Holland America ship to transit Panama Canal but not stop

PANAMA CITY (AP) — The Holland America Line cruise ship Zaandam will be allowed to transit through the Panama Canal but no passengers will be allowed to disembark there, the canal 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, and the Zaandam would head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida after passing through the canal, and could arrive there on March 30.

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.