FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — They have seen penguins, mountains and parts of South America on a cruise they could hardly wait to take.
But now, two longtime friends from North Dakota are on board a floating nightmare.
The cruise ship Zaandam was still sailing Wednesday, April 1, with hundreds of passengers stuck in their rooms. Among the passengers is Sue Baumgartner of Fargo.
She and longtime friend, Lorna Schlichtmann, of Grand Forks, had been planning the trip for more than a year, and now they are stuck on the ship.
"It was a dream trip; we go on one big trip a year and before we left, there were just a few coronavirus cases in Washington, so we thought we were safe to go," Baumgartner said.
More than 150 passengers and crew members aboard the Zaandam, which is carrying several Minnesotans, have taken ill with flu-like symptoms, eight of whom tested positive for COVID-19.
Four people on the ship have died as of Wednesday afternoon, according to a release from the office of U.S. Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota.
Because of the deaths and positive COVID-19 cases, the Zaandam and its sister vessel Rotterdam have been stuck in a holding pattern, floating in the ocean near Florida, hoping the state will let the ship and its passengers dock in Fort Lauderdale.
So far, the answer is no. Baumgartner and Schlichtmann have been on the ship for about a month and want to go home. Family and friends in North Dakota have even talked to U.S. Senate staff, hoping to get answers.
"(This) is really disappointing ... our own country's hesitance to assist its citizens (in returning) to their state," Baumgartner said.