The cruise ship, MS Westerdam, has docked in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and passengers will be allowed to start disembarking on Friday, as they will then travel to Phnom Penh for flights home.
The cruise liner, owned by Holland America, had a total of 2,257 passengers and crew, with Weyburn couple Tom and Marilyn Schuck among the passengers. In a message received late Thursday, Tom said they were on a bus to Phnom Penh for their flight, and are due to arrive at the Regina airport on Saturday evening, and will be in Weyburn on Sunday.
The ship has been sailing around the southeast Asian region for several days now because five ports refused to allow the ship to dock in port out of fear of the coronavirus, or Covid-19 as it is now called.
In a statement released by Holland America on Thursday, they said, “The Cambodian Health Ministry has announced that the 20 samples taken on board Westerdam have all been confirmed as negative for coronavirus by the Pasteur Laboratory in Phnom Penh. As stated in previous communications, there were never any suspected cases of coronavirus on board.
We sincerely thank all those in Cambodia who have demonstrated a willingness to welcome us with an open mind and make decisions based on facts.”
The company also acknowledged the work of a number of leaders who had a part in helping get the cruise ship safely to a port, and the passengers able to get on shore to find their flights home.
“We also extend our deepest gratitude to President Trump, Cambodia’s Honorable Prime Minister Hun Sen, Canadian Foreign Minister Champagne, elected officials across the country and governments around the world for providing support and being effective allies in bringing our guests home,” said Stein Kruse, Group CEO, Holland America Group and Carnival UK. “We are pleased with the successful resolution of this challenging journey that was complicated by unfounded fears stemming from erroneous information with respect to the medical condition of Westerdam’s guests and crew. This has all been a terrible and unfortunate misunderstanding that has impacted 2,257 people on board and hundreds of others shoreside who have worked 24/7 to get our guests home.”
According to the company, “Cambodian authorities granted clearance to Westerdam to begin disembarkation of guests the morning of Feb. 14, in Sihanoukville. Flight details are being communicated to guests as they are finalized, and it is expected that a full disembarkation will take a few days given the charter flight schedule. During this time, guests will remain comfortably on board with full service in operation.”
The cruise liner has provided a full refund to all of the passengers for their cruises, and are paying for their flights home plus credit towards a future cruise.
The company added they thanked the passengers “for the many compliments we have received for our crew and the acknowledgements that this situation was out of our control.”
The couple outlined their journey, including how they ended up sailing in circles while the ship’s crew tried to find a port they could dock in.
“Our tour started in Singapore, and we went to Bangkok, Cambodia, Vietnam and then Hong Kong over 15 days. Some people disembarked (at Hong Kong), and we took on about 500-800 new passengers, mostly from North America.
“When we left Hong Kong, we were to go to Manila, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and end in Shanghai. After we left Hong Kong, the Philippines denied entry, so we went right to Taiwan and stayed one night when the Taiwan government told us to push on, so after a day or two of sailing towards Japan, the Japanese government told us they decided not to let us land either, so Holland America canceled the cruising, and started to look for a place to disembark and floated around in circles for a while,” said Tom.