allowed on the charter flights, which will take them to airports in Atlanta, San Francisco, Toronto, Frankfurt and London.
Holland America already has transferred 14 passengers in critical condition to local hospitals. Several dozen more who are experiencing mild symptoms will remain on the ships until the symptoms pass. They then will be allowed to leave.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
In addition, several dozen passengers who are local Florida residents are being transferred to their homes in private cars.
All passengers have been told to self-quarantine for 14 days after they arrive home.
Zaandam’s arrival at Port Everglades was controversial in Florida among both residents and their elected leaders. Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, initially opposed the idea of letting the ship dock in the state. Fort Lauderdale’s mayor, Dean Trantalis, suggested the vessel should be sent to a U.S. naval base. Both politicians later softened their stance.
Still, as recently as Thursday morning, the ship’s arrival remained in doubt. Local officials said early Thursday that the ship had conditional approval to dock, but an initial midday docking time placed on the Port Everglades schedule was later pushed back by several hours. The ship circled in a holding pattern off the coast of Florida for much of the day.
The docking approval required the agreement of Port Everglades’ Unified Command, which is made up of representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several local and state agencies.
Even President Trump got involved, urging Florida officials to find a solution.
“I’m going to do what’s right not only for us but for humanity,” the president said during a press briefing on March 31, just two days before the Zaandam and Rotterdam arrived. “These are two big ships, and they have a lot of very sick people.”
In a statement issued moments after Zaandam entered the harbor at Port Everglades, Holland America thanked President Trump, Governor DeSantis, the Unified Command and other local and state officials that it said helped resolve the situation.
“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,” Holland America president Orlando Ashford said in a statement. “We are so happy to be able to get our guests home and assist those few who need additional medical services.”
The statement included a final update on the number of sick people on board the vessels. It said 107 passengers had reported influenza-like symptoms. That was a 10% increase from Wednesday and a 47% increase from Monday.
In addition, 143 crew have reported influenza-like symptoms, the line said. That was up 5% from Wednesday.
Holland America noted that many of the passengers and crew included in its illness counts no longer were experiencing symptoms. The totals include passengers and crew who fell ill several days ago but have since recovered.
Zaandam was just one of more than a dozen cruise ships that have been stuck at sea in recent weeks as countries around the world have closed their borders.
Additional resources for traveling during the coronavirus outbreak:
- How coronavirus is impacting airline award availability
- How coronavirus has left the travel industry reeling
- Airlines scale back inflight offerings due to coronavirus
- How to ward off coronavirus in your hotel room
- Guide to traveling during the coronavirus outbreak
Featured image by Ivan Pisarenko/AFP/Getty Images
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.