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Cruise ship with sick passengers and sister ship dock in Florida

Four people have died on Holland America's Zaandam ship, at least two of them from the coronavirus. Nine others have tested positive and 179 more have flu-like symptoms.
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A Holland America cruise ship docked in Florida on Thursday after spending two weeks at sea with passengers who contracted coronavirus.

The ship, the Zaandam, along with a sister ship, the Rotterdam, were given permission to unload passengers after an agreement was between Broward County commissioners and cruise line officials.

The Rotterdam was scheduled to dock at 1 p.m. at Port Everglades, and the Zaandam at 1:30 p.m.

Four people have died on the Zaandam, at least two of them from the coronavirus. Nine others have tested positive and 179 more have flu-like symptoms.

"I have more hope right now than I've had in a long time," Jennifer Allan, whose parents, Gloria and Bill Weed, are on the Zaandam, told NBC News, upon news of the planned docking.

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Both of Allan's parents are sick, with her father suffering from pneumonia. She said her greatest fear is that her father's condition will get worse "very, very quickly."

Another passenger, Doris Kolber, said she is thrilled she and her husband, Cliff, will soon be leaving the ship. Her husband said his happiness will come once he is back on land.

"Until I hear the final word, I'm still waiting," Cliff Kolber told NBC News in an interview from his cabin.

He reflected on how much the coronavirus pandemic has changed life since their cruise began.

"We're going to be coming into a land that is totally different than when we left a month ago," he said. But, he said, "We will cope and we will survive."

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The Zaandam left Buenos Aires on March 7 for a two-week trip through South America. The voyage had been originally scheduled to end in Chile on March 21.

News that the ships will be allowed to dock follows passengers' pleading for help after Florida's governor said he did not want the ships' passengers "dumped" there.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has since dropped his fierce opposition, saying in an interview Wednesday that he wants "everyone to be safe."

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said in a Facebook post that many people in the community were concerned that allowing the ships to dock would contribute to the virus spreading there. He said Holland America Line agreed to a strict set of protocols to keep locals safe.

Nine passengers will be transported to a local hospital and 45 others who are ill will remain on board. Holland America Line will put foreign nationals on specially sanitized buses to take them to waiting chartered planes.

"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," Trantalis said in his post.

Some of the passengers have said that they have already been given luggage tags and were told "to pack their bags."

Asymptomatic passengers from the Zaandam have been taken on by its sister ship, the Rotterdam. More than 300 Americans are aboard the ships, including 49 Florida residents, several of whom live in Broward County.