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)

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 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 guest 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)

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

Just Posted

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from the beach in rescue attempt in Nanaimo

Animal dies in spite of efforts of marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way into business on Nanaimo’s Bowen Road

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres

RCMP say a woman turned herself in to police after hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene of the accident in downtown Nanaimo on Friday morning. (File photo)
Driver flees, then turns herself in after hitting pedestrian in downtown Nanaimo

Nanaimo RCMP say woman was struck in marked crosswalk after driver ran red light

Police in Nanaimo found multiple sites with tags they allege were made by three men arrested for mischief in Maffeo Sutton Park on Feb. 15. (Photo submitted)
Graffiti taggers caught in Nanaimo with paint on their hands

Three suspects arrested at Maffeo Sutton Park last week

Uplands Park Elementary School. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported at Uplands Park, McGirr, Dover Bay schools

Contact tracing completed by Island Health, says Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way into business on Nanaimo’s Bowen Road

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Several BC Ferries sailings are cancelled Friday due to adverse weather. (Black Press Media File)
All B.C. Ferries sailings cancelled due to winds, adverse weather

Adverse weather causes cancellations across several BC Ferries routes

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Vancouver Island teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing leads to stabbing in Nanaimo

Suspect arrested on Gabriola Island an hour after incident Wednesday, Feb. 24

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
Nanaimo-raised singer records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah closes out the movie

Most Read