Coronavirus-Hit Cruise Ship, Zaandam, and Rotterdam, Sail Through Panama Canal En Route to Florida

The coronavirus-hit Holland America Line cruise ship, MS Zaandam, and its support cruise ship Rotterdam, were filmed passing through the Panama Canal en route to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on March 29.

Video shared by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) shows the vessels making their way along the canal on Sunday.

Authorities confirmed four elderly people had died aboard the Zaandam since March 22, when it was first reported that 13 guests and 29 crew had influenza-like symptoms. With no COVID-19 testing available on the ship at that time, the vessel’s four doctors and four nurses were unable to trace the source of the illnesses. Sick guests and crew were quarantined and remaining passengers were told to self-isolate.

As all ports along Zaandam’s route were closed to cruise ships, Holland America deployed its Rotterdam vessel from Mexico on March 22 to meet up with Zaandam off the coast of Panama on March 26. Rotterdam, which carried 611 crew and no guests, provided Zaandam with COVID-19 testing kits as well as extra medical supplies and staff.

Healthy guests aboard the Zaandam were also re-located onto the Rotterdam ship.

In a statement on March 27, Zaandam authorities confirmed at least two individuals had tested positive to COVID-19 while 53 guests out of the 1,243 on board, and 85 crew members, of the 586 onboard, had influenza-like illness symptoms.

Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford said on March 30, the ships were still waiting on confirmation from port authorities to dock in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Credit: Panama Canal Authority via Storyful