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Carnival Corp. urged Florida’s Broward County to accept on humanitarian grounds two Holland America Line ships, one bearing sick passengers, as they sailed for Fort Lauderdale with nowhere else to turn.
Dozens of people have shown flulike symptoms on board the Zaandam, which was denied requests to dock in ports across Latin America. It had been sailing there on a voyage that left Buenos Aires on March 7.
Speaking to a meeting of the Broward County Commission, Carnival Chief Maritime Officer William Burke said two people on board the Zaandam needed emergency medical evacuation “if they make it here.” He said Mexico had rejected a request to treat them there.
“We are coming to the place of last resort,” Burke said.
Vulnerable but healthy passengers were already transferred from the Zaandam to another ship, the Rotterdam, which was sent to rendezvous with the Zaandam off Panama. The Rotterdam is also sailing for Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades.
Currently, 14 people have flulike symptoms, Burke said. Of 11 Covid-19 tests conducted, nine came back positive. Burke said the results were based on “rapid” tests that can have false negatives.
Even as Burke spoke with commissioners, it became clear that at least one additional standoff loomed, aside from the two ships arriving on Thursday. Burke told commissioners that a third Carnival ship, the Princess Cruises-branded Coral Princess, was set to arrive at Port Everglades on Saturday with some on board experiencing flulike symptoms.
Commissioner Mark Bogen told Burke that he was concerned the company wasn’t providing full information, affecting his ability to make informed decisions.
Burke appeared blindsided when Bogen mentioned yet another Princess Cruises ship, the Crown Princess, which the commissioner said had arrived recently in Fort Lauderdale with sick crew. Burke initially said he was unaware of the circumstances. After a break, he confirmed that two crew members had been in the ship hospital and one of them “went south upon arrival,” requiring medical evacuation.
If ships are arriving “that probably have a lot of sick people or sick crew, we need to know,” Bogen said.
Burke was unable to explain why local officials hadn’t been properly briefed on that ship. He said he was trying to provide complete information, but his phone had died during the meeting.
“This is very dynamic,” Burke said.
Four people died on the Zaandam earlier in the journey. It was already at sea when the U.S. State Department on March 8 advised Americans not to embark on cruises. President Donald Trump on March 13 said he asked cruise lines to suspend sailings, though some had already announced they were doing so voluntarily.
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