The saga of stranded coronavirus-hit Zaandam finally came to an end when the vessel and sister ship Rotterdam were allowed to dock in Florida following intervention from US president Donald Trump.
A British man was among four people who died on Zaandam, which was carrying almost 230 passengers when it set off on its original South America cruise from Buenos Aires to San Antonio in Chile on March 7.
Attempts were made and denied to disembark guests in Chile on March 15 and at other ports along its route to the US.
A total of 107 passengers – 90 on Zaandam and 17 on Rotterdam – and 143 crew on Zaandam have presented with influenza-like symptoms since March 22.
Zaandam was carrying are 442 passengers and 603 crew, including 311 Americans citizens.
There were 808 passenger and 583 crew on Rotterdam.
Passengers fit to travel amid guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were allowed off the ships after clearance was agreed with authorities.
They will be health screened and also cleared for entry by US Customs and Border Protection.
Disembarkation is expected to be completed by Friday evening local time, with priority given to around 14 who need immediate care at local health system partners who have approved their arrival.
Those deemed fit to travel will transfer straight onto buses for transfer directly to the airport to fly home, the majority on charter flights.
Passengers have not left the ship since March 14 and have self-isolated in their cabins since March 22.
Those who still have symptoms will remain on board and disembark at a later date to be finalised after they have fully recovered and meet the CDC guidelines for being fit to travel.
“They will continue to be well cared for on board by the ships’ medical staff,” HAL said.
No crew from either ship will disembark in Fort Lauderdale.
The line expressed “sincere gratitude” to president Trump, Florida governor Ron DeSantis am doter officials for helping resolve wat had been described as a humanitarian crisis and get nearly 1,200 passengers home.
HAL president Orlando Ashford said: “These travellers could have been any one of us or our families, unexpectedly caught in the middle of this unprecedented closure of global borders that happened in a matter of days and without warning.
“We are so happy to be able to get our guests home and assist those few who need additional medical services.
“The Covid-19 situation is one of the most urgent tests of our shared humanity, and we must do everything we can to ensure we continue to act in ways consistent with our common human dignity.”
He added: “Our guests on board both ships have been truly incredible, and we extend our deepest thanks and appreciation to all of them.
“Their co-operation, support and understanding throughout this entire experience helped us best protect the health of all on board and ensured our shipboard teams could focus on caring for everyone and getting them home.
“I would also like to extend my sincerest thanks to the amazing officers and crews of Zaandam and Rotterdam.
“They are heroes who rose to the challenge of taking care of our guests and each other under extraordinary circumstances. All of us at Holland America Line are so very proud of our colleagues for their exemplary leadership and service.”