PHNOM PENH (Bloomberg): The 2,257 passengers and crew aboard a luxury cruise liner that was barred by many ports over coronavirus fears will finally set foot on dry land, ending an ordeal that’s gone on for almost two weeks.
The outcast Westerdam arrived in Cambodia’s Sihanoukville early Thursday (Feb 13), and local officials have boarded the vessel, operator Holland America Line said in a statement. Some passengers have already been issued tickets home by the operator, according to Christina Kerby, one of the guests on the ship.
"The mood is good, ” Kerby said of her fellow travellers. "We are all ready to go home.”
The passengers on board the liner, which is part of Miami-based Carnival Cor., celebrated Wednesday night after hearing their saga in limbo at sea would soon be over, Kerby said.
The liner will remain in Sihanoukville port for several days and passengers will be allowed to go ashore, the operator said in a statement earlier.
A spokesman for Cambodia’s government couldn’t immediately be reached for comments. Prime Minister Hun Sen said the virus is a global challenge and his nation’s humanitarian efforts have no borders, according to a local report by Fresh News.
The Kingdom of Cambodia doesn’t just cooperate with China, but with all countries, he told the outlet.
Thailand was the latest country to turn the Westerdam away even after the operator said it had no reason to believe there were any cases of the deadly virus on board.
Passengers were earlier told by the captain that the ship would drop anchor in the Cambodian port, Kerby said. Her mother, also a passenger, got a ticket to fly out of Phnom Penh -- Cambodia’s capital -- Friday evening, she said.
Kerby said passengers were also told they would undergo a health check and it could take several days to get all of them on homebound flights arranged by the cruise operator.
The Westerdam’s next scheduled voyage, from Yokohama on Feb 15, is cancelled, and the cruise line said it’s "assessing the impact of current port restrictions in Asia on cruises departing Feb 29 or later.”
Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Guam were the other countries or territories that rejected the Westerdam on concerns over the virus, which has killed more than 1,300 people since the outbreak late last year.
Although Thailand refused entry, it had promised medical help for any sick persons aboard.
Holland America Line said all the guests are healthy, but Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul questioned Wednesday whether that could be known with certainty, while adding he was ready to consider providing medical aid, food and water if asked.
The Westerdam departed Hong Kong on Feb 1 on a 14-day Taiwan and Japan cruise. The 1,455 guests and 802 crew members were originally scheduled to disembark at Yokohama on Feb 15. The ship had sufficient fuel and food provisions to last until the end of the voyage, according to a Holland America Line blog post.
Meanwhile, a controversy was brewing over another cruise liner that was allowed to dock in Phuket, Thailand.
Many Thais expressed anger on Twitter after local authorities permitted Seabourn Ovation to berth at the tourist-hub island. The cruise is scheduled to leave Phuket late Thursday after its passengers are done visiting the island, a local official said. The cruise’s passengers, all from Europe, were required to take temperature readings upon disembarkation, she said. - Bloomberg