Holland America Line’s (HAL) ‘Volendam’ is to be used to accommodate Ukrainian refugees as part of an agreement announced by Netherlands and City of Rotterdam government officials.
The ship is now berthed in Rotterdam for three months to provide a temporary home for around 1,500 Ukrainians, part of a larger commitment from the Netherlands to accommodate 50,000 people who fled from the war.
“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, HAL President. “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 charter agreement, HAL will provide three hot meals per day, private stateroom accommodation, housekeeping services, use of public spaces, fitness facilities, internet access, and other necessities.
During the three-month period, ’Volendam’ will be staffed by about 650 crew members.
“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 HAL’s Capt Ryan Whitaker. “It will truly be an honour 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 on 15th May, with voyages from Rotterdam to Norway, the British Isles and Iceland. To accommodate the three-month commitment, HAL said that it will cancel three of these voyages and resume service on 3rd July. Guests on cancelled cruises are being notified and will be accommodated on similar itineraries.
“We are very sorry for the inconvenience this will cause to guests booked on the three cancelled cruises,” Antorcha added. “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.”
She is berthed at the Merwehaven, a large dock on the north side of the River Maas in Rotterdam. By remaining docked, she will ensure Ukrainian families can transit easily to and from Rotterdam.
HAL is already working with its own Ukrainian team members. A $1 mill emergency assistance fund provides direct financial support. Team members from the region also receive counselling assistance, free internet service to communicate with their families, and scheduling accommodations, such as early disembarkation or an extension to remain on board as needed.
A family foundation run by parent company Carnival Corp’s chairman Micky Arison and his wife Madeleine also announced a pledge of $3 mill to charities helping Ukrainian refugees.
In addition, HAL will look to raise awareness and funds through its On Deck for a Cause programme, in which guests on every cruise may take part in a non-competitive 5K fund raising 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, Carnival Corp President and CEO. “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.”