HAL presents disembarkation plan for cruise ships, awaiting U.S. approval

Holland America Line still hopes to disembark guests from Zaandam and Rotterdam in Fort Lauderdale. Healthy guests are to fly home immediately, guests with symptoms will remain on board. Less than ten are in need of critical care shoreside. While there is no approval for this plan yet, President Trump has said Canadian and British guests will be evacuated from the ships.

‘We remain fully engaged with the Broward Unified Command and other governmental and embassy authorities to resolve this humanitarian situation and get the nearly 1200 well guests home immediately who are fit for travel per guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),’ says Holland America Line (HAL) in a statement.

Both ships are scheduled to arrive at the boundary of U.S. waters on 2 April and will remain outside U.S. waters while awaiting clearance to enter. There are guests with symptoms on both ships now.

Disembarkation plan

Guests fit for travel per the CDC would transfer straight from the ship to flights for onward travel home, the majority on charter flights. These guests are to be transported in coaches that will be sanitised, with limited person-to-person contact and while wearing masks. These provisions exceed what the CDC have advised is necessary, says HAL.

The approximately 45 guests who still have mild illness and are unfit to travel at this time will continue to isolate on board until recovered. Disembarkation would be at a later date to be determined and only after they have recovered and are in alignment with CDC guidelines for being fit to travel.

Some people are in need of critical care on shore, HAL states. The company doesn’t give the precise number, but says there are less than ten. HAL has secured approval from a local health system partner that they will accept them for treatment. This small number is the only group that will require any support from medical resources in Broward County and is necessary to prevent further harm to their health.

Guests with symptoms on both ships

Since March 22, 97 guests (83 on Zaandam/14 on Rotterdam) and 136 crew on Zaandam (0 on Rotterdam) have presented with influenza-like symptoms. There has been a significant decline in the presentation of new cases on Zaandam, with only one new case reporting in the past 24 hours, states HAL.

There are 808 guests and 583 crew on Rotterdam. On Zaandam there are 442 guests and 603 crew. Guests have been on board since March 14 and have self-isolated in their staterooms since March 22.

President Trump involved

On 31 March, American president Donald Trump said in a press conference that he will look into the situation after Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis stated he did not want to accept the cruise ships. ‘I’m going to do what’s right, not for us, but for humanity. There are people on the ship who are dying or seriously ill,’ said Trump.

On Wednesday (local time), Trump said the United States will evacuate British and Canadian passengers from the Zaandam. The authorities will send medical teams to the ship and send passengers home. ‘We are taking the Canadians off and giving them to Canadian authorities. They’re going to bring them back home. The same thing with the UK,’ the President said. It’s not clear whether the twenty Dutch passengers on the ship will be allowed ashore.

HAL says it appreciates his support and calls for compassion and reason in the review and approval of the disembarkation plan by Florida officials.

Picture by Andrew W. Sieber.

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Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.