• The MS Zaandam has four doctors and four nurses aboard while the Rotterdam has two doctors and four nurses
  • The Zaandam is seeking permission from Panama to transit the Panama Canal so it can sale to Fort Lauderdale
  • Passengers aboard the Zaandam began exhibiting symptoms March 22

Four elderly passengers were dead and 138 others complained of flu-like symptoms Friday aboard Holland America’s MS Zaandam as the ship searched for a port amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The ship currently is off the coast of Panama. It took on medical supplies Thursday night from sister ship, Rotterdam, the company said in a Facebook post. The Panamanian government also has given permission for healthy passengers to be transferred to the Rotterdam following health screenings.

“Priority for the first guests to transfer will be given to those on Zaandam with inside staterooms and who are over 70. Once aboard Rotterdam, all guests will continue to remain in their staterooms until disembarkation. Any guests who are currently ill, or in isolation as a close contact, and all crew will remain on Zaandam,” Holland America said.

It continued: “Currently, 53 guests [4%] and 85 crew [14%] have reported to Zaandam’s medical center 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.”

No one has left the Zaandam since March 14 at Punta Arenas, Chile. Symptoms first surfaced on the ship March 22.

The company said it is still trying to secure permission from the Panamanian government to transit the Panama Canal so it can sail to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The ship left Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 and originally had been scheduled to end the cruise March 21 in Santiago, Chile. The company has since suspended global cruise operations for 30 days and decided to end current cruises as quickly as possible.

An analysis by the Guardian indicates at least 10 ships from a variety of cruise lines carrying nearly 10,000 passengers currently are at sea and in search of docking permission.

Worldwide, more than 585,000 coronavirus infections have been confirmed and nearly 27,000 people have died. The United States now has more confirmed cases than any other country: at least 97,028 with 1,475 deaths.