TORONTO -- Four people have died on a cruise ship stranded off the coast of Panama.

There are around 1,800 people onboard the MS Zaandam, including passengers and crew. So far, 53 guests and 85 crew members have reported to the cruise ship’s medical centre with respiratory symptoms according to a press release from Holland America, the company behind the cruise ship.

One crew member and 247 passengers are Canadian, Global Affairs told

Two individuals have tested positive for COVID-19, the company said. It also confirmed that “four older guests” had died, but the circumstances of their deaths are unclear.

The cruise had departed on March 7 from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was originally set to end at San Antonio, Chile, on March 21. But as COVID-19 spread across the world, numerous cruise lines chose to suspend their global cruise operations, including Holland America, and end existing cruises as soon as possible. 

The cruise line had revealed earlier on Monday that 13 guests and 29 crew members had reported having “influenza-like” symptoms. They said in a Monday press release that ill passengers had been quarantined.

The MS Zaandam cruise ship announced Friday that it will be transferring groups of healthy passengers to another ship.

Zaandam’s sister ship, Rotterdam, arrived in the area on Thursday. Health screenings will be conducted before anyone is moved, according to the release.

Guests who are over 70 and those who have inside staterooms will be given priority, if they are healthy.

The company said they were working wth Panamanian authorities to gain permission to transit the Panama Canal in order to get passengers back to Florida.

According to Holland America, no one has been off of the Zaandam ship since March 14, in Punta Arenas, Chile.

A Toronto woman onboard the cruise told CP24 on Tuesday that she never expected the situation to escalate the way it has.

“Even though we weren’t allowed to dock and get off the boat the last couple of stops, people were generally feeling that it was fine. We did not expect someone was going to get sick because we had already been on the boat since March 7,” Anne Arthur said.

With files from CP24’s Codi Wilson