A local couple’s 47th wedding anniversary turned deadly due to COVID-19

VICTORIA, Texas—What started off as a wedding celebration on the MS Zaandam cruise ship quickly turned into a nightmare for a Victoria Couple.

Elberta Swan, 71 — who goes by the name Penny — and her 83-year old husband Hugo are Victoria residents who find themselves among those stuck on a cruise ship where four people have already died from COVID-19. They boarded the Zaandam cruise liner on Saturday, March 7th to travel to South America.

“All South American ports were closed and things worsened. Passengers became ill displaying flu-like symptoms,” Penny said in an email. “Then an announcement on March 22nd that for our own good we would be confined to our cabins and not allowed outside. On March 27th, we were told four people had died”.

Penny went on to say the crew brings passengers food 3 times a day and leaves it at their door but they have to wash their clothes in the sink.

“Currently, 73 guests and 116 crew members on Zaandam have reported influenza-like illness symptoms,” said Holland America’s communications department after a request for comment. Holland America owns the MS Zaandam cruise ship.

Holland America sent another statement dated March 27th stating: “Yesterday, a number of patients with respiratory symptoms were tested for COVID-19, and two individuals tested positive.

The cruise line also provided a statement about the precautionary measures that the ship is taking but they didn’t comment as to when the Swan family and other passengers will be able to return home.

(Three statements from Holland America are down below.)

Zaandam Guest Statement, #2, 3 24 20

Zaandam Guest Statement, #3, 3 27 20



Holland America Line Statement Zaandam/Rotterdam, #5

Seattle, Wash., March 29, 2020 (9:15 p.m. PDT) — Holland America Line can confirm that it was granted approval by the Panama Canal Authority to transit Zaandam and Rotterdam through the Panama Canal. We greatly appreciate this humanitarian consideration and the compassion shown for our guests and crew by the government of Panama and the Panama Maritime Authority.  We are also thankful for the support of the various embassies that are partnering with us to help get their citizens home as quickly as possible.

We are still finalizing the details for where and when our guests will disembark, and are asking for the same compassion and humanity to be extended for our arrival. The Zaandam cruise was originally scheduled to end in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on April 7.

The transfer of guests between Zaandam and Rotterdam was completed earlier today, March 29, before transiting the Panama Canal. The primary purpose of the transfer was to balance the workload between the two ships and to provide immediate relief to the service staff on Zaandam, which has fewer crewmembers working at this time.

The two ships will remain together for the rest of the journey. Guests on both ships will remain in their staterooms until disembarkation, and all necessary precautionary measures are being taken on both ships that have been developed in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guests have not been ashore since March 14 in Punta Arenas, Chile, and have been self-isolating in their staterooms since March 22.

Guests who moved to Rotterdam completed a health screening prior to transferring via sanitized tender, with all other necessary precautions in place, including wearing masks, social distancing and direct transfer to their new staterooms. No guests who had any respiratory symptoms in the last ten days were transferred, and no Zaandam crew were transferred to Rotterdam.

Currently, 73 guests and 116 crew members on Zaandam have reported influenza-like illness symptoms.

There are 797 guests and 645 crew on Rotterdam. On Zaandam there are 446 guests and 602 crew.

Complimentary telephone counseling services have been made available to guests and crew if they would like extra support during this time. For those with family members on board, they can call the Zaandam Care Center at the following numbers for information: 1-877-425-2231 or 1-206-626-7398.

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. At the time, Zaandam was sailing a South America cruise that began in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 that was originally scheduled to end at San Antonio, Chile, on March 21. On March 21, Zaandam was originally scheduled to begin a 20-day South America and Panama Canal cruise from San Antonio, Chile, to Fort Lauderdale.


If you would like more information about the five new cases of COVID-19 in Victoria County on April 1st, click here.