After 13 days at sea and refusal by 5 ports, passengers aboard the Westerdam cruise ship are slated to disembark in Cambodia

A Holland America Line ship.

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A Holland America Line ship.
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Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock
  • Passengers aboard the Westerdam luxury liner received good news on Wednesday: They will be able to disembark in Cambodia.
  • Panic about the coronavirus prompted five ports to turn away the luxury liner even though no one aboard the Westerdam tested positive for the illness.
  • Starting Thursday morning, the Westerdam will spend a few days at the port in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Guests will be able to go ashore and take charter flights to the capital city of Phnom Penh, where they can fly home from.
  • People “are elated that we have a destination” and appreciate that Holland America Line, the ship’s operator, is arranging and paying for everyone’s travel, passenger Christina Kerby told Insider.
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The Westerdam on Wednesday set sail for Cambodia, where its passengers will be able to disembark after panic about the coronavirus prompted five ports to turn away the luxury line.

The cruise began in Hong Kong on February 1 and will end on Thursday morning in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, the ship’s operator, Holland America Line, said in a statement to Insider.

“All approvals have been received and we are extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for their support,” the statement said.

The Westerdam will spend a few days at port, and guests will be able to go ashore and take charter flights to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, where they can fly home from. Holland America Line, which is owned by Carnival Corp., will pay for the travel of its 2,257 passengers. Guests have been refunded the cruise’s costs and offered credit toward a future cruise as well, the statement said.

“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,” Holland America Line wrote, thanking the guests, crew, and loved ones for being patient “during this extraordinary time.”

The coronavirus has infected more than 44,600 people and killed 1,113 around the world, according to Beijing’s National Health Commission. Its increasing reach led Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, and the US territory of Guam to deny the Westerdam permission to port. Thailand joined that list on Tuesday.

‘Dancing and celebrating’

Passengers were worried about being trapped, with family members launching social-media campaigns and reaching out to local politicians to help with rescue efforts. Even the World Health Organization issued a call to governments to respect the “dignity and human rights of travelers.”

But passenger Christina Kerby kept her chin up by sampling desserts available on the ship, joining a cycling club, and trying to perfect the art of folding a bath towel into decorative shapes. After news emerged that they would be able to go home, Kerby made a beeline for the piano bar.

Passengers “are elated that we have a destination and grateful to Holland America Line for arranging our travel home,” Kerby told Insider, adding that their last night aboard the Westerdam will be marked with “dancing and celebrating.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, shared the latest development at a media briefing on Wednesday, saying, “Today Cambodia agreed to accept the Westerdam cruise ship, which has been stranded at sea for several days. Based on what we have been told, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 on board the Westerdam.”

The Westerdam’s February 15 cruise has been canceled, Holland America Line said. Additional precautionary measures, including preboarding medical screenings and delaying crew members from China from coming to work on any ships, are being enforced. People who have traveled from or through mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau in the 14 days prior to their cruise start date will be denied entry, as will anyone who has come in contact with a person who has contracted coronavirus or been quarantined for it.