Holland America Line is ending its role in providing temporary housing for Ukrainians displaced by the war with Russia. His cruise ship Volendama 237-meter, 10-deck cruise ship docking in the Dutch city of Rotterdam has just ended a 6-month stay as a temporary refuge for 1,500 of these refugees.
That Volendam departed Rotterdam on September 15, 2022 bound for Trieste, Italy, where guests will embark on September 24 for a 14-day Holy Land & Ancient Kingdoms Explorer cruise. This will be Volendam‘s first full voyage since COVID caused the cruise industry to shut down in March 2020.
Volendam Was one of the first ships committed to the refugee effort
Holland America announced this in a press release dated April 1, 2022 Volendam “Used to take in Ukrainian refugees under an agreement announced by government officials of the Netherlands and the city of Rotterdam.” That deal included a promise to provide shelter for 50,000 people fleeing war in their home country.
Additionally, Holland America Group and its Ukrainian team members established a $1 million emergency relief fund to provide direct financial assistance. Gus Antorcha, President of Holland America Line, said in the April press release, “We are in a unique position to meet immediate food and housing needs, so we felt it was very important to work with the City of Rotterdam and to charter this ship.”
Team members from all organizations involved made the ship feel as home as they could. Crew members who spoke Ukrainian played a prominent role in the effort as they communicated with the refugees and worked to meet their needs. Workers created children’s play areas on deck, and the ship’s entertainment stage transformed into a creative learning space. Many Ukrainian adults found work in Rotterdam; The children attended the local schools.
Volendam Say goodbye to the Ukrainians it housed
When Volendam returned to the fleet, Ukrainians who had been on board relocated to relatives or moved to more permanent accommodation in the Netherlands. At a farewell event on August 30 aboard the ship, Ukrainian families thanked the city of Rotterdam, the Salvation Army (which coordinated many of the relief and social services for families) and the ship’s crew. Reflecting on the experiences of several generations of Ukrainian families on board, Ryan Whitaker, the ship’s captain, said how touched he and the crew were by the experience.
At this point, you might be thinking that Holland America was the only cruise line using ships for the temporary accommodation of Ukrainian refugees. Actually there are several others. Costa Cruises offered its ship that Costa Magicia, to Italian officials to provide temporary housing. Australian river cruise and tour operator APT and its sister brand TravelMarvel donated a riverboat capella to help Ukrainian refugees with accommodation.
The Tallink Group Isabel, a 561-foot ferry docking at Tallinn Port in Estonia, is temporarily hosting some of the more than 48,000 refugees who have arrived in Estonia. And the Scottish Government has chartered the 48,000 gross tonne cruise ship ambition, located in Glasgow to accommodate up to 1,750 refugees. That ambition joins that Victoria Ia passenger ship currently docked in Leith, housing about 1,000 refugees.
All of these efforts came just in time for Ukrainians fleeing their country. The cruise ships rushed to help. There’s more to do.
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