Holland America said that four "older" passengers have died on the Zaandam, as the ship continues sailing to Fort Lauderdale

“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.

A two-week South American cruise that departed Argentina on March 7 has turned into an ordeal, with ill passengers aboard and South American ports refusing to let the Zaandam dock.

On Thursday, several patients with respiratory symptoms were tested for Covid-19 after the tests were delivered by another ship, the Rotterdam. Two of them tested positive. 

The Zaandam is now off the coast of Panama, transferring healthy guests to the Rotterdam. Health screenings are being conducted before guests are transferred, and priority is being given to passengers in inside cabins and guests over age 70. Once aboard Rotterdam, all guests are to stay in their staterooms until disembarkation. 

Holland America says 53 guests and 85 crew members have reported to the Zaandam’s medical center with influenza-like symptoms. The Zaandam has 1,243 guests and 586 crew members onboard. 

The Zaandam rendezvoused with the Rotterdam at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Panamanian officials gave them permission to transfer medical supplies and medical staff. 

On March 22, when several guests reported to the medical center with flu-like symptoms, all guests were quarantined to their staterooms. On Thursday, all guests and crew members were given face masks. 

No one has been off the ship since March 14 in Punta Arenas, Chile. 

Other ports in Chile and Peru did not allow the ship to disembark, though the ship was able to refuel in Valparaiso, Chile, and pick up provisions.  

The ship is trying to get approval from Panamanian authorities to transit the Panama Canal for a sailing to Fort Lauderdale. The ship is due to arrive in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, but does not have permission to disembark.

According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, there are 305 American aboard the Zaandam. 

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