Holland America cruise ship in limbo with 77 ill on board
At least 77 people on board Holland America’s MS Zaandam cruise ship, including 30 passengers and 47 crew members, have reported “flu-like” symptoms to the ship’s medical center.
There are 1,243 passengers and 586 crew members on the ship, including 305 Americans.
Flu symptoms and coronavirus symptoms are similar, so the cruise line “out of an abundance of caution” told passengers to stay in their staterooms on Sunday. There are no test kits for COVID-19 on board, Holland America said in a statement provided by spokesperson Erik Elvejord.
But Holland America Line has deployed another one of its ships, the Rotterdam, which is carrying no guests, to meet up with the Zaandam by Thursday to provide extra supplies, staff members, COVID-19 test kits and additional support.
All ports along the ship’s route are closed to cruise ships as they seek to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. While the ship intends to head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with an anticipated arrival of March 30, backup plans are being developed as ships around the world have been denied ports and scrambled to get passengers disembarked.
“When we have the full plan, we’ll let guests and others know,” Elvejord told USA TODAY in an email.
Crew members not required for Zaandam ship operations are also being quarantined. The remaining crew members are asked to self-isolate when not performing essential functions.
The Zaandam began its South American voyage from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 and was originally scheduled to end the sailing in San Antonio, Chile, March 21.
However, Holland America Line, along with major cruise lines worldwide, announced March 13 it would suspend cruise operations for at least 30 days and end its cruises in progress.
The Zaandam stopped in Valparaiso, Chile, at the end of last week and has food and fuel for the remainder of the ship’s intended journey to the U.S., the line said.
As of Tuesday morning, approximately 7.1%, or about 20 of trade organization Cruise Lines International Association’s 277 member ships, were still at sea and in the process of wrapping up current voyages.
“This is a highly fluid situation, with numbers changing by the hour as cruise ships around the world are completing their voyages,” Bari GolinBlaugrund, CLIA’s senior director of strategic communications told USA TODAY on Thursday.
“The vast majority of the rest are either at port, anchored or repositioning,” Golin-Blaugrund said. “CLIA members are focused on the safe and smooth return home of those onboard cruise ships that are currently at sea.”
The Zaandam carries at least 77 passengers exhibiting “flu-like” symptoms, but there are no test kids for COVID-19 on board.