Coronavirus: Cruise ship turned away by Asian ports finally docks

Graig Graziosi
TOPSHOT - The Westerdam cruise ship is seen past Cambodian policemen as it approaches port in Sihanoukville, Cambodia's southern coast on February 13, 2020, where the liner had received permission to dock after been refused entry at other Asian ports due to fears of the COVID-19 coronavirus. - Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand all refused to allow the ship to dock, despite operator Holland America insisting there were no cases of the deadly disease -- which has killed over 1,100 -- on board. (Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP) (Photo by TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP via Getty Images): Getty Images

A US cruise ship has docked in Cambodia after being turned away by several Asian ports due to concerns that its passengers may be carriers of coronavirus.

The Westerdam left Hong Kong on 1 February for a 14-day cruise around east Asia. Some passengers had been on the ship since 21 January. It was scheduled to disembark on Saturday in Yokohama, but was turned away by Japanese authorities over coronavirus-related concerns.

From there, the ship tried to dock in Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand, but was turned away at each port.

Holland America, which operates the ship, insists that there are no cases of coronavirus - which has killed more than 1,300 people in China - present in any of its roughly 2,200 passengers.

The ship docked in Cambodia on Wednesday in Sihanoukville.

Passengers stuck on board the ship were excited to return to dry ground.

“Thank you Cambodia! You believed in us when no one would!” Lydia Miller tweeted. “We promise to spend lots of money in your country.”

Ms Miller wasn’t the only one tweeting from the ship. Several passengers documented their time on board, including Christina Kerby, whose tweets attracted attention back on shore.

Ms Kerby painted a picture onboard the ship that stood in contrast to the dire reports of quarantine and desperation coming from other individuals.

She told the Washington Post she wanted to offer her experiences as a counter-balance to the negative portrayals she saw elsewhere.

“I feel like it was really important to dispel some of the fears and misconceptions about what was going on in the ships,” Ms Kerby said. “I was reading a lot of really scary and negative media reports, and I thought, this is not giving an accurate picture of what’s going on, so I wanted to bring some truths and some positivity to the mix.”

Ms Kerby said that the entertainment didn’t stop despite the unexpected continuation of their journey. The ship continued to offer music, stage shows and cruise-quality food options.

She praised the staff, who were working long, unexpected hours and forfeit their own plans to keep guests happy throughout the ordeal.

“They’ve somehow turned four sea days into, I don’t know, 10 or 12 sea days,” she said.

Ms Kerby tweeted photos and videos of life aboard the ship, sharing images of sunset walks along the ship’s decks, of passengers dancing around a piano bar, of pool-side yoga classes and of her efforts to learn how to fold towels into origami-like creatures.

“Homeward bound! This gives me 3 days to master the art of towel folding before I disembark. Thank you @HALcruises for taking such good care of us on this epic adventure,” she tweeted.

While Ms Kerby and the passengers of the Westerdam are safely docked in Cambodia, a less cheerful situation continues onboard another cruise sabotaged by the coronavirus; the Diamond Princess.

The Diamond Princess has been quarantined since 3 February. Its quarantine will continue until 19 February.

As of Wednesday, there were 218 infected passengers on board. The ship - carrying 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew - is currently docked in Yokohama, and passengers have had the option of disembarking and continuing their quarantine on-land or staying onboard the ship and riding out the rest of the isolation period there.

“Princess Cruises has been informed that over the next several days, Japanese health officials are planning a voluntary disembarkation of guests to complete their quarantine period at a shoreside facility. From the information available it is our understanding that this will be a phased approach, with the most medically vulnerable guests in the first phase, including older adults with pre-existing health conditions,” a statement released by the cruise company read.

Similar to the Westerdam, the Diamond Princess also has its own Twitter documentarians. Matthew Smith, an American quarantined on the ship, has been tweeting images of his meals and updates from the ship since 6 February.

“For those in the Twitter-verse who continue to believe passengers on the ship are not safe: You have no basis for concluding that the virus had spread since the quarantine was imposed. None. Zero. Zip. Nada,” Mr Smith wrote.

Despite the conditions, it seems Mr Smith’s biggest complaint is not getting enough coffee.