As part of an agreement established by Dutch and City of Rotterdam government officials, Holland America Line's Volendam will be utilized to accommodate Ukrainian refugees. The ship will dock in Rotterdam for three months to give a temporary home for about 1,500 Ukrainians, as part of the Netherlands' bigger pledge to house 50,000 people fleeing their homeland's 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, 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."
Holland America Line will provide three hot meals per day, private stateroom accommodations, cleaning services, use of public spaces, fitness facilities, internet access, and other essentials as part of the charter deal. The crew of the Volendam will number around 650 people.
"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 set to resume operations on May 15 from Rotterdam, with cruises to Norway, the British Isles, and Iceland. Holland America Line will cancel the three voyages to satisfy the three-month commitment and restart service on July 3. Guests on canceled cruises will be contacted and rebooked 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."
The Volendam will dock at Merwehaven, a cargo port on Rotterdam's north bank of the Maas River. Keeping the ship docked will make it easier for Ukrainian families to get to and from Rotterdam services.
The Holland America Group has previously worked with Ukrainians on its squad. Direct financial help is provided through a $1 million emergency assistance fund. Team members from the region also benefit from counseling, free internet access to interact with family, and scheduling flexibility, such as early disembarkation or an extension to stay on board if needed.
Micky Arison, chairman of parent firm Carnival Corporation, and his wife Madeleine recently made a $3 million donation to NGOs supporting Ukrainian refugees through their family foundation. In addition, Holland America Line's On Deck for a Cause program, which allows guests on every cruise to participate in a non-competitive 5K fundraising walk, will be used to raise awareness and donations. Direct Relief will get the allocated funds.
"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."
Photography by: Courtesy Holland America Line