2 cruise ships with passengers sick with coronavirus dock in Florida

Cruise ships with ill passengers dock in Florida

Last Updated Apr 2, 2020 9:40 PM EDT

Miami — Two cruise ships carrying passengers stricken with coronavirus have docked in Florida on Thursday. It ends a nightmarish odyssey for some of the passengers, but for others aboard the journey is far from over.

After nearly a month at sea, the Zaandam's grueling voyage ended in Port Everglades. Passenger Val Myntti couldn't wait for it to be over. "We are on pins and needles and we are so excited about it," Myntii told CBS News.

The Rotterdam, which took passengers with no symptoms from the Zaandam, arrived, too. There were a combined 2,300 people on both ships.

At one point, the Zaandam reported 200 sick passengers, nine who tested positive for the virus and four deaths.

The desperation grew as Chile, Argentina and Peru refused to let the ship dock. The Zaandam was initially denied access to the Panama Canal as it adjusted its route to Fort Lauderdale. Arrival there was delayed, too, over the concerns of some local officials.

"I know it's an enormous burden on a community and on an over-stretched health care system, but we have to care for these individuals," CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus explained.

The cruise line said fewer than 10 people would be transported to the hospital. Among them were Bill and Gloria Weed, who have been feverish for days.

Coronavirus Rotterdam Zaandam
Holland America's cruise ship Rotterdam, left, heads to dock while passing cruise ship Zaandam, right, already docked at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on April 2, 2020.  CHANDAN KHANNA / Getty

Holland America's agreement with local authorities includes getting passengers who appear healthy on buses and planes and sent home quickly.

"It is the wrong move to send them home even if they are asymptomatic or testing negative now," Dr. Agus explained. "They need to be in quarantine because of their exposure on this ship until the 14 day period is up."

They could be silent carriers of the virus. Myntti said she'll wait if she has it, too.

"We're happy to do whatever the CDC asks of us," she said. "If that would be: stay on board and quarantine in our windowless room. We would do that."

Holland America said many passengers on the ships have already self-isolated in their staterooms since March 22. Those who are sick but not critically-ill will be allowed to stay on board and receive medical treatment until they have recovered.