A cruise ship has been barred by several countries amid fears of the global coronavirus outbreak. The cruise line, however, has adamantly denied there are any confirmed cases of the virus on the ship.
It is now heading for Cambodia, where its more than 2,000 passengers and crew will be able to disembark and travel home, Holland America Line announced Wednesday.
The cruise ship was previously turned away from Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Thailand, The Associated Press reported.
Westerdam, the ship, departed Hong Kong on February 1 for a 14-day cruise. Passengers were originally scheduled to disembark in Japan on February 15, according to the company’s website. It was turned away from the country about halfway through its journey, according to daily updates posted on the company’s Facebook page and blog.
“Holland America Line has been notified that the Japanese Government will not permit Westerdam to call in Japanese ports,” reads a February 6 update. “… The ship is not in quarantine and there are no known cases of coronavirus on board.”
Holland America said Wednesday that Westerdam will now end its voyage in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, on Thursday.
The coronavirus, officially named COVID-19, has killed more than 1,100 people and sickened about 45,500. All but two of the deaths have occurred in mainland China, where the outbreak started. Of the only two clusters of the virus outside of China, a significant one has broken out on a cruise docked in Japan. At least 175 people from that ship have been diagnosed with the disease, and hundreds more are being tested.
Japan’s refusal to allow Holland America Line’s Westerdam to dock put the ship in a “holding pattern” off the country’s southeast coast, according to a Facebook post by the cruise line on February 7. Later that day, the company said it was sailing toward Taiwan “to best position the ship to access potential port locations where we can disembark our guests.” The company cautioned, however, that the situation was “very dynamic” as they adapted to “evolving and changing restrictions in the region.”
By the next day, Holland America said it “received conditional preliminary clearance” to disembark at “two different ports,” but did not share where those ports were located. Once again, the company said it had no reason to believe there were any cases of coronavirus onboard.
“We have also received a letter from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment affirming that they have full confidence in all our medical reporting and the quality of our medical staff and services on Westerdam,” the cruise line posted. “This assessment was done in concert with the Ministry of Health of the Netherlands and was another important substantiation for our disembarkation clearance.”
Two days later, on February 10, Holland America announced that Westerdam was sailing toward Bangkok, Thailand, where it would disembark on Thursday, February 13. That plan appeared to fall through fast, as the cruise line responded to reports of Thailand’s refusal the next day.
“We are aware of the reports regarding the status of Westerdam’s call to Laem Chabang (Bangkok), Thailand,” says a company Facebook post on Tuesday, February 11. “We are actively working this matter and will provide an update when we are able. We know this is confusing for our guests and their families, and we greatly appreciate their patience.”
On Wednesday, the company said the cruise will end in Cambodia and that it is “extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for their support.”
“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,” it posted on Facebook.