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Passengers, crew exhibit flu-like symptoms on Holland America cruise

  • Passengers on board the MS Zaandam, a Holland America Line cruise ship, have been asked to remain in their state rooms because several crew members and guests have begun exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
  • These individual instances of sickness have not been confirmed as COVID-19 cases.
  • Holland America confirmed to Business Insider that 13 guests and 29 crew members have reported to the ship’s medical center “with influenza-like symptoms.”
  • “Out of an abundance of caution, we have now asked all guests to remain in their staterooms until we have more information,” the spokesperson said.
  • “The captain came on the intercom and told us several passengers and crew have flu-like conditions,” one passenger told Business Insider in a text.
  • The Zaandam’s 1,243 passengers and 586 crew members are currently sailing north after being shut out of South American ports over coronavirus concerns.
  • Are you a cruise ship passenger or employee with a story to share? Email acain@businessinsider.com.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Passengers onboard the MS Zaandam, a Holland America cruise ship, have been asked to remain in their staterooms after several passengers and crew members began exhibiting “flu-like symptoms.”

“This morning aboard Zaandam, 13 guests and 29 crew reported to the ship’s medical center with influenza-like symptoms,” a Holland America spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have now asked all guests to remain in their staterooms until we have more information.”

Chile had previously blocked the ship, which has 1,243 guests and 586 crew members on board, from allowing its president to disembark over coronavirus concerns, leaving the cruise ship uncertain about its ongoing route. Previously, the cruise was scheduled to last 14 days, embarking from Buenos Aires on March 7 and set to end in San Antonio on March 21. Those plans were diverted due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the cruise ship rerouted its course to sail north to an undetermined destination.

But now, a day after the ship was supposed to dock in San Antonio, passengers are reporting an outbreak of sickness on board. An American guest who asked to go by his first name Chuck over privacy concerns described the March 22 announcement to Business Insider.

“The captain came on the intercom and told us several passengers and crew have flu-like conditions,” Chuck told Business Insider in a text. “We are all now confined to our rooms. I guess the fun is over. Now I wish we would have upgraded to a balcony.”

A Holland America spokesperson confirmed that “guests have been asked to remain in their staterooms and monitor their health.”

“If they become symptomatic, they are asked to call the medical center for an evaluation and care from the ship’s medical professionals (at no charge),” the spokesperson said. “Effective today, meal service will be provided by room service until further notice. All public areas are closed.”

The quarantine will also apply to all crew members “who are not required for the safe operation of the ship,” and all cruise staffers will be asked to practice social-distancing and self-isolation.

Previously, the cruise line said in a statement that the Zaandam was not in quarantine and that there were no known or suspected cases of COVID-19 on board. The passengers and crew members who are currently exhibiting flu-like symptoms have not yet been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Chuck said that guests will still be allowed to order room service and that the captain said the decision was made “out of caution.” Another source whose brother is currently onboard the ship confirmed that passengers have been confined to their rooms due to “flu-like symptoms.”

This is the latest instance of the havoc that the coronavirus outbreak has wrought on the cruise ship industry. Six passengers died after getting caught up in the coronavirus outbreak onboard the Diamond Princess ship in February. A majority of the guests released from the Grand Princess declined to be tested for the disease after a lengthy quarantine.

Now that crew members and passengers on the Zaandam have been struck with an as-of-yet-unknown illness, it is unclear what the ship’s next course of action will be. But Chuck said that the news from the captain has brought down spirits on board. Yesterday, passengers had cheered the captain had announced that the ship’s crew hoped to sail through the Panama Canal and up to Fort Lauderdale.

“The mood just changed,” he told Business Insider in a text.

Holland America has advised people with relatives on board the ship to call 1-877-425-2231 and 1-206-626-7398 for more information.

Read Holland America’s full statement here:

This morning aboard Zaandam, 13 guests and 29 crew reported to the ship’s medical center with influenza-like symptoms. Out of an abundance of caution, we have now asked all guests to remain in their staterooms until we have more information. There are 1,243 guests and 586 crew on board.

Zaandam is following the response protocols that have been developed in coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 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.

The safety and well-being of our guests and crew is one of our highest priorities. The ship has activated these precautionary measures out of an abundance of caution:

  • As is our standard practice, all ill persons have been isolated and their close contacts placed in quarantine.
  • Guests have been asked to remain in their staterooms and monitor their health. If they become symptomatic, they are asked to call the medical center for an evaluation and care from the ship’s medical professionals (at no charge).
  • Effective today, meal service will be provided by room service until further notice. All public areas are closed.
  • The entire ship is operating at maximum sanitation levels, including rigorous cleaning and disinfecting of public and crew areas.
  • Crew who are not required for the safe operation of the ship are being quarantined. Those that are needed to maintain the ship’s operation are being asked to self-isolate when not performing essential functions, practice social distancing, self-monitor and report any illness to the Medical Center.
  • Both internet and guest stateroom telephone services remain complimentary so that guests may stay in touch with their families.

Zaandam was sailing a South America voyage that departed Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 and was originally scheduled to end in San Antonio, Chile, on March 21. However, due to global health concerns, Holland America Line made the decision to suspend its global cruise operations for 30 days and end its current cruises in progress as quickly as possible and return guests home. Despite previous confirmations that guests could disembark in Punta Arenas, Chile, for flights, we were not permitted to do so. No one has been off the ship since March 14 in Punta Arenas.  

Zaandam then sailed to Valparaiso, Chile, where it remained at anchor March 20-21 while taking on provisions and fuel, including regular medications for those that needed them. Zaandam departed Valparaiso on March 21 and is currently sailing north. Our intention is to proceed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for arrival on March 30, however we are still working on securing a reservation to transit the Panama Canal.  Alternative options are also being developed. 

For those with family members on board, they can call the following numbers for information: 1-877-425-2231 and 1-206-626-7398.

Are you a cruise ship passenger or employee with a story to share? Email acain@businessinsider.com.

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