FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — *Editor's note: The ship pictured above is not the ship discussed in this story. It is a different Holland America Ship that docked in Cambodia last month after several Asian and Pacific governments turned it away over coronavirus fears.
There are 1,243 guests and 586 crew members aboard the Holland America Zaandam, and they’re all heading to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
At least 77 of them are sick.
Under ordinary circumstances, that fact wouldn’t ring a single alarm bell – let alone make international headlines – but we’re living in a harsh new reality.
Coronavirus is front and center in the minds of billions around the globe, so news of a ship with passengers and crew suffering from “influenza-like symptoms” heading to a Florida port naturally raises serious concerns.
There is no way of knowing if they have COVID-19 until they reach shore and get tested.
The Miami Herald reports the ship left Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 – before its parent company, Carnival Cruise Lines, suspended all operations – and arrived on March 21 at its final port in Chile.
But the Chilean government refused to let anyone off.
Now, according to the South Florida newspaper, the Zaandam is trying to get permission to sail through the Panama Canal and dock at Port Everglades.
CNN reports Holland America is also looking at backup plans if Panama denies its request.
In a statement on its website, the company said all people experiencing symptoms have been isolated and their “close contacts” are quarantined.
All guests are confined to their staterooms and are being told to call the ship’s medical center if they start to feel sick. Only crew members essential to the ship’s “safe operation” are allowed on the decks, and Holland America says they are self-isolating when they’re not working.
Holland America says there is plenty of food and fuel on board, and internet and phone service in the staterooms have been made complimentary so guests can stay in contact with their families.
Guests and crew also have access to free telephone counseling services if they need extra support.
They’re not the first cruise passengers and employees to be left in limbo during the COVID-19 crisis. According to CNN, dozens of ships have dealt with similar situations in recent weeks.
You can read Holland America's full statement here:
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