SIHANOUKVILLE: Passengers on a cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over coronavirus fears started disembarking in Cambodia on Friday (Feb 14).
The MS Westerdam, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, docked in the Cambodian port town of Sihanoukville on Thursday. It had anchored offshore early in the morning to allow Cambodian officials to board and collect samples from passengers with any signs of ill health or flu-like symptoms.
After tests, no one on board was found to be carrying the virus, Cambodia's health ministry said.
Cambodian authorities granted permission for passengers to disembark on Friday morning, the ship's operator, Holland America Line, a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp, said in an emailed statement, ending two weeks of uncertainty for the cruise.
Charter flights were being organised to help passengers return home, the statement said.
"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 statement said.
The sound of cheering inside the ship could be heard from Sihanoukville port when the Westerdam finally docked on Thursday evening.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen personally greeted the passengers with handshakes and bouquets of roses as they stepped off the ship and boarded a waiting bus.
"My wife and I gave him some chocolates as a show of our appreciation," Lou Poandel, a tourist from New Jersey, told Reuters after he disembarked and met the Cambodian leader.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Cambodia for its examplRead More – Source