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Holland America Line Cancels Asia Westerdam Sailings

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Holland America Line announced Thursday it had canceled four Asia sailings for the MS Westerdam between March and May due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The canceled cruises include a 14-day South Korea and Japan sailing (March 14–28), a 14-day Japan Explorer itinerary (March 28–April 11), a 14-day Japan and Russia cruise (April 11–25) and a 16-day North Pacific Crossing (April 25–May 10).

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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

Officials from Holland America said details and possible itinerary changes for Westerdam’s deployment through early May would be provided in the coming days. All guests impacted by the cancellations will receive a full refund of the cruise fare paid.

In addition, each passenger scheduled to sail on one of the canceled voyages will receive a future cruise credit of 25-50 percent of the fare paid depending on the departure date and reimbursement of any travel cancellation fees.

A spokesperson for Holland America said the cruise line continues to monitor the situation in Asia regarding the viral outbreak, but has decided to cancel the sailings due to the company not being confident it could “deliver a cruise experience that meets their expectations.”

As for the passengers who were quarantined on Westerdam, they were recently allowed to disembark, but the flight home didn’t go as planned. According to ABCNews.com, the charter flight evacuating 268 travelers was forced to land in Pakistan after being turned away from its scheduled landing in Turkey.

The Turkish government reportedly barred the aircraft from landing in the country due to concerns about potential coronavirus infections, despite the Cambodian Ministry of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clearing the passengers.

An 83-year old American woman who sailed on the Westerdam was confirmed to have the virus, sparking concerns that others on board the ship may have encountered the coronavirus. All 781 Westerdam passengers remaining in Cambodia had tested negative for the infection and have been permitted to leave.

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Cruises

Holland America Ship Given OK to Cross Panama Canal

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A Holland America Line cruise ship carrying four dead passengers and dozens of others who are sick – including two who tested positive for the coronavirus – has been given permission to pass through the Panama Canal and return to Fort Lauderdale.

The Zaandam had initially been denied entry into Chile on its South American itinerary and then denied the chance to pass through the Canal to get back to its home port in Florida, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

The media outlet said the boat is currently anchored outside Panama Canal waters, where healthy passengers are being transferred to Holland America’s Rotterdam.

The Panama Canal Authority said in a statement it “supports all efforts being made to ensure an expedited return home for cruise passengers and crew on Holland America’s Zaandam.”

Holland America Line released a statement saying “We are aware of reported permission for both Zaandam and Rotterdam to transit the Panama Canal in the near future. We greatly appreciate this consideration in the humanitarian interest of our guests and crew. This remains a dynamic situation, and we continue to work with the Panamanian authorities to finalize details.”

No timetable was given for when the ships would return to Fort Lauderdale, nor did Holland America offer any information regarding whether the number of sick passengers had grown past the previous update of 138. It normally takes 72 hours to travel from the west side of the canal to the east and then back to Fort Lauderdale.

One American citizen is believed to be among the four deceased passengers. The passengers were ordered to self-isolate in their staterooms since March 22.

Whether the Zaandam will be allowed to dock in Fort Lauderdale for the same humanitarian reasons that officials allowed the ship to pass through the Panama Canal remains to be seen. The Sun-Sentinel noted that several Broward County commissioners were alarmed at the idea of the Zaandam docking at Port Everglades.

Commissioner Michael Udine told the paper Sunday morning that Port Everglades notified county commissioners late Saturday with its mandates for the passengers, including the following:

All illnesses and conditions must be accurately disclosed and documented; the cruise line, at its expense, will provide all protective equipment to all responders; temperature readings are required for all disembarking crew and passengers; and the cruise line, at its expense, will arrange for private ambulance transportation, among other issues.

And, “no less than 24 hours in advance of the start of debarkation, the cruise line will present a security plan for review and approval… how passengers will debark orderly, safely and in compliance with current health advisories (i.e. social distancing). Failure to maintain good order may result in an immediate suspension of the debarkation until the situation is under control,” according to the guidelines.

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