Florida has reached an agreement with Carnival Corporation to allow two Holland American vessels to dock at a Fort Lauderdale port and disembark passengers, according to anonymous sources speaking to Reuters, ending the passengers’ indefinite stay at sea.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the cruise industry has been effectively shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with empty vessels — and their crew members — lined up outside ports in Florida and elsewhere. However, a few ships still have passengers on them, including some that are carrying bodies of passengers who died of the respiratory illness that derives from the novel coronavirus. Others are carrying passengers who are experiencing “flu-like symptoms,” indicating possible COVID-19 infections.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had been reluctant to allow those vessels to disembark in Florida ports, saying that his state’s health care system was not prepared for more sick people.
“Just to drop people off at the place where we’re having the highest number of cases right now just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” DeSantis said.
The governor was backed by a Coast Guard memo that stated ships could possibly have to remain at-sea indefinitely, potentially leaving passengers on board the ships for several months. The same Coast Guard memo suggested that sick passengers could be debarked in The Bahamas, but the island nation’s health care system is already stretched thin.
President Trump had promised to intervene on behalf of those passengers.
“They’re dying on the ship. I’m going to do what’s right. Not only for us, but for humanity,” he said.
Now, it appears that Florida has reached an agreement with Carnival, the corporation that owns the Holland America line, and will allow most of the 2,500 passengers still on board its Rotterdam and Zaandam ships to disembark.
Specifically, the two vessels will be allowed to dock at Fort Lauderdale’s Port of Everglades on Thursday afternoon, after spending 27 days at sea.
The healthy American passengers will be allowed to disembark and return to their homes. The foreign passengers will be bused directly to an airport, where they’ll board charter planes back to their home countries. Nine passengers suspected of being sick with COVID-19 will be taken to a Broward Health hospital, while 45 “severely sick” passengers will remain on board the ships.
Other Carnival ships remain at-sea, with about 3,000 passengers between them. Those vessels are approaching ports in Italy and England. It is unclear as of this writing if those passengers will be allowed to disembark upon arrival in those countries.