AP NEWS

Holland America passengers can’t get off ship in Panama

March 26, 2020 GMT

PANAMA CITY (AP) — The Holland America Line cruise ship Zaandam won’t be allowed to disembark passengers in Panama, the country’s government Maritime Authority said Wednesday.

The Zaandam has dozens of passengers and crew reporting flu-like symptoms. It has been at sea since March 14, after Chile refused it permission to dock and disembark passengers.

The cruise line now says another of its ships, the Rotterdam, will rendezvous in the Pacific with the Zaandam, to pass supplies, staff and COVID-19 tests kits to its sister ship.

The company said that rendezvous is expected Thursday. It said the Zaandam was then scheduled to head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after passing through the canal, and could arrive there on March 30. But Panamanian authorities said a transit of the canal would depend on a health inspection of passengers

The ship set out on March 7 from Buenos Aires with 1,243 guests and 586 crew. The voyage was to have ended in San Antonio, Chile on March 21.

The Rotterdam was allowed to dock at Mexico’s Pacific coast port of Puerto Vallarta more than a week ago.

It departed Puerto Vallarta on the supply run for the Zaandam.

On Wednesday, the Mexican government said it would continue to receive cruise ships “for humanitarian reasons,” but that passengers would be “individually fumigated” before being taken to airports for return flights to their home countries.

The Transportation Department said in a statement that that protocol had been applied to the MS Europa, which docked in the Pacific coast port of Puerto Vallarta and was cleared of passengers over the weekend.

The department said Mexico’s position is that “cruise ships can disembark for strictly humanitarian reasons, without endangering the port’s population.”

Such passengers would be transported directly to the airport and not wait in lines or go through check-in at the gates, but would instead directly board planes.

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This story was published March 25, 2020. It was updated on March 26, 2020 to correct that the Panama Canal Authority did not say it would allow the ship to transit the canal without allowing passengers to disembark. That Panama Maritime Authority, a government agency distinct from the autonomous Canal Authority, said that passengers could not disembark. Neither of the authorities said the ship was authorized to transit the canal.