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Cruise ships dock at Port Everglades; critically ill passengers will be taken to Broward Health

26 passengers will remain quarantined on board for two weeks

Critically ill passengers being taken from cruise ships to Broward Health
Critically ill passengers being taken from cruise ships to Broward Health

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Two Holland America cruise ships have docked at Port Everglades after Carnival Corporation reached an agreement with national, state and local officials on how to treat sick patients and get the healthy ones home.

The Zaandam pulled in first, with the Rotterdam right behind it, and ill patients have begun to be unloaded.

Thirteen passengers and one crew member will be taken to Broward Health Medical Center for treatment, while 26 passengers will be staying on board to be quarantined for 14 days. The ship will not remain at the port for that entire time, officials say, but crew will be staying on board.

Of the 1,211 passengers deemed fit for travel, most will be taken to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to board chartered flights back home on Friday, said Port Everglades’ Alinda Montfort. Floridians will be driven from the port in private SUVs today.

All luggage will be disinfected on the ship and again at the port.

The decision to allow the ships in during this coronavirus crisis was made by Broward County and unified command, which is made up of members from the U.S. Coast Guard and Florida Department of Health.

Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine released a lengthy statement Thursday, saying Port Everglades has become the ships’ only option as they passed 14 countries along the way to the United States, all of which denied the passengers and crew members medical treatment.

“I held firm with the cruise company, suggesting they find a naval base, find a port outside the ‘hot zone,’ use their private island to triage or use the arena in Miami as a field hospital and many others,” Udine said. “ALL of these plans were rejected by all, and the federal government did not assist with a plan.”

“Carnival will be providing legal assurance for the transport of many out of the area and many other safeguards,” he said. “Many crew and others will stay on ship. Critically ill people will be hospitalized. All of this will be at the expense of Carnival.”

Passengers who spoke to Local 10 News on Thursday said they were grateful to soon be able to get off the ship.

"We’re thankful to Gov. DeSantis. We’re thankful to the people of Broward County,” Rick de Pinho, of New Jersey, said.

De Pinho and his wife were 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.

Seemingly healthy passengers like De Pinho were transferred to a sister ship, the Rotterdam.

Of the 1,250 passengers between the two ships, there are 311 Americans. Of those, 52 are Floridians and seven are residents of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

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

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

Roy Ramos joined the Local 10 News team in 2018. Roy is a South Florida native who grew up in Florida City. He attended Christopher Columbus High School, Homestead Senior High School and graduated from St. Thomas University.