A cruise ship that might have been fated to sail the oceans of the world without finding a welcome on land was rescued by Cambodia.
The MS Westerdam, carrying more than 1,450 passengers, spent the last week in an attempt of looking for a port that would permit it to dock, after concerns rose over a possible outbreak of coronavirus.
The ship’s owner, Holland America Line, has maintained that there have not been any known cases of the illness on-board and that the ship was not in quarantine.
However, this was not enough to persuade the authorities as the virus spread throughout the region and the ship, which set sail from Hong Kong on February 1, bound for a two-week itinerary around Japan and Taiwan, was prohibited from entering the ports.
It was supposed to stop in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, before two stops in Taiwan, several in Japan and one in South Korea.
First, Japan said that the MS Westerdam would not be able to dock at any of its scheduled stops around the country, and when it requested for shelter in a different location it was rejected by the governments of Taiwan, Guam, Bangkok and the Philippines. At one point, Holland America said the ship was “in a holding pattern off the coast of Japan” while it looked for “a new port of disembarkation”.
The cruise line thought it had found harbour in Bangkok this week until the Thai Public Health Minister said that the cruise passengers will not be allowed to disembark.
According to Holland America on Wednesday, the ship was now bound for Sihanoukville in Cambodia, where the cruise will end and guests, who will be able to go ashore, will fly home via Phnom Penh after a wait of a few days. The cruise line said it will arrange and pay for all flights, issue full refunds and provide 100% future cruise credit.
Holland America stated, “All guests on board are healthy and despite erroneous reports there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have there ever been, we sincerely thank our guests and the crew on Westerdam — and their loved ones — for their patience during this extraordinary time.”
It said the future voyage plans of the Westerdam are now being assessed.
Information about the situation on the ship was revealed by a passenger, a woman by the name of Christina Kerby, who has been tweeting while on-board.
She said on February 9th “We’re being treated very well, so grateful for the upbeat crew, great entertainers and the captain keeping us well informed. Everyone on board is healthy and well cared for. We’re in this together.”
She also stated about the fitness classes continuing, entertainment, facilities and the on-board menu.
Since the ship was headed for Cambodia, she said she was “elated at the prospect of touching land”.
On the other hand, the story the of Diamond Princess, another cruise ship in the region, is far less cheering.
The vessel, carrying 2,666 guests on a two-week cruise of China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan, has been in quarantine since February 4; its number of cases of coronavirus now stands at 174, with 39 added last Wednesday.
It has been in quarantine since arriving off the Japanese coast early last week after the virus was detected in a former passenger who got off the ship last month in Hong Kong.
When the boat arrived in Japan, authorities initially tested nearly 300 people of the 3,711 aboard for the virus, gradually evacuating dozens who were infected to local medical facilities.
In recent days, testing has expanded to those with new symptoms or who had close contact with other infected passengers or crew.
Those who remain on the ship have been asked to stay inside their cabins and are allowed only briefly onto open decks.
They have been asked to wear masks and keep a distance from each other when outside, and given thermometers to regularly monitor their temperatures.