BANGKOK, THAILAND - The operators of a cruise ship that was barred from docking by four governments announced Wednesday it will finally land and disembark passengers in Cambodia.
Thailand had said Tuesday that it would not allow the MS Westerdam to dock at a Thai port after it had already been turned away by the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan. The ship has been unwelcome because of fears that those aboard could spread COVID-19, a new viral disease that originated in China.
Holland America Line said no cases of the disease have been confirmed among the more than 2,200 passengers and crew on board.
Fear about the spread of the disease has heightened since Japan's health ministry confirmed at least 174 cases of the disease aboard another cruise ship that is quarantined in Yokohama, Japan.
A statement on Holland American Line's website said the Westerdam is sailing to Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and would arrive Thursday morning. It said the cruise will end there and passengers will disembark over several days and transfer via charter flights to Phnom Penh to catch flights home.
"All approvals have been received and we are extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for their support,'' it said.
The Westerdam began its cruise in Singapore last month and its last stop before it was refused further landings was in Hong Kong, where 50 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed.
A passenger on the ship who has been posting messages and photos on Twitter, Christina Kerby, expressed relief at the news about Cambodia.
"Homeward bound! The (hash)Westerdam is headed for Cambodia," she tweeted. "Were told by the captain that it may take a few days to get everyone on chartered flights to Phnom Penh and then home. Elated at the prospect of touching land tomorrow. Until then, I'll work on my towel animals.''
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, a strong supporter of China, has played down any threat from the new virus and threatened to kick out reporters or officials seen wearing face masks.
He declined to ban direct flights between Cambodia and China, saying that would disturb bilateral relations and hurt his country's economy.
There had been much uncertainty about the Westerdam's destination. Holland America Line had announced on Monday that the ship would dock in eastern Thailand, but on Tuesday the Thai government barred it, while saying it was seeking a way to provide assistance such as fuel and food.
Stephen Hansen, another passenger on the ship, said it was being escorted by a Thai navy vessel.
Source: Voice of America