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Coronavirus: Holland America Line’s Zaandam sails through Panama Canal

Holland America line

Holland America Line has been given permission for its coronavirus-hit cruise ship Zaandam to pass through the Panama Canal.

In a statement by a Panama Canal spokesperson, the ship and its sister Rotterdam sailed through and are now on their way to Florida.

On Friday 27 March, the line confirmed that four elderly passengers on board the ship had died.

The statement issued on Friday said: “Holland America Line can confirm that four older guests have passed away on Zaandam. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and we are doing everything we can to support them during this difficult time.

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

“Currently, 53 guests and 85 crew have reported to Zaandam’s medical centre with influenza-like illness symptoms. There are 1,243 guests and 586 crew on board. On Zaandam, there are four doctors and four nurses. On Rotterdam, there are two doctors and four nurses.”

Zaandam was sailing a South America voyage that departed Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 7 March and was originally scheduled to end in San Antonio, Chile, on 21 March.

However, Holland America Line made the decision to suspend its global cruise operations for 30 days and end its current cruises as quickly as possible and return guests home.

Zaandam departed Valparaiso on 21 March and is currently sailing north. Its intention is to proceed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for arrival on 30 March, however, it is working on securing a reservation to transit the Panama Canal.

A Panama Canal spokesperson said: “The Panama Canal facilitated this Sunday the transit of Holland America’s Zaandam and Rotterdam cruise ships, under extraordinary conditions and for humanitarian reasons.

After not being able to dock at ports in South America, the Zaandam arrived to the assigned anchorage in Panama on March 27. Holland America’s Rotterdam cruise ship arrived earlier that day and was assigned anchorage awaiting the arrival of Zaandam, in order to transfer healthy passengers and medical supplies, following strict protocols developed in conjunction with the CDC.

“The Panama Canal has taken extreme sanitary measures to transit these two ships, including using the Neopanamax Locks as means to reduce to a minimum the number of Canal employees involved in the transit.”

Complimentary telephone counselling services from the line’s care partner, Empathia, have been made available to guests and crew if they would like extra support during this time.

For those with family members on board, they can call the following numbers for information: 1-877-425-2231 or 1-206-626-7398.

To view the latest government advice visit

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The cruise industry is facing an unprecedented and ever-changing situation, and we are committed to keeping you informed with the most up-to-date news. However, we firmly believe that the cruise industry will bounce back. When it does, we’ll be on hand to help you get back to selling the cruises that people love.  

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