MIAMI – The Coral Princess cruise ship arrived at Port Miami Saturday morning, hours after being denied entry at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. On Saturday night, one of the very first groups of passengers cleared to return, 50 Floridians, departed the Coral Princess ship.
The cruise line confirmed two passengers died on-board, with another 12 people testing positive for covid-19.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the ship was required to submit a plan before docking, which included keeping all sick passengers on board, and putting those without symptoms on buses and getting them directly to Miami International Airport.
Princess Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp., switched the Coral Princess’ original destination from Fort Lauderdale.
While the Holland America Line’s MS Zaandam and the MS Rotterdam cruise ships remain at Port Everglades with dozens of sick people on quarantine, Princess Cruises’ Coral Princess arrived at Port Miami with seven passengers and five crew members who were diagnosed with COVID-19 aboard.
The Coral Princess departed March 5 from Chile. They have been in isolation since March 31. The ship’s original destination was Port Everglades, but the U.S. Coast Guard denied the ship entry. The Regal Princess delivered supplies to the Coral Princess.
The mayor of Miami-Dade County determined the ship could dock at Port Miami.
“I’m a firefighter, and to me, we have to save lives,” Gimenez said. “There are people dying on that ship. The plan didn’t really come to fruition until early morning hours this morning."
According to the office of Mayor Carlos Gimenez, the ship originally had five critically ill patients, two of which have since died. One was an American resident from South Carolina.
At around 11:30 a.m. the first of two critically ill patients was rushed to Larkin Hospital in Hialeah; one is Australian and the other is American.
An additional 12 American residents aboard the ship have flu-like symptoms, per the mayor's office.
“Those with symptoms will not be allowed off the ship,” Gimenez said. The ship is actually pretty well equipped medically. They have at least four respirators that I know of."
Nine passengers from the ship will be taken by Carnival to Orlando, while 60 Florida residents will be taken by Carnival to their homes, per the mayor's office.
The ship has a total of 336 American residents, and the mayor's office said Carnival is arranging transport for all back to their homes.
Charter flights have been arranged for other passengers, many of whom are British and Australian, out of Miami International Airport, though they will not use the common terminal, per the mayor's office.
“Most of the passengers on that ship are not ill,” Gimenez said.
Late this afternoon, the Miami Dade Medical Examiner arrived at the dock, presumably to remove the two bodies on board.
There were also workers wearing body suits, and crew onboard the cruise ship appearing to do maintenance.
Rob Jahn from Minnesota is one of the more than a thousand guests still on the ship.
“We quite honestly thought that we’d be anchored off the Bahamas waiting for approval,” he told Local 10.
Jahn is still unsure when he’ll be departing the ship. After being turned away from a handful of ports in South America, he’s just glad to have a chance to return home.
“I do have a big thank you for the city of Miami, Port Authority, the Governor of the State, to allow this ship to arrive,” said Jahn.
All passengers will go through thermo temperature screenings ahead of transport, according to the mayor’s office.