You could call it, “the ship of the damned” — in the midst of a pandemic, nobody, in the entire world, wants to have anything to do with it.
Sorry, you can’t dock here … keep going, pal.
The MS Zaandam run by Holland America left Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 and was supposed to arrive on Saturday at San Antonio, near Santiago in Chile, Global Times reported.
Along the way, the Zaandam docked in Punta Arenas, in Chile’s far south, before leaving there just days before Chilean President Sebastian Pinera closed the country’s borders on March 18, the report said.
Soon after, the company suspended all its cruises due to measures including the closure of land, air and sea borders imposed by governments all over the world.
It headed back to Punta Arenas in a bid to arrange for its more than 1,200 passengers and almost 600 crew to take flights back to their home countries, the report said.
“Despite previous confirmations that guests could disembark in Punta Arenas, Chile, for flights, we were not permitted to do so,” Holland America said.
“No one has been off the ship since March 14 in Punta Arenas.”
The 42 showing flu-like symptoms are quarantined, the company said.
Its plight is the latest affecting the global cruise industry, which has seen vessels refused entry to ports and others locked down, the report said.
“We heard that one ship that managed to dock at Punta Arenas was greeted by locals throwing rocks!” wrote Dimiti and Neal Bates on Facebook, who boarded the Zaandam in Buenos Aires in a group of 20 Australians.
The ship sailed to Valparaiso in Chile where it remained at anchor on Friday to Saturday while taking on fuel, provisions and medication before continuing to San Antonio, the report said.
Rear Admiral Yerko Marcic, head of Chile’s national defense at Valparaiso port, said eight Chileans were allowed to disembark, along with two French people for humanitarian reasons because “they had a high risk chronic illness and their medication was not going to last until the ship reached land.”
There are more than 100 French passengers aboard.
The ship has asked all passengers to remain in their rooms “out of an abundance of caution” where they are provided their meals by room service, the report said.
“Since it is flu season, and Covid-19 testing is not available on board, it is difficult to determine the cause of these elevated cases at this time,” said Holland America.
Since then, the ship has continued northwards and by Tuesday was off the coast of Peru, where local authorities told AFP the liner would not be allowed to dock in the port of Salaverry.
Peru closed its borders on March 15 and “already prohibited the entry of two other cruise ships,” official Peruvian sources told AFP under condition of anonymity.
Holland America said “all ports along Zaandam‘s route are closed to cruise ships” and so it had sent another liner, the Rotterdam, from Puerto Vallarta in Mexico to meet the Zaandam this Thursday off the coast of Panama.
The Rotterdam is carrying “extra supplies, staff, Covid-19 test kits and other support as needed” to transfer to the Zaandam, aiming to reach Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on March 30, the report said.
Still, the growing desperation of the passengers remained.
“Testing times,” the Bates’s wrote on Facebook. “Please don’t forget us.”
(Update at 3:30 pm, EST, Friday: According to USA Today, four elderly passengers have now died aboard the Zaandam, and 138 people (53 passengers and 85 crew) have complained of flu-like symptoms.)
(Update at 11 am, EST, Sunday: According to The Independent, the stricken Zaandam is awaiting permission to sail through the Panama Canal and reach Florida. The Panama Canal Authority said in a statement: “The Panama Canal is preparing to facilitate the transit of the Zaandam through the waterway, after receiving authorization from Panama’s Ministry of Health.)