February 13 ------ After being turned away by the governments of the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and the U.S. territory of Guam, the cruise ship Westerdam has finally found a harbor to offload her passengers - in Cambodia. Cambodian authorities have authorized the Westerdam to dock at Sihanoukville on Thursday morning. The ship reports that no passengers have tested positive with coronavirus. "All guests on board are healthy, and despite erroneous reports there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have their ever been," operator Holland America said in a statement. The vessel's 1,455 guests will be allowed to disembark and to board charter flights onwards to their final destinations. All will receive a 100 percent refund of their fare plus a future cruise credit of equal value.
There are U.S. citizens among the Westerdam's passenger complement, and U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy said in a statement that the U.S. government greatly appreciates Cambodia's assistance. "I have dispatched an embassy team to Sihanoukville to work with Westerdam and Cambodian authorities in assisting U.S. citizens with disembarking and transferring to onward destinations. We have also coordinated with foreign embassies of other nationalities," Murphy said.
Westerdam called in Hong Kong on February 1 and took on several hundred passengers for a 14-day cruise to Yokohama. After about 24 hours under way, the master announced that the vessel would not be calling in the Philippines, passenger David Holst told ABC Australia. Philippine authorities have implemented a ban on passenger arrivals from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China, making the Westerdam's passengers ineligible to disembark. The Westerdam was later denied entry to Japan, Guam, Taiwan and Thailand due to similar national policies. Unlike many of its neighbors, Cambodia has not implemented travel restrictions on foreign nationals who have recently traveled in China, and its willingness to accept Westerdam is consistent with its broader public health policy.