The statement did not provide a cause of death or say when exactly the guests died.
As of Friday, 138 people – 53 guests and 85 crew members – had reported flu-like symptoms, Holland America said in its statement. There are 1,243 guests and 586 crew members on board the ship, which is now off the coast of Panama.
On Thursday, a “number of patients with respiratory symptoms” tested for coronavirus, Holland America said, and two people were positive.
The ship is currently about eight miles off the west coast of Panama, according to the Panamanian government. Holland America said it plans to transfer healthy passengers from Zaandam to the Rotterdam ship, a sister ship, following CDC protocols. The ships exchanged medical supplies Thursday evening.
“Only those who have not been ill will be moved, and health screenings will be conducted before transferring,” the company said. Once onboard the Rotterdam, guests will remain inside their rooms until disembarking.
The Panama Canal announced Friday on Twitter the Zaandam will not be able to use the canal to get to Florida.
“If a vessel has individuals who have tested positive for Covid-19 on board, it cannot make any port operations or transit the canal,” said the statement.
The transit of any ship requires canal personnel to board the vessel to ensure a safe passage throughout the waterway, the statement says. All vessels have to comply with health regulations and the “prevention of contagious diseases,” according to Panama’s Canal and health authorities.
The cruise line’s news release said that when the ship first saw guests report flu-like symptoms on March 22, the crew took protective measures and asked all guests to self-isolate in their rooms. All guests and crew members received face masks Thursday.
Clifford Kolber, a passenger on the ship, told CNN Friday he and his wife have been in isolation on the Zaandam since Sunday. He and his wife have pre-existing conditions.
“We just want the ports in the country to help us because don’t want more people to die,” Kolber said.
Ship left Buenos Aires on March 7
The cruise line said the Zaandam departed Buenos Aires on March 7 and was originally scheduled to end its cruise at San Antonio, Chile, on March 21. The cruise line decided to end its current cruises in progress.
No one has been off the ship since March 14 in Punta Arenas, Chile, the cruise line said.
The Zaandam is not the only cruise ship in limbo because of the coronavirus. Cruise Lines International Association said at least 14 ocean-going ships worldwide are completing journeys or awaiting disembarkation.