Holland America Line cruise ships Zaandam and Rotterdam passed through the Panama Canal under cover of darkness with all lights and windows blacked out due to local protests by citizens against the ships’ passage. (Photo: Maggie Tilley)

Cruise ships, one with COVID-19 on board, carry Canadians covertly through Panama Canal

Zaandam, Rotterdam pass through canal under cover of darkness in face of local protests

A Nanaimo couple stranded aboard a quarantined cruise ship since mid-March are closer to coming home after making it through the Panama Canal under a ‘cloak of darkness.’

Maggie Tilley and David Andrews began a voyage aboard Holland America Line cruise ship Zaandam from Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 7, but have been stuck aboard the vessel with more than 1,200 passengers and nearly 600 crew since March 14 when South American countries started closing their borders to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Days later, passengers and crew came down with illness and four passengers died. Two people aboard the ship tested positive for COVID-19 and the cruise line brought in the Zaandam’s sister ship Rotterdam to rendezvous near Panama City, Panama, to evacuate healthy passengers and bring supplies and medical teams aboard the Zaandam.

Tilley reported to the News Bulletin over the weekend that she and Andrews transferred to the Rotterdam after passing a medical check. She said a second couple from Nanaimo, Elizabeth and Robin Pack, also transferred to the Rotterdam.

Panama had not allowed passengers to disembark there, nor had authorities allowed the ships to transit the Panama Canal to complete their journey to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In a press release issued by Holland America Line on Sunday, the company said permission had been granted for passage.

“We greatly appreciate this humanitarian consideration and the compassion shown for our guests and crew by the government of Panama and the Panama Maritime Authority,” noted Holland America. “We are also thankful for the support of the various embassies that are partnering with us to help get their citizens home as quickly as possible.”

READ ALSO: Nanaimo couple caught aboard cruise ship with four dead and COVID-19 present

Monday morning, March 30, Tilley reported both ships had passed through the canal overnight.

“We went through the canal in a cloak of darkness,” she said. “We were ordered to turn all balcony lights out, draw the blackout curtains and stay inside the cabins. No crew or passenger was to step out until after we transitioned the entire canal system … We were in the new canal and did the whole transit in 3.5 hours instead of eight, I hear. They really booted us through, because of the protesters and backlash from Panama citizens. Not sure how we could infect them from a boat.”

She said the Rotterdam was in the process of catching up to the Zaandam and said it was her understanding that medical supplies would be air-dropped.

“Sounds scary and worrisome. There are Canadians on the Zaandam still. People I met and had dinner with,” she said.

READ ALSO: Passengers from Nanaimo now on ‘mystery cruise’ after Chile calls a state of catastrophe

Holland America Line said it is still finalizing the details for where and when its passengers will disembark, and is asking for the same compassion and humanity to be extended for the ships’ arrival.

Holland America said as of Sunday, 73 passengers and 116 crew on Zaandam had reported flu-like illness symptoms. There are 446 passengers and 602 crew remaining on Zaandam and 797 guests and 645 crew aboard Rotterdam. Guests have not been ashore since March 14 in Punta Arenas, Chile, and have been self-isolating in their staterooms since March 22.

“The two ships will remain together for the rest of the journey,” Holland America Line said in the release. “Guests on both ships will remain in their staterooms until disembarkation and all necessary precautionary measures are being taken on both ships that have been developed in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

A spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada said Monday no COVID-19 cases have been confirmed among Canadian citizens who were on the Zaandam.

-files from Canadian Press



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The Holland America Line cruise ship Rotterdam transferred hundreds healthy passengers aboard Saturday. (Photo: Maggie Tilley)

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Morning start: Rossland is named after this person

Here is your Kootenays’ morning start for Friday, May 22

Snow expected to hit West Kootenay passes overnight on Thursday

Up to 15 cm of snow could fall on Highway 3 between Paulson summit to Kootenay Pass by Friday morning

Construction for New Denver child care centre on time and on budget

The child care centre is set to open on September 8 at Lucerne Elementary School

Creston flour mills overwhelmed by COVID-19 demand

Flour shortage highlights region’s grain insecurity

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Oak Bay man stumbles upon eagle hunting seal, grabs camera just in time

The eagle did ‘a perfect butterfly stroke to shore’ with its prey, photographer says

Most Read