After 12 days at sea in search of a place to dock, the cruise ship Zaandam arrived in Port Everglades and docked just before 5 p.m. Thursday; sis, followed shortly after by the sister ship Rotterdam. The landing has been delayed since the dawn of the ships off the coast of South Florida because the final details have been “ironed out,” a spokesman for the port said.
Thirteen American Medical Response ambulances were waiting on the dock, ready to transport critically ill patients to local hospitals. At least nine passengers are positive for COVID-19, among the 11 tested on Tuesday. More than 1,200 passengers and almost as many crew were on board the two ships.
According to a copy of the long agreement with Carnival Corp. which was supplied to the Miami Herald, Carnival is responsible for coordinating and providing travel to and from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport for the 1,211 passengers on both ships who are fit to travel to other locations in the United States and abroad. The passengers will all be checked before the voyage by the medical personnel of the ship.
Carnival owns Holland American Line.
According to the plan, a total of 13 passengers hospitalized on board will require medical care ashore. There are a total of 26 passengers with symptoms. The Zaandam has four doctors and five nurses on board. The Rotterdam has two doctors and three nurses.
There are 50 members of the crew with symptoms and one who will need medical treatment ashore.
Ten medical evacuation units have been confirmed to transport sick passengers to the Broward Health Medical Center and four to transport passengers to the Larkin Community Hospital in Miami.
Healthy passengers will not enter airport terminals, but will instead be escorted directly from the tarmac on one of five charter flights, with destinations in Toronto, Atlanta, San Francisco, Frankfurt on Friday and London on Saturday. There are approximately 200 passengers scheduled for each flight.
Passengers departing by vehicle, such as those living in Florida, will pick up their checked baggage at the terminal and then be escorted to a vehicle rented by Carnival.
Passengers traveling on charter flights will return to the ship and remain on board until they are transferred directly to the tarmac for their flight. Their checked baggage will leave the ship and be placed in the terminal for customs clearance.
The company said in a statement that it plans to complete the disembarkation of all seriously ill and healthy passengers by Friday evening.
Since passengers have been exposed to the virus on the ship, all passengers departing to return home must be quarantined for 14 days.
Other sick passengers who are not in critical condition will remain on the ships until Saturday. If their symptoms go away then they will leave the ship.
Except for these seriously ill people, the crew will not leave any of the ships. How they get home will be dealt with in a separate plan. Crew members who are too ill to travel but not in critical condition will also remain on board until they recover.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office and the medical examiner will investigate the deaths on board the ships, and Carnival cannot use more than 15 of the county shore hospital beds for sick passengers or crew.
As Zaandam approached the port, Broward County mayor Dale Holness said at a press conference that he understood the concerns of residents who had sent him letters in favor and against the opposition to the mooring of ships.
“This is why we have taken the extra step to put in place a plan that protects residents of Broward County from further spread of this disease,” he said.
Holness said the prospect of docking ships at military bases has never been presented to the county and that no county or federal worker will board the ships.
“We had to be deliberate in our actions,” he said. “We couldn’t just do this without considering the consequences. “
At a press conference Thursday evening, DeSantis called the plan “very thoughtful” and that it is important to make sure that Floridians and American citizens are accommodated.
He said that there are probably 25 other cruise ships at sea that have the majority of foreign passengers, which “may be difficult for us to accommodate. He has already said that he does not want people who are not Floridians to use health care resources in South Florida, a hot spot for coronavirus cases.
“These two have American citizens on board … we have an interest in making sure these people come safely,” he said.
For the 1,250 passengers and 1,186 crew members on board the two ships, Thursday’s arrival marked weeks of uncertainty as the governments of northern Chile along Central America rejected their request to ” land or transport sick patients. This included the state of Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis argued for several days against the authorization to dock. Tuesday, after a meeting lasting several hours, the Broward commissioners were still not ready to give their approval pending a more detailed plan from the company for passenger evacuation.
Governor Ron DeSantis told Fox News on Thursday that the government and the cruise line had reached an agreement that the Floridians on board the two ships could go home with the help of the Florida National Guard. Foreign nationals will be transported by bus to an airport and embarked on return flights to their country of origin. It was unclear what would happen to US residents living elsewhere, but a spokesperson for Carnival Corp., a parent of Holland America, said Wednesday that it intended to deliver these passengers to their hometowns.
“Everything is going to be done in a way that does not expose the people of Florida to disease … you have to be safe when you do this kind of thing,” said DeSantis. “They can’t just distribute it to the general public. “
Jennifer Allan, whose aging parents were sick aboard the Zaandam, said the couple had been placed in a group of 10 who will be sent to the hospital.
Passengers boarded the ship for the first time in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 7, one day before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and State Department warned all Americans against cruise ships, citing the increased risk of COVID-19 spreading on board. The cruise’s original destination, Chile, returned the ship on March 21. Since then, four passengers have died, including at least two from COVID-19.
Carnival Corp. chief maritime officer Bill Burke told Broward County commissioners on Tuesday that the company had attempted to evacuate seriously ill passengers in almost every country, from Chile to the United States, most recently in Mexico on Tuesday. No country would take them.
“We are coming to the place of last resort,” he said of Port Everglades.
Holland America transferred more than 800 passengers from Zaandam to Rotterdam on Friday and Saturday after tests confirmed that the new coronavirus was on board. The ships crossed the Panama Canal on Saturday evening. It took them four days to get to Florida.
As of Thursday morning, as ships floated along the south coast of Florida, the company had still not been cleared to dock by “Unified Command”, a cohort of officers from the Everglades Harbor in Broward County, La US Coast Guard, Broward Sheriff’s Office, Customs and Border Protection, and Florida Department of Health.
The scheduled arrival time at 1 p.m. was then postponed.
The port, which has been teeming with decommissioned cruise ships since companies canceled new cruises on March 13, emptied completely on Wednesday evening.
Until Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis had vowed to keep the ship away from Florida. He changed his looks after learning that there were American citizens on board the ships, he said. Passengers include 311 US citizens, including 52 residents of Florida.
March 7: Holland America Line Zaandam departs Buenos Aires for a 14-day itinerary
March 21st: Zaandam has diverted from his original final destination in Chile, where he was scheduled to begin a 20-day cruise ending in Fort Lauderdale
March 22: Passengers are isolated in their cabins
March 27: Zaandam reaches the Panama Canal and moves more than 800 passengers to the sister ship Rotterdam
March 28: Ships obtain permission to cross the canal. They plan to dock at Port Everglades, but have no mooring approvals
March 30: Governor Ron DeSantis has stated that he does not want to see the wharf at Port Everglades
March, 31st: Broward County Commission Debates Authorizing Vessels To Dock But Taking No Decision
First of April: Governor Ron DeSantis said he was ready to accept all Floridians on board ships
▪ 10:30 a.m .: Governor Ron DeSantis announces to Fox News that state and business have agreed on a plan
▪ 11 a.m .: The two ships must dock at Port Everglades at 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.
▪ 1:30 p.m .: The Port Everglades schedule shifts the docking time to 4 p.m. and 4.30 p.m.