The Hague: A cruise ship in the Netherlands will house as many as 1,500 Ukrainian refugees, the operator said Friday.
Holland America Line has sent the Volendam to dock at a cargo port in Rotterdam, where it will begin a three-month charter agreement with the city. Refugees who are staying in hotels will start moving onto the ship next week, the city said in a statement.
The cruise line — a subsidiary of Carnival Corp. — has agreed to provide three hot meals a day, private rooms, housekeeping services, fitness facilities and internet access to the temporary residents. Holland America did not disclose terms of the agreement. The ship will have about 650 crew members on board.
Holland America said its charter is part of the Netherlands’ commitment to accept 50,000 refugees fleeing the Russian attacks.
“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,” Gus Antorcha, Holland America Line’s president, said in a statement. Headquartered in Seattle, the line was founded in Rotterdam in 1873.
The Volendam is on its way to Rotterdam after sailing off the coast of Spain, Holland America spokesman Bill Zucker said in an email. The ship had not returned to service since the cruise industry shut down in the early days of the pandemic. It was scheduled to start carrying passengers again on May 15, with cruises from Rotterdam to Norway, the British Isles and Iceland. Three of those sailings will be cancelled.
“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,” the ship’s captain, Ryan Whitaker, said in a statement. “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.”
While coordinating its response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, the Dutch government says its experiencing a “short supply” of homes and calls upon organizers to place refugees “in a way that ensures other people looking for a home are not pushed out of the market.”