The City of Rotterdam is extending its charter agreement with Holland America Line to continue using its cruise ship Volendam to provide temporary housing for displaced Ukrainian families. The cruise ship, which was chartered at the beginning of April, is part of an effort across Europe to accommodate the millions of Ukrainians that have fled their country, using everything from cruise ships and ferries to river cruise vessels and even a 1940s vintage Dutch patrol boat that had been operating as a museum ship.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience this will cause to guests booked on Volendam through the summer,” said Beth Bodensteiner, chief commercial officer of Holland America Line. “We appreciate their continued understanding as we work with the city of Rotterdam on this important mission.” The cruise line canceled six scheduled cruises, although it has two other ships operating in Northern Europe this year.
The Carnival Corporation brand reports that its 61,300 gross ton cruise ship has been home to around 1,200 Ukrainians since docking in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in early April. The government chartered the ship through the end of June with an option to extend the mission, and recently asked to extend the charter for an additional 10 weeks. The arrangement is now set to continue through September 14, 2022.
Holland America Line says the cruise ship will house up to 1,500 refugees through the extended charter. The cruise line is providing hot meals, private stateroom accommodations, housekeeping services, laundry, use of public spaces, fitness facilities, internet access, and other necessities and has a crew of approximately 650 aboard to operate the ship.
The charter of the cruise ship is part of the Netherlands’ commitment to accommodate 50,000 Ukrainians. Both Amsterdam and Rotterdam chartered river cruise ships to provide accommodations. Time magazine also reported on a 1947 vintage patrol boat, M.L.V Castor, which was converted from its role as a museum ship to provide housing. They report that the 150-foot vessel which would have been used to evacuate the Dutch royal family in time of emergency is now providing accommodations for 23 people.
The challenge to provide housing exists across Europe. In Estonia, where some 37,000 refugees from Ukraine have fled with the number continuing to rise, they chartered a ferry to provide housing. Tallink’s MS Isabelle is in Tallinn accommodating 1,500 Ukrainians until a more permanent solution can be found.
Authorities said that the cruise ships were a good solution as they could be docked to provide access to city services while relieving the pressure on hotels. They are also using their public spaces to provide services and counseling and places for the refugees to meet.