After weeks of uncertainty, the hundreds of passengers on two Holland America cruise ships were finally brought to shore this week.
Among them were over 240 Canadians, including a Vancouver Islander couple, who can now breathe a sigh of relief.
“I don’t think we really realized how traumatic it was until we were walking away from the ship with our allowed to disembark card. And it just, it hit us and I’m going to get emotional,” said Metchosin resident Norma Kirkham, who along with her husband, David, were among those stuck on the MS Zaandam.
The Kirkham’s left Vancouver Island over a month ago for a vacation that quickly became a nightmare as four people died from COVID-19 related illness onboard the MS Zaandam, which also had dozens of reported cases.
Both Holland America’s MS Zaandam and MS Rotterdam, which also dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak, were stranded at sea for days, until Thursday when they were finally granted permission to dock in Fort Lauderdale, Fl.
A total of 14 people on the MS Zaandam were critically ill and rushed to hospital. All other passengers were checked out and if they were fully healthy, they could disembark. However, four Canadians didn’t pass the screening test and remain on board. The rest were shuttled to the airport on Friday by a heavy police escort.
“There were ambulances with lights flashing, waiting to take passengers off we presume, they were loading more water and oxygen tanks and canisters. There are still people left behind,” Norma recalled.
“There was a policeman there blocking all traffic. Nothing was going to stop us from getting to the airport.”
From the airport, all Canadians who had been the ship were flown to Toronto before getting connecting flights home.
And despite being in the middle of this terrifying ordeal, they still didn’t realize how big of a deal COVID-19 had become.
“Absolutely astounding. We were kind of in a cocoon all that time while we isolated it’s fair enough to say we were alone together, but now we realize how cut off we were from the rest of the world,” said David.
The couple arrived at their Metchosin home late Friday night.
Now after weeks in isolation at sea, they’ll begin isolation on land.