Ships stranded at sea for weeks with passengers sick, dead from COVID-19 dock in Fort Lauderdale

After weeks at sea and being turned away from other countries, two cruise ships were given the OK to dock in Fort Lauderdale this afternoon.

The Zaandam and Rotterdom both docked Thursday afternoon. Among those on the Zaandam were Jim Wing and his wife Mount Dora, who were traveling for her birthday.

“It was supposed to be a birthday celebration of my stepmother Colleen, and it’s turned into a nightmare,” said Nate Wing, Jim Wing’s son, from his home in Windermere.

Passengers who aren’t sick were given the OK to be escorted off but not allowed to have contact with other people. Those who do have symptoms are not allowed to leave, including Jim Wing of Mount Dora.

The 77-year-old has a heart condition and has been sick with flu like symptoms for about a week and is believed to have COVID-19.

“It’s really tough. My father’s been really sick, and they happen to be in an inside stateroom, too,” Nate said.

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His family’s cruise ship was turned away in Chile, and was nearly kept from passing through the Panama Canal. Four people aboard have died from COVID-19, and passengers have been quarantined.

Jim and Colleen live in Mount Dora. The cruise ship is looking to dock Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, but there is uncertainty if the ship will even be allowed to come in.

On Tuesday, Gov. Ron. DeSantis expressed concern about stress on local health care resources, saying, “I think these are mostly foreign nationals that would use resources we need for Floridians.”

On Wednesday, DeSantis said, “Clearly we’re going to be willing to accept any Floridians on board. My understanding is most passengers are foreign nationals.”

President Donald Trump weighed in as well, saying we must show humanity.

“There are people who are sick on the ships,” Trump said.

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Nate has started a petition that he said will hopefully lead the governor or Broward County officials to make the call to allow the ship in so he can see his parents get home, and so his father can get the medical attention he needs.

“These are real people, real lives, not just them, but everyone on that boat," Nate said.


Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.