Cruise ship shut out of five ports over coronavirus fears finally docks in Cambodia

Cathy Adams
Holland America Line's Westerdam ship finally docks in Cambodia after two weeks at sea: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

A cruise ship that has been denied docking at five countries around Asia due to coronavirus fears has finally been allowed to disembark in Cambodia.

Holland America Line’s Westerdam ship left Hong Kong on 1 February on a 14-day cruise around Taiwan and Japan with 1,455 passengers and 802 crew onboard.

However, due to travel restrictions implemented by governments to try to halt the spread of the deadly virus that has killed over 1,300 people and sickened thousands more, the cruise ship was forced to cancel her planned stops as she found herself shut out of ports across Asia.

Alongside planned stops in Taiwan and Japan, the Westerdam was also shut out of the Philippines and Guam over fears that there were cases of coronavirus, officially Covid-19, onboard.

The liner was then planning to finish her journey in Laem Chabang, near Bangkok, Thailand – although this plan was scuppered when the country’s health minister Anutin Charnvirakul posted a short message on Facebook indicating that the ship would be denied docking.

The Westerdam has now docked at Sihanoukville on the southern Cambodian coast after receiving authorisation from the country's authorities. She will remain there for several days for passengers to disembark, and they will fly home from Phnom Penh.

In an update to passengers, Holland America Line said it was “extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for their support”.

It added: “All guests onboard are healthy and despite erroneous reports there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have there ever been.”

Stephen Hansen, a passenger onboard the Westerdam, told The Independent that the experience of sailing around Asia for two weeks had been “frustrating and worrisome”.

However, he said that he and fellow passengers had been “treated very well even though we couldn’t get off the ship”, and that the liner's supplies hadn’t yet run out.

“Nobody can complain about being on a luxury cruise ship. There are millions of people in the world who would have loved to be in our situation,” he added.

The Dutch cruise company said it would arrange and pay for all flights home, as well as giving a full refund for the Westerdam cruise and future cruise credit.

Meanwhile, thousands of passengers are still quarantined onboard the Diamond Princess ship, which is currently off the coast of Yokohama, Japan. More than 130 people onboard have tested positive for coronavirus so far.

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