After Weeks at Sea, Cruise Ship Zaandam Berths in Port Everglades

Zaandam transiting the Panama Canal (ACP)

Published Apr 2, 2020 5:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

The cruise ship Zaandam has arrived at Port Everglades, Florida to offload passengers for medical treatment and for transport home. Her guests have not been off the ship since March 14, and more than 100 have reported flu-like illness. Four have died, including two fatalities attributed to COVID-19, and at least nine have tested positive for coronavirus. 

According to Broward Mayor Dale Holness, 1,211 well passengers from the Zaandam and from an accompanying vessel, the Rotterdam, will be transported home by charted plane or private transportation. 13 will be hospitalized, and 26 who have flu-like symptoms will be quarantined on ship. Holland America previously estimated that that fewer than 10 individuals would need immediate critical care on shore. 

Swab testing, the method used by Japanese authorities during the Diamond Princess outbreak to detect infected passengers who did not display symptoms, is not a requirement for all Zaandam guests prior to disembarkation. Homeward-bound former cruise passengers have been linked with the spread of coronavirus in multiple localities, including a large cluster in Houston. However, Mayor Holness told media that Holland America has signed a contract to follow strict safety measures for bringing passengers off the ships.

“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,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “We are so happy to be able to get our guests home and assist those few who need additional medical services.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had previously voiced objections to disembarking Zaandam's passengers in South Florida, noting his state's need to prepare for the impact of the novel coronavirus among its own residents. "We’ve done a really good job of working to clear hospital space. I think we have almost 33 percent of the beds are available right now, particularly in South Florida where we have set up field hospitals in case we get a surge," Gov. DeSantis told Fox News earlier this week. "We cannot afford to have people who are not even Floridians dumped into South Florida using up those valuable resources."

Gov. DeSantis relented after intervention by the White House, and he turned over the decision whether to permit Zaandam to dock to local authorites. Broward County officials reached a final agreement with Holland America on Thursday morning. 

The Miami Herald reports that Zaandam's crew will remain quarantined on board the ship unless they require critical care, in line with a recent Coast Guard directive to cruise operators in the Florida region. The majority of reported flu-like illnesses aboard the vessel were among the crew.