Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online news service

Florida News

Gov Changes Mind: Sea-Stranded Cruise Ships Find ‘Port of Last Resort’ in Ft. Lauderdale

cruise ship with image of Covidman on bow
Observer Graphic*

TALLAHASSEE, FL – A two-week saga spanning two oceans ended Thursday in Fort Lauderdale when two Carnival Cruise Line ships carrying about 2,400 passengers and crew, including 230 displaying COVID-19 symptoms, docked at Port Everglades.

The Zaandam and the Rotterdam, operated by Carnival subsidiary Holland America, pulled into Port Everglades under a “port of last resort” agreement negotiated with Broward County commissioners and a “unified command” of state, local and federal officials that manages the port in emergencies.

About 1,200 healthy passengers considered fit under U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines were to be hustled onto private buses and shuttled to airports for charter flights home.

According to Holland America, about 230 guests and crew have reported “influenza-like symptoms” since March 22, and 45 are diagnosed as mildly ill. Those 45 remain isolated on the ships and will remain so until they have sufficiently recovered under CDC guidelines, the company said.

The Broward Health Hospital System has confirmed it accepted Holland America’s request to treat “fewer than 10 people in need of immediate critical care onshore.”

The status of the Zaandam and the Rotterdam as sea-stranded pariahs drew global media attention during a two-week odyssey spanning two oceans and two continents, especially as they neared south Florida over the past week.

The Zaandam set sail from Buenos Aires on March 7 for a 31-day cruise that featured several South American port visits, including San Antonio, Chile, before disembarking April 7 in Port Everglades, the ship’s home port.

The ship was not at full 1,430-guest capacity because it was slated to pick up passengers along the way, but 52 Floridians were among 311 American citizens from 46 states who sailed from Argentina, according to Holland America.

The itinerary changed dramatically when nine passengers tested positive for COVID-19 less than a week into the cruise. Shortly after, four elderly male passengers died, at least two from COVID-19.

Guests have not left the ship since March 14 and have been self-isolated in staterooms since March 22. After the ship was denied permission to dock at numerous ports, the Rotterdam was dispatched to take on passengers and provide assistance.

Holland America appealed to authorities Wednesday night to allow the ships to dock at Port Everglades, calling it a "humanitarian situation."

“We tried to get those people off in Chile, in Peru, in Ecuador, in Panama, in Colombia, and now Mexico,” Carnival Cruise Line Chief Maritime Officer Bill Burke told Broward County commissioners and the port’s unified command. “We are coming to the place of last resort.”

Elected officials from state Rep. Margaret Good, D-Sarasota, to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, lobbied to allow the ships to dock.

Do so “yesterday, as far as I’m concerned, is what’s optimal,” said Buchanan, noting at least four constituents are aboard. “It’s got to be frightening being on these ships.”

State Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, suggested the ships go to navy bases or less urban seaports.

“Holland America made the reckless decision to begin their voyage knowing we were in a global pandemic,” LaMarca said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis also against allowing the ships to dock, stating Wednesday only Florida residents should be allowed off.

President Donald Trump later said he spoke with DeSantis.

“We have to do something,” Trump said. “And the governor knows that, too.”

On Thursday morning, DeSantis told Fox News transferring the ship’s critically ill to hospitals was “the humanitarian thing to do.

This piece appeared in the The Center Square and was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

Layout and graphics by the Observer |* Photos: ship - Ed Judkins | Covidman - Pete Linforth

Comments  (to add a comment go here) 

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.