Holland America Line Ship to House Ukrainian Refugees
A Dutch-flagged cruise ship will provide a temporary home to some 1,500 Ukrainians who fled their country in the wake of Russia's invasion.
Holland America Line said its vessel Volendam will be used to accommodate Ukrainian refugees as part of an agreement announced by Netherlands and City of Rotterdam government officials. The ship will dock at Merwehaven, a cargo port on the north side of the River Maas in Rotterdam, for three months to provide a temporary home for approximately 1,500 Ukrainians, part of a larger commitment from the Netherlands to accommodate 50,000 people who fled the war in their homeland.
“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, 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.”
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 ship will remained docked to ensure Ukrainian families can transit easily to and from services in Rotterdam.
“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.”
Volendam was scheduled to return to service May 15, with voyages from Rotterdam to Norway, the British Isles and Iceland. To accommodate the three-month commitment, Holland America Line will cancel three of those voyages and resume service on July 3 instead. Guests on canceled cruises are being notified today and will be accommodated on similar itineraries.
“We are very sorry for the inconvenience this will cause to guests booked on the three canceled cruises,” Antorcha said. “We hope they understand the unprecedented nature of this situation and why we felt it was important to work with the government on this initiative in support of these families in need.”
Holland America Group said it has already been working with its own team members who are Ukrainian. A $1 million emergency assistance fund provides direct financial support. Team members from the region also receive counseling assistance, free internet service to communicate with family, and scheduling accommodations such as early disembarkation or an extension to remain on board as needed.
The family foundation of parent company Carnival Corporation’s chairman Micky Arison and his wife Madeleine also announced a pledge of $3 million to charities helping Ukrainian refugees. In addition, Holland America Line will look to raise awareness and funds through its On Deck for a Cause program, in which guests on every cruise may take part in a non-competitive 5K fundraising walk. The money raised will go to Direct Relief.
“We stand for peace and our hearts go out to everyone whose lives have been upended by the invasion of Ukraine,” said Arnold Donald, president and chief executive officer of Carnival Corporation & plc. “We have crew members from 145 countries and we sail with guests from nations around the globe, so we feel deeply the impact of this humanitarian crisis and we join many others in supporting relief efforts.”