Holland America Cruise Ship Provides Temporary Housing for Ukrainians
Holland America Line announced that it has chartered its cruise ship the Volendam to be used to accommodate Ukrainian refugees. The agreement with the Netherlands and the City of Rotterdam government officials is for three months and delays the cruise ship’s planned return to service, which had been scheduled for May 15.
"We are in a unique position to accommodate the immediate need for food and housing, so we felt it was very important to work with the City of Rotterdam and charter this ship," said Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line. "Our company was founded in Rotterdam around the mission of helping immigrants find a better life. So today we're proud to be a small part of a similar mission for Ukrainians who have tragically been displaced."
The 61,300 gross ton cruise ship had been in Spain preparing for its return to commercial service for the first time after the pandemic. It is now sailing to Rotterdam, where it is expected to arrive on April 2 and will be docked at Merwehaven, a cargo port on the north side of the River Maas in Rotterdam. According to Dutch officials, remaining docked will ensure the Ukrainian families housed aboard the ship can transit to and from services in the city.
Under the agreement to charter Volendam, Holland America Line will provide three hot meals per day, private stateroom accommodations, housekeeping services, use of public spaces, fitness facilities, internet access, and other necessities. Volendam will be staffed with approximately 650 crew members. The cruise ship has 716 passenger staterooms with the line reporting that approximately 1,500 Ukrainians will be living aboard the ship during the three-month charter. It is part of a larger commitment from the Netherlands to accommodate 50,000 people refugees who fled their homeland in Ukraine.
"We are known for our service and hospitality, and our team is ready to welcome our new guests as we would welcome guests into our own home," said Captain Ryan Whitaker. "It will truly be an honor for us to make Volendam a comfortable and caring environment for these families who have been through so much."
To accommodate the three-month commitment, Holland America Line reported it will cancel three cruises and now plans to resume commercial service with this ship on July 3.
It is the second cruise ship that Carnival Corporation offered to officials as temporary housing for the refugees. Last week, it was reported that Costa Cruises offered its ship the Costa Magicia to Italian officials to provide temporary housing and serve as a processing center for Ukrainians arriving in the country. Italy reported that it was monitoring the arrival of refugees and considering Costa’s proposal.
The Holland America cruise ship joins two smaller river cruise ships that have been providing housing in Amsterdam. AmaWaterways reported that it deployed two of its vessels to Amsterdam to house refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. Mostly women and children began arriving at the vessels two weeks ago on March 21 while in Estonia they were exploring chartering a cruise ferry to also provide temporary housing.