Two Holland America Line cruise ships carrying hundreds of sick passengers and crew members received clearance to disembark after reaching a conditional arrangement with local authorities at Port Everglades.
The Zaandam and the Rotterdam arrived early on Thursday morning, with 233 passengers and crew who, at some point since March 22, were said to have been exhibiting “influenza-like illness symptoms," according to Holland America. At least eight of the people onboard had tested positive for COVID-19; four “older” guests were also confirmed to have died on the Zaandam last week.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine had previously opposed letting the ships dock at a port in Fort Lauderdale, with DeSantis calling the move “a mistake” earlier this week. He also expressed concern that Florida’s health care system would not be able to handle the sick passengers and crew.
President Trump had reportedly urged DeSantis to welcome the ships during a call with the governor. “They’re dying on the ship,” Trump said Tuesday, during a White House briefing. “I’m going to do what’s right, not only for us but for humanity.”
At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, DeSantis said officials had still not made a decision on whether to allow the ships to dock.
"I obviously am not in control of the port that is run by the counties, in this case, Broward County, and I know they're in consultation with the cruise ships. Clearly, we're going to be willing to accept any Floridians that are on board. My understanding is that most of the passengers are foreign nationals. I think that they're working on ways to deal with that.”
Both ships were also denied permission to enter U.S. waters until a “suitable plan” had been submitted to Broward’s Unified Command, which includes members of the Coast Guard, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Customs and Border Protection, Florida Department of Health officials and the management of Port Everglades, where the ships are likely hoping to dock.