FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The coronavirus pandemic nightmare isn’t over for 26 people who remain quarantined and sick aboard a plagued cruise ship at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.
According to port authorities, 26 symptomatic passengers were on quarantine. The ship’s docking plan reported there were also 50 crew members ill.
Only one crew member and 13 passengers were allowed to disembark the MS Zaandam on Thursday at Port Everglades. Doctors at Broward Health Medical Center and Larkin Community Hospital in Miami-Dade County are treating them. Four needed respirators.
Port authorities determined 1,211 people on the MS Zaandam and the MS Rotterdam were fit for travel on Friday. Workers in full personal protective equipment handled the luggage and quickly disinfected.
“We are so thankful and grateful for anybody who got together and made the right decision for all of us,” said Wendy de Pinho who is eager to disembark and travel with her husband, Rick de Pinho to Township, New Jersey.
Gov. Ron DeSantis described the planned process during a news conference as "a very controlled exit from these ships.” De Pinho and other passengers will still have to be screened and be processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Carnival Corp. arranged for private sports utility vehicles and three international charter flights to Canada, France, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, and two domestic charter flights to Georgia and San Francisco.
According to Alinda Montfort, a spokeswoman for Port Everglades, some passengers will connect to flights to New Zealand and Australia out of San Francisco.
According to Holland America Line, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp., which operates the MS Zaandam, the ship departed from Buenos Aires on March 7. The passengers had not left the ship since March 14 when they disembarked on Thursday.
When several countries denied the MS Zaandam port entry, Holland America sent the MS Rotterdam to deliver COVID-19 tests and to help remove the passengers who were asymptomatic. A lack of symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean someone is not a carrier of the new coronavirus.
When the ships crossed the Panama Canal and were able to dock at the home port in Broward County, the MS Zaandam had 442 passengers and 603 crew members on board.
The Rotterdam had 808 passengers and 583 crew members, according to William Burke, the chief maritime officer for Carnival Corp.
Two of the four people who died aboard the ship tested positive for COVID-19, according to William Burke, the chief maritime officer for Carnival Corp. It’s unclear if their bodies were removed from the ship.
The U.S. State Department is asking Americans to avoid cruise ships during the pandemic.