by Donald Wood
Last updated: 11:28 AM ET, Thu April 2, 2020
Update: April 3, 2020 at 8:10 a.m. ET
Port Everglades finally welcomed the Zaandam and Rotterdam ships into port Thursday afternoon at around 4:50 p.m. local time, ending an ordeal that left sick passengers stranded at sea for weeks.
When the two Holland America Line cruise vessels arrived at the port as part of a deal with local authorities, ambulances and emergency personnel were waiting to take care of sick passengers and crew members.
"They are representing to us that these protocols are intended to protect our community by ensuring there is no contact with local residents," Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said in a Facebook post. "They will be placed on private chartered buses, taken directly to the airport tarmac and board chartered flights out of our community."
"A small number of critically ill passengers will go to local hospitals. Others who are mildly ill or have symptoms will be quarantined at sea on the ships until they recover," Trantalis continued. "Given the county's decision to allow the ships here, I believe these regulations present a humanitarian solution for those on board while providing strong safeguards for our community."
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said during a press conference Thursday evening that all parties worked hard to handle the "tough situation." DeSantis also said the other ships at sea would not be welcomed to Florida since there are no citizens from the state onboard.
After much uncertainty, the two Holland America Line cruise ships that had been denied access to multiple ports have approved to start the process of docking and disembarking sick passengers and crew members in Florida.
According to NBCNews.com, the Broward County Commission in Fort Lauderdale is expected to approve a plan to allow the Zaandam and Rotterdam ships to dock at Port Everglades on Thursday afternoon.
The Rotterdam is scheduled to dock at 1 p.m. local time and the Zaandam will dock at 1:30 p.m.
The Holland America vessels arrived off the coast of Fort Lauderdale early Thursday morning with around 230 passengers and crew members who experienced flu-like symptoms. There have been four deaths on the Zaandam and at least eight confirmed cases of coronavirus.
Previously, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine said they would not allow the Zaandam and its sister ship, the Rotterdam, to dock in the state due to concerns about the strain the coronavirus patients would have on the region's medical facilities.
The Rotterdam was sent on March 22 to rendezvous with the Zaandam to deliver supplies and COVID-19 testing kit, but both vessels were left stranded at sea as ports turned them away. The Zaandam has been at sea since March 7.
United States President Donald Trump intervened earlier this week when he told the Florida Governor to do what was right for humanity, as there were Americans dying on the ships.
The tentative deal to permit the ships to dock in Florida had been reached with the Carnival Corporation, which owns the Holland America Line, on Thursday morning.
Earlier this week, the United States Coast Guard announced all cruise ships would be forced to stay at sea indefinitely and treat any passengers and crew members with coronavirus offshore.
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