FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Passengers on board two Holland America cruises near Fort Lauderdale who spoke to Local 10 News Wednesday said there is a lot of fear regarding the coronavirus pandemic, but they want the U.S. to step up to get stranded citizens off the ships.
The ships can’t dock at Port Everglades or even enter U.S. waters until unified command approves the cruise line’s entry plan, which has to include measures to keep the passengers away from the general population in Broward County.
Unified command is made up of members from the U.S. Coast Guard and Florida Department of Health.
Rick De Pinho and his wife are among a collective 2,000 people stuck on the two cruise ships in the Caribbean Sea.
“We’re from New Jersey. We want to go home,” De Pinho, who is currently on board the Rotterdam, said.
The couple was on a two week South American voyage on the Zaandam ship when the new coronavirus began spreading on their ship.
Four older passengers on board died.
A total of nine people tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 200 have reported flu-like symptoms.
“We have Broward County residents on the ship. We have over 300 U.S. citizens, fellow Americans, on the ships,” Broward County Mayor Dale Holness said.
Seemingly healthy passengers like De Pinho were transferred to a sister ship, the Rotterdam.
Both vessels are on their way to Port Everglades, but on Tuesday unified command rejected Carnival’s entry plan.
“There are some holes in it in terms of how they transport the folks, making sure we have clear understanding as to who’s on the ship, what their conditions are,” Holness said.
Holness wants a solution that keeps county residents safe and helps the people on the ships return home.
“Hopefully Gov. DeSantis does the right thing and I hope Broward County officials certainly have some compassion for the people, especially those who might be ill on this ship. You certainly don’t want time to go on and more lives to pass,” De Pinho said.
DeSantis said Tuesday he’s OK with accepting Floridians, but his concern is overwhelming hospitals.
“We just want to get to a point where the resources can be used for the folks here,” DeSantis said.
Holness said meetings regarding the ships plans are ongoing, with Carnival and unified command sending documents back and forth and working to solidify an entry plan by Thursday.