279 Canadians aboard cruise ship now in Cambodia after entry refused elsewhere
TORONTO -- Global Affairs confirms there are 279 Canadians aboard the cruise ship that is now docked in Cambodia after it was refused entry to at least five other ports due to novel coronavirus fears.
The MS Westerdam docked at the port of Sihanoukville in southwestern Cambodia early Thursday morning after being stranded at sea for nearly two weeks. The cruise ship made headlines this week after it was barred from entering Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Guam and the Philippines due to concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak.
Holland America Line, the ship’s operator, says there have been no confirmed cases of the viral illness among its 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members.
In an email, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne spoke with his Cambodia counterpart, Prak Sokhonn, to thank him for allowing the ship to dock.
The government agency said consular officials have been sent to the town of Sihanoukville to assist Canadians in their return home.
Earlier, Cambodian health officials said some 20 passengers had reported stomachaches or fever, but the ship’s health staff considered them to be “normal illnesses.” Samples from those passengers have been transported by a military helicopter to be tested for the novel coronavirus.
Pierre Boucher, one of the passengers on the ship, said passengers were told to fill out medical information forms in order to obtain visas, for which Holland America Line paid. The Ottawa man said they were on “virtual anchorage” for 10 hours before the ship was allowed to dock at the port.
“Morale is high as it appears that the end of our cruise to nowhere in the South China Sea is near,” he told CTV News Ottawa on Thursday.
Stephen Hansen, another Canadian passenger, told CTV News on Thursday morning that they’re still waiting for clearance from Cambodian officials to disembark.
On its website, Holland America Line said they will arrange and pay for all flights home, in addition to a full cruise refund, and a future cruise credit.
Despite their cancelled trip, Boucher said he and his wife remain in good spirits.
“Holland America is doing marvelously well by all of us,” he said. “We are well-fed, well-entertained, we have received all the support we can expect and even more.”
With files from The Associated Press