MS Westerdam passengers, all cleared, alight in Cambodia

PHOTO: Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomes disembarking passengers with handshakes and roses - Reuters

Passengers of the MS Westerdam, the cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries including Thailand, over fears that someone aboard might have the COVID-19 coronavirus, finally disembarked today. The ship, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, docked in the Cambodian port town of Sihanoukville yesterday. It anchored offshore in the morning to allow Cambodian officials to board and collect samples from passengers with any signs of ill health. Cambodia’s health ministry announced that after tests, no one on board was found to be carrying the virus.

In a statement, the ship’s operator, Holland America Line, a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp, said Cambodian authorities granted permission for passengers to disembark this morning, ending two weeks of uncertainty for the cruise. Charter flights are being organised to help passengers return home.

“Flight details are being communicated to guests as they are finalised, and it is expected that a full disembarkation will take a few days given the charter flight schedule.”

The sound of cheering inside the ship could be heard from Sihanoukville port when the Westerdam docked on Thursday evening. Cambodia’s PM Hun Sen personally greeted passengers with handshakes and bouquets of roses today as they stepped off the ship onto a waiting bus.

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organisation, praised Cambodia as an example of the “international solidarity” that the WHO has been calling for.

One passenger, a 76 year old American tourist, said he was very happy with how he had been treated on board during the ordeal.

“They kept us in good spirits. I didn’t stress. Very relaxing. We took tai chi.”


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