Holland America cruise line's Rotterdam and Zaandam ships are scheduled to dock at 1700 and 1730 GMT at the Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.
Florida officials on Thursday said they were prepared to allow two Holland America cruise ships with coronavirus patients aboard dock at a port near Fort Lauderdale, resolving a days-long impasse that drew the attention of President Donald Trump.
A unified command consisting of local, state and federal officials met via conference call late on Wednesday to finalise a plan that will need approval from the Broward County Commission.
Broward County and the Port Everglades Unified Command have approved Holland America Line’s Zaandam and Rotterdam cruise ships to enter Port Everglades. The ships are entering the Port now. pic.twitter.com/OhAyWzppYS— Port Everglades (@PortEverglades) April 2, 2020
"If the experts forming the operational plans are going to unanimously agree to it, it’s something I guess we’ll figure out a way to move forward with," Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine told.
The tentative agreement would allow the cruise line’s Rotterdam and Zaandam ships to dock at the Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale after 27 days at sea. Four passengers aboard the Zaandam have died, two of them after becoming infected by the coronavirus.
Brand Ambassador @SethonHAL is aboard Rotterdam and looking forward to coming home. Please join him and others by sending a short message or video to everyone on Rotterdam and Zaandam and use #HALStrong. pic.twitter.com/XXfuITRmIB— Holland America Line (@HALcruises) March 31, 2020
The port's website showed the vessels were scheduled to dock at 1700 and 1730 GMT.
A Port Everglades spokeswoman said on Thursday that the space was being held open at the port to accommodate the arrival of the Zaandam, with nearly 1,050 passengers and crew, and the Rotterdam, with almost 1,450 on board.
Though the details of the plan have yet to be released, Holland America said in a statement on its website that more than 1,200 passengers from both ships would transfer straight to charter flights to their homes.
"Out of an abundance of caution, these guests will be transported in coaches that will be sanitised, with limited person-to-person contact and while wearing masks," the cruise line said.
About 45 sick passengers will stay under quarantine on the Zaandam ship, and about 10 passengers, who are in critical condition, will be transferred to area hospitals.
The deal comes after Trump earlier this week urged Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a fellow Republican, to drop his opposition to accepting the ships.
DeSantis initially opposed the ships' arrival in his state, and told Fox News this week he did not want passengers to be "dumped" in south Florida.
The nation's top infectious disease officials also urged that passengers be taken off the ships as soon as possible to prevent further spread of the highly contagious virus.
Anthony Fauci, one of Trump's chief advisers on the pandemic, had urged Florida to reach an agreement to allow the passengers to get off the ships.
"You have to take care of the people who are ill. You just have an obligation to do that. And as quickly as possible. You've got to get the people who are not sick, who are not infected, off the ship," Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS "This Morning" just before the deal was reported.
Keith Kobler, a passenger on one of the ships along with his wife Doris, told that they were aware that the country had undergone a severe shift over the past month as the coronavirus spread nationwide.
"It's probably going to be strange for us," he said.
New cruise ship with virus cases heads to Florida
Another cruise ship hit by coronavirus, the Coral Princess, is heading to Fort Lauderdale after 12 passengers and crew on board tested positive, Princess Cruises said on Thursday.
The ship has a total of 1,898 people onboard – 1,020 guests and 878 crew members, the company said in a statement.
Seven guests and five crew members have tested positive for Covid-19, after samples were sent to Barbados "in response to a reported small cluster of cases of respiratory illness," it said.
"Coral Princess is on her way to Fort Lauderdale with an estimated arrival date of April 4," it said.
"Guests will continue to self-isolate in their staterooms."
"Crew will remain in their staterooms when not working. Face masks are also being distributed to the remainder of the ship."
Both Princess and Holland America are owned by cruise giant Carnival.