Four Guests Die on Cruise Ship Which Also Has COVID-19 Cases Onboard

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The authorities in Panama have apparently given permission for two Holland America ships to transit through the canal, including the stranded Zaandam which has been hit with COVID-19 cases. Here’s the latest from the cruise line:

We are aware of reported permission for both Zaandam and Rotterdam to transit the Panama Canal in the near future. We greatly appreciate this consideration in the humanitarian interest of our guests and crew. This remains a dynamic situation, and we continue to work with the Panamanian authorities to finalize details.


Four guests have now died on Holland America’s Zaandam cruise ship, which is stranded off the Panama coast.

Zaandam Cruise Ship Latest

The Zaandam cruise ship, which is operated by Holland America Line, is currently located off the coast of Panama and has still not been able to get to a port. In the latest update from the cruise line, there are now 53 guests and 85 crew members onboard who have reported influenza-like symptoms. A number of the patients with respiratory symptoms had been tested for COVID-19 and two came back positive.

You can read our previous posts about the Zaandam below:

We are also sad to report that four older guests have died onboard the Zaandam but it’s not confirmed if their deaths are related to the virus. Our thoughts truly go out to their families and friends during this difficult time.

Holland America posted within its recent update:

Yesterday a number of patients with respiratory symptoms were tested for COVID-19 and two individuals tested positive.

Out of an abundance of caution, on March 22 when Zaandam first saw a number of guests reporting to the medical center with influenza-like illness symptoms, we took immediate protective measures, including asking all guests to self-isolate in their staterooms and implementing all other appropriate precautions that have been developed in coordination with the CDC.

All guests and crew received face masks yesterday and were provided with instructions on when and how to wear them.

Yesterday the ship rendezvoused with sister ship Rotterdam at 7:30 PM. Supplies, medications, and medical staff were able to be transferred to Zaandam after approval from Panamanian authorities.

There are also plans on transferring groups of healthy passengers over to the Rotterdam so they can get back to land and disembark. Priority will be given to guests over the age of 70 and inside cabins and all transferring passengers will all be screened undergoing U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocols.

Unfortunately, all crew members will have to remain on board and when the Holland America vessel does eventually get back to port it is likely they will have to undergo further quarantine.

The cruise line is working on getting the ship back to Fort Lauderdale, Florida by March 30, 2020, but that no longer seems to be the case. Authorities in Panama have not yet allowed the ship to transit through the Panama Canal and this is still being worked out.

It is a very difficult time for everyone on board the ship and Holland America is offering complimentary telephone counseling for guests and crew. The ship is under quarantine with all guests having to remain in their staterooms along with non-essential crew members. No one has been off the ship since March 14, 2020, in Punta Arenas, Chile.

There are currently 1,243 passengers and 586 crew members on the ship which was sailing a South America cruise that departed Buenos Aires, Argentina on March 7. The cruise line has already suspended cruise operations for at least 30 days but there have still been issues trying to get ships back to port. It is expected the cruise line will announce an extension to the suspension in the coming days.

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