Holland America cruise with 4 deaths, almost 200 sick, is headed to Florida (update)

Two weeks ago, Carnival made a generous offer to turn some of its cruise ships into hospital ships, knowing that there is a looming bed shortage. It’s a bad idea because cruise ships are floating Petri dishes, and aren’t designed to be repurposed during health crises. The story that made people sit up and pay attention to the spread of the novel coronavirus was the outbreak on the Diamond Princess that was announced in early February. Currently, multiple cruise ships are stranded because of coronavirus outbreaks.

One of those is the MS Zaandam, currently off the coast of Panama:

Four people have died and [148] are ill with coronavirus-like symptoms aboard Holland America’s MS Zaandam cruise ship. The vessel, which is currently stranded off the coast of Panama after being denied entry at ports in Chile, now has plans to sail for Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Two people out of an undisclosed number tested have been confirmed to have the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

It’s unclear if the four “older guests” who died had been tested for the virus.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and we are doing everything we can to support them during this difficult time,” Holland America said in a statement.

As of March 22, Fifty-three passengers and eighty-five crew members reported to the ship’s medical center reporting flu-like symptoms, which are similar to those associated with COVID-19.

Since that time, all passengers were asked to stay in their staterooms and all public areas are closed. Non-essential crew members are being quarantined.

The ship set sail from Buenos Aires on March 7, days before the company, which is part of the Carnival Corporation, suspended all sailings for 30 days on March 13. Its voyage was intended to end in San Antonio, Chile on March 21.

[From People, numbers updated from Miami Herald]

Last Thursday, the MS Rotterdam met the Zaandam and delivered medical supplies (including coronavirus tests). Healthy passengers have started being taken aboard. People reports, “Only asymptomatic passengers who have undergone a health screening will be allowed to board the Rotterdam and priority will be given to passengers over the age of 70 and those who were staying in interior staterooms.” Panama’s navy is also offering assistance.

Reading this makes me so anxious and sad for these passengers who have died, and their families, and all of the ones who are ill, or who may become ill. Many of the articles that I’ve read over the last several days keep reminding people that each number mentioned in a statistic is an actual person with family and people who love them. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by or numb to the numbers, and it just makes me angrier because of how much the federal government here, thanks to Trump, has fumbled this and made the catastrophe even worse. I hope that the spread slows soon.

Update by Celebitchy: According to CNN the number of sick passengers has reached 189. The ship is expected to arrive in Fort Lauderdale Wednesday but of course passengers are not cleared to disembark at that point and there are many requirements that must be met before that happens.

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Photo above is a stock photo from Skitterphoto via Pexels

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40 Responses to “Holland America cruise with 4 deaths, almost 200 sick, is headed to Florida (update)”

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  1. erni says:

    Can they return to Netherlands?

  2. Alexandria says:

    I understand why other ports don’t let them in. But they should be able to return to their home port. In a controlled manner. This is what we did for Costa Cruise.

  3. NotHeidisGirl says:

    I‘m sorry for all the lives lost and affected but dammit – who thought it was a good idea to continue cruises by the beginning of March?

    • Lolo86lf says:

      Greedy corporate big wigs who only care about money not lives I suppose?

    • Christin says:

      My question has been – who was willing to go?

      • Heylee says:

        I live in AZ, and there was a discussion on my FB mom group the week before spring break (so this was around second week of March) about changing plans because of Covid19. I was floored when 90% of responses were that people were making no adjustments. Self righteous proclamations about going to Disney (with hand sanitizer) taking that cruise, etc. Even after Disney announced they were closing, one woman said “not until Saturday so we can still go on Friday!” It was eye opening as my family was already sticking to our house.

      • Mac says:

        I know people who were rushing to NYC to see shows before Broadway closed.

  4. Samanathalous says:

    I think they now have permission to port in Florida

  5. Kalypsoso says:

    Oh my god. Just the idea of being stuck in tiny cabins, no way to escape, surrounded by sick people and a very real possibility of being infected with the disease. Actual, literal nightmare. Hope they make it to Florida all right with no more deaths.

    • FHMom says:

      I agree. I can’t imagine being trapped on a floating nightmare. And Florida really needs to step up. They need to be declared a disaster zone and shut down. Come on, Florida.

      • CariBean says:

        Why Florida? There are plenty of states that border the ocean.

      • FHMom says:

        @cariBean
        I mentioned Florida because that is where the ship is docking. Florida also has a large number of older people who are very vulnerable to the virus. I do agree, though, that all states at this point need to step up.

      • Hollz says:

        Why Florida? Because Florida is the cruise capital of the world – more than 5 million people cruised from Miami in a single year. That means they have the capacity to deal with large numbers of people – or more importantly in these cases, smaller numbers of people that need to be kept further apart. In comparison, Galveston had less than a million.

      • CariBean says:

        Sure Hollz, during normal times, absolutely. But Florida cannot possibly take all the cruise ships out there with infected people on board. South FL is full of old folks. The ship needs to go back to Buenos Aires. Maybe they shouldn’t have been selfish and gone on the cruise to begin with.

      • Cassandra says:

        As a Floridian and a hospital worker….it’s criminal negligence that DeSantis hasn’t issued a stay at home order. I just can’t imagine how much worse it needs to get for him to do it.

        Our hospitals are starting to feel the stress and will be overwhelmed pretty soon. My hospital is rationing ppe, and our policies are becoming laxer by the day. First Covid rule outs were in airborne isolation with Cappers or N-95s. Now only ICU nurses and respiratory therapists are allowed to use them. They say it’s because a surgical mask and goggles are enough but 🤷‍♀️

        The doctors don’t go in the rooms anymore, they use iPads to communicate with positive patients.

  6. KellyRyan says:

    I’m truly dismayed the cruise industry continues. Given the last years of norovirus, why would anyone think cruising would be a good idea? I am so saddened by the deaths. We live in a mountain community with 1800 residents in CA. Despite all the warnings and coverage we now have two people with Covid-19.

    • Christin says:

      I thought it would be ok to stock up on pet supplies at a farm-type retailer in a little town near us. It was as crowded as any other Saturday, and not a single other person was doing any distancing. I could not wait to get out of there.

      Two guys were standing near the checkout as they talked about what nonsense all of this is. Overconfidence and brainwashing, I suppose. Probably the same mentality as anyone who took a cruise within the past two months.

  7. Essotea says:

    Have cruises even stopped? I’m still seeing people planning to go on their april cruises.

    • It’sjustblanche says:

      I own a large travel agency. Most cruises are halted until around April 20 but more likely they won’t cruise until early June. Most all-inclusive resorts are closed until June 1 as well. About 80% of our business is Disney and they are closed indefinitely. Most likely Disney will open up June 1. Our business took a huge hit but fortunately the cruise lines and Disney and Universal are honoring commissions through a certain point. It’s been a mess, and I’m really thankful we don’t do a ton of cruise business. Richard Branson picked a really bad time to launch an adults only cruise line, that’s for sure.

      • Hollz says:

        I have never been more grateful to have gotten out of the travel/event industries. (Though I work in a museum, so I’m still sort of in tourism) I’ve been laid off, but I know it’s temporary and I’ll go back once the museum re-opens, but friends of mine that are still in travel have been laid off indefinitely, or have had to take pay cuts to avoid layoffs- again indefinitely.

        I hope you and your business make it through this ok!

    • Alexandria says:

      In April? Wow. In Malaysia, Thailand and my country, cruises have stopped. I think Hong Kong too. I was booked to go in March but my cruise company offered a full refund.

  8. Lindy says:

    I’ve never been interested in taking a cruise–it’s basically the opposite of the way I like to travel (same reason I’m not interested in all-inclusive resorts). I like having more autonomy, and part of the true joy of travel for me is actually the planning–finding that tiny little b&b for a two-night stay and figuring out what cool day trips you can take from there, or planning a few days around a particular interest/hobby I have etc.

    The idea of a cruise already makes be feel claustrophobic, and makes the introvert in me shudder in horror. (I completely understand that many people love them, but is definitely not for me).

    But now? Honestly, I wonder if the industry will ever recover, and whether it should? They seem to be completely gross, impossible to keep properly clean, and a total nightmare for any infectious disease. Why in the world would anyone ever want to take a cruise after this?

    • Amelie says:

      SAME HERE! It is my personal version of hell. I never understood why people raved about cruises. especially when I heard outbreaks about norovirus on cruise ships (essentially a 24 hour “stomach flu”). No one will ever be able to convince me now that is the ideal way to vacation.

      • Lady D says:

        I once read about one cruise ship that served 27 meals every 24 hours. I was staggered by the gluttony and also amazed that I could eat any hour of the day or night that I wanted while on vacation. That was about 25 years ago though, I have no idea what they are like these days.

  9. lucy2 says:

    What an absolute nightmare.

  10. adastraperaspera says:

    Trump does everything he can to get cruise companies bailout money so that Florida (his new home state) can keeping swimming in the sweet cruise cash. He could have made sure ships were shut down back in January. He didn’t. Is everything his fault now? If you follow the money, pretty much yes.

  11. StrawberryBlonde says:

    A friend of mine (she is 37) and her boyfriend flew from Toronto to the UK on March 13, the day after this was declared a pandemic. They were going to see his family in Manchester. Myself and her other friends were like “ummm….do you really think you should go???” But they went anyway. By March 17 I think, most things in London were closed (they had planned to go to London that day) and so they spent most of their time on a couch in Manchester trying to find an earlier flight home. They got home 1 day earlier. Expensive trip. Yikes. And now they have been in isolation for about 9 days.

  12. Snap Happy says:

    My friend’s parents are on that ship. They are from florida like I’m sure a lot of other people on that ship are. It’s awful and I asked why they went. He said they left before things got really crazy. The cruise companies should have shut down.

    • ME says:

      I thought this cruise left port March 7th ? By then EVERYONE knew how bad the situation was. I’m shocked the cruise ship was even allowed to set sail. It’s irresponsible on the part of the cruise ship and the part of the passengers. We’ve known about this virus for months now. We’ve known about other cruise ships this has happened to. People are just being dumb at this point. Just like all the idiots that still went on spring break. It’s hard to have sympathy for people who simply don’t give a f*ck.

  13. Diamond Rottweiler says:

    I was on a cruise with my mother on the Zandaam recently. Breaks my heart, all the really lovely, kind crew members you end up getting to know so well. Mostly young people from all around the world. And being trapped in those cabins for days on end, many of them windowless–uff da. The claustrophobia must be intense.

  14. TeaForTwo says:

    For all of you castigating the passengers on this cruise line for leaving on March 7- what exactly were you all doing? Do your calendars show you as having already begun self-isolation on March 7? If so, OK, but if not, sit down and give them a break. It was still business as usual for most of the US on March 7. Hell, it is still business as usual even TODAY if some states! 😠

    • lisanne says:

      Thank you. I work for a healthcare think tank in New York; we started working from home March 13. Most people not in the healthcare field really had no idea what was coming before that. I’m not trying to defend the cruise companies, but they are businesses – it’s the government’s job to lead on this stuff. Trump was downplaying it all until he couldn’t. It was Trump who fired the pandemic team that Obama had put in place, that could have helped us be better prepared. I believe this firing came at the recommendation of John Bolton. This is on their heads, not some folks who just wanted a little vacation from work and their daily lives.

  15. Emma33 says:

    Australia allowed a cruise ship to dock here in Sydney about ten days ago. They let everyone off with no testing, and so far hundreds of corona virus cases have been linked to the people that got off that one boat. We even exported a case to Utah (someone on the boat was from there).

    It has been an absolute disaster. We have other boats docking, but now everyone is being very careful and quarantining those passengers.

    The irony of all this is that cruising really grew in popularity after 9/11, because people felt safer on boats!

  16. Golly Gee says:

    Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale
    a tale of a fateful trip,
    that started from this tropic port,
    aboard this tiny ship.

    1829 crew & passengers set sail that day,
    for a three hour tour,
    a three hour tour.

    So this is the tale of our castaways,
    they’re here for a long long time.
    They’ll have to make the best of things,
    it’s an uphill climb.
    ~

    When I saw the story all I could think of was: they “set sail that day, for a three hour tour. A three hour tour.” Sorry, but I don’t have any sympathy for this. How much less catastrophic would this have been if people would just act responsibly. And now they will expect to be looked after using scarce supplies and endangering healthcare workers. It’s like all the New Yorkers now rushing to other places to try to escape the epicenter and bringing the virus along with them to infect many others.

  17. L4frimaire says:

    I hope they’ll let the passengers get off, and quarantine and test all of them as soon as possible. It’s just inhumane to keep them out to sea. We were scheduled to take a Mediterranean cruise in June and cancelled it early March. I don’t know why anyone would have gone on any cruise in March, after the Diamond Princess news, but some people really thought it wouldn’t affect them or didn’t want to lose their vacation. The cruise industry is pretty screwed at this point, but they should have been way more proactive and responsible about this, and canceled sailings.