Ill-Fated Cruise Ships Awaiting Approval to Dock in Florida

April 2, 2020 Updated: April 2, 2020

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—Two ill-fated cruise ships waited just off Fort Lauderdale’s shores on Thursday to learn when they’ll be allowed to dock at Port Everglades after Carnival Cruise Line reached a conditional agreement with authorities in Florida.

Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine said on Twitter that a final document would be released Thursday morning.

In an email sent Wednesday night, Holland America said it had received approval from a health system in Fort Lauderdale to treat fewer than 10 people “who need immediate critical care.”

Meanwhile, it’s awaiting confirmation to disembark passengers and “get the nearly 1,200 well guests home immediately,” as long as they are fit for travel in accordance with guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“Guests fit for travel per the CDC would transfer straight from the ship to flights for onward travel home, the majority on charter flights,” the statement said. “Out of an abundance of caution, these guests will be transported in coaches that will be sanitized, with limited person-to-person contact and while wearing masks.”

The company said the provisions “well exceed what the CDC have advised is necessary for their travel,” during the CCP virus pandemic, adding that guests have not left the ship since March 14 and have self-isolated in their staterooms since March 22.

President Donald Trump suggested that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis agreed to the plan after they spoke on Wednesday.

“You have people that are sick on those ships, and states don’t want to take (them). They have enough problems right now,” Trump said at his evening news conference.

“But we have to help the people. They’re—they’re in big trouble no matter where—no matter where they’re from. Happen to be Americans—largely Americans. But whether they were or not—I mean, they’re dying. So we have to do something. … and the governor knows that, too.”

The cruise line said in the statement that about 45 guests who still have mild illness and are unfit to travel at this time will continue to isolate on board until recovered. They would be allowed to leave only after they have recovered and are in alignment with CDC guidelines for being fit to travel.

The Zaandam cruise ship enters the Panama City Bay to be assisted
The Zaandam cruise ship enters the Panama City Bay to be assisted by the Rotterdam cruise ship with supplies, personnel, and COVID-19 testing devices, 8 miles from Panama City, on March 27, 2020. (Luis Acosta/AFP via Getty Images)

The statement said that since March 22, 97 guests and 136 crew members have reported influenza-like symptoms. There are 808 guests and 583 crew on Rotterdam, and 442 guests and 603 crew on the Zaandam. Four children under the age of 12 are among the passengers, the statement said.

The passengers who are healthy need to get off the ships, and the rest need to be treated urgently, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday. “You have to take care of the people who are ill. You just have an obligation to do that. And as quickly as possible,” Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, said on “CBS This Morning.”

For most people, the virus causes symptoms including a fever, cough and body aches that clear up in two to three weeks without hospitalization But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness including pneumonia, in which case respirators may be necessary for survival.

Passenger Laura Gabaroni was transferred to the Rotterdam, along with husband Jaun Huergo and other passengers not showing signs of illness. She told The Associated Press early Thursday that they had not been updated by the captain about plans for disembarking from the ship.

Laura Gabaroni and her husband Juan Huergo
Laura Gabaroni and her husband Juan Huergo take a selfie on board a tender after they were evacuated from the Zaandam, a Holland American cruise ship, near the Panama Canal, on March 28, 2020. (Juan Huergo via AP)

Gabaroni and Huergo, both defense contractors in Orlando, set sail on a dream vacation aboard the Zaandam the day before the U.S. State Department advised people to avoid cruise travel and before any substantial restrictions were in place in Florida.

The Zaandam set sail from Buenos Aires on March 7 and was originally scheduled to end at San Antonio, Chile on March 21. The cruise was stranded off the coast of Panama after it was not allowed to dock in Chile and other ports along its path.

By Freida Frisaro And Adriana Gomez Licon

Epoch times staff contributed to this report