Another cruise vacation turned to crisis aboard the MS ZAANDAM off the pacific coast of Panama, where, since Friday, more than 130 persons aboard are showing flu-like symptoms, according to Reuters. The ship was denied access to the Panama Canal for public health reasons, so all 1,243 passengers and 586 crew were isolated aboard the cruise ship for over two weeks. As a result, four died while the ship waited indefinitely to hear from the Panamanian government whether they would receive clearance to transit the canal.
The MS ZAANDAM, which is operated by Holland America and owned by Carnival Corp, isn’t the first cruise to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this year, two other liners, from Carnival’s Princess Cruises, were quarantined after becoming hotbeds for coronavirus infection. Although all Princess Cruises voyages until mid-May have been canceled, other lines owned by Carnival remained largely operational. The situation aboard the MS ZAANDAM is one tragic result of Carnival’s decision to continue to send its cruise ships to sea, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The ship’s official said the onboard situation appeared to be improving. A number of passengers have been tested and the clinic is treating fewer patients reporting symptoms.
All ports along the ZAANDAM’s South American route remain closed to cruise ships, Holland America said. As of Saturday, however, the Panamanian government announced the ship now can continue its voyage to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but Panama’s government underscored that no passengers or crew members would be allowed to set foot on Panamanian soil. Passengers on the ZAANDAM have been boarding onto tenders pulled up on the port side of the ship for transfer to the ROTTERDAM, its sister ship, according to a passenger.
“People have been transferring to the ROTTERDAM, about 60 an hour. This is likely to continue into tomorrow before we move,” said Ian Rae, a London-based Scotsman who is a passenger on the ZAANDAM, along with his wife.
Rae said guests who are exhibiting symptoms are being asked to remain on the ZAANDAM, which has passengers from a host of nations, including the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and New Zealand.