Minnesota passengers stuck on ill-fated Zaandam cruise ship

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It’s been a frightening and stressful voyage on the cruise ship Zaandam.

Cathy Armajani, from Minnetonka, Sheila O’Brien, from Richfield, and Jeri Longfellow, from Burnsville, are among those on board– and in limbo.

"No question, we all want off this ship," she says. "One starts to get a bit on edge. Am I going to get sick with something, and when will they let me off?"

Since the ship left Argentina on March 7, four people have died, nine people have tested positive for COVID-19, and 200 others are reporting flu-like symptoms.

Armajani and her companions, now confined to their cabin, are all okay, she says.

Still, the uncertainty is stressful.

"It does leave a pit in your gut," she says. "I know some have it way worse than our situation, some are dealing with surviving COVID-19. And some have lost loved ones already."

Now, federal authorities are deciding whether to let the Zaandam and a sister ship, the Rotterdam, into U.S. waters.

"We are their last hope," said Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich. "What are we going to do, let them float out at sea and die?"

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has asked President Trump to prevent the ships from docking.

They’re still working on a solution as of Wednesday night.

"The way to deal with this is to send medical attention to the ship," DeSantis says. "Just to drop people off at the spot where we have a lot of cases right now doesn’t make a whole lot of sense."

At the White House, Trump spoke with reporters.

"States don’t want to take– they have enough problems right now," he says. "They don’t want to take them, but we have to from a humane standpoint. We don’t have a choice. "

The President says doctors are being sent to the ships.

But Sen. Tina Smith says the priority should be to help the passengers disembark, and get medical attention.

"We have to make sure that people get the health care they need, and others can get off the ship and if necessary, be quarantined in a place where they can be safe and healthy," she says.

Full KSTP COVID-19 coverage

Armajani says she and her friends are doing well; healthy meals are brought to their cabin each day, along with fresh linens.

The cruise line even prints out a daily handout, with crossword puzzles, mind teaser games, and trivia.

The three women left notes of thanks on their cabin door.

"Thanks for all you do for us!" one says. "Have a good day!!"

"We appreciate everything big and small you are doing for us!" another reads. "You all have gone above and beyond in these not so good times."

Armajani says the captain told passengers the Zaandam should arrive near Florida very early Thursday morning, but will have to stay out of U.S. waters until confirmation the ship will be allowed to dock.

Her fondest hope now is to get off the ship, in safety, by the weekend.

"The COVID-19 has brought out the best and worst in people," she says. "We continue to send prayers back home to our friends and family. We are in this together."