Cruise Ship Zaandam Reports 42 People With Flu-Like Symptoms on Board

The Holland America cruise ship Zaandam (file image)

Published Mar 23, 2020 5:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Holland America Lines cruise ship Zaandam is under way with 42 people experiencing flu symptoms, according to an update issued by her operator Sunday. 

"This morning aboard Zaandam, 13 guests and 29 crew reported to the ship’s medical center with influenza-like symptoms," said Holland America. "Out of an abundance of caution, we have now asked all guests to remain in their staterooms until we have more information. There are 1,243 guests and 586 crew on board."

COVID-19 testing is not available on board, and it is not currently known whether these individuals may have influenza or the novel coronavirus. Both passengers and non-essential crew are being quarantined in their staterooms. 

At the time of the announcement, Zaandam was under way off the coast of Chile, headed northbound for Panama. Chile has about 600 cases of coronavirus, and it has closed its borders to most foreign nationals, including cruise passengers. In accordance with this ban, Zaandam was refused permission to disembark passengers in Punta Arenas on March 14, so she transited to an anchorage at Valparaiso in order to take on provisions and fuel.

Zaandam's itinerary was scheduled to end in the port of San Antonio, Chile on March 21, but without permission to disembark, she now plans to head directly back to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She does not yet have permission to pass through the Panama Canal, which would be the shortest route.  

"Zaandam departed Valparaiso on March 21 and is currently sailing north. Our intention is to proceed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for arrival on March 30, however we are still working on securing a reservation to transit the Panama Canal. Alternative options are also being developed," Holland America said in a statement. 

Unconfirmed social media reports from those on board Zaandam indicate that the cruise ship Rotterdam has been dispatched from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to rendezvous with the vessel and support her with more personnel and supplies.

Other passengers reported that the quarantine protocols on board Zaandam appear to be in place and working as designed. "Staff on this deck seem to be following protocol & leaving trays of food on the floor after knocking on the door & departing. Also the same for clean towels etc. Let’s hope for calm waters to wherever we end up," wrote passenger Celia Jones in a Facebook group post.