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Canadians on cruise ship denied dockings despite no known coronavirus patients
TORONTO -- While nearly 300 Canadian passengers on two quarantined cruise ships wait for the next stage of a vacation that is far from what they expected, Canadians on other ocean liners are facing coronavirus-related consequences of their own.
David Finch and his wife Darlene are waiting nervously to see if their ship will dock in Thailand after being denied entry at three Asian ports over coronavirus fears.
The Halifax residents are on a two-week cruise onboard the Seabourn Ovation. The ship’s journey started in Singapore and called at Hong Kong, with another 45 Canadians onboard.
Meanwhile, nearly 250 Canadian passengers are on a quarantined ship called Diamond Princess, docked near Yokohama, Japan. Twenty people have tested positive for the disease, including seven Canadians.
Passengers on a third ship, World Dream, are being screened in Hong Kong after eight people onboard tested positive for coronavirus. There are around 36 Canadians on World Dream, CTV News has learned.
Finch said some passengers have tried to leave the Seabourn Ovation early and return home.
“Many passengers wanted to amend or cancel the cruise out of Hong Kong due to the virus and are now stuck at sea as countries close their ports to ships from Hong Kong,” Finch explained in an email to CTVNews.ca.
“Passengers who joined the ship in Hong Kong tell of stories of the city being in shutdown mode with attempts to minimize gatherings of large groups of people and tourist hot spots. For every person onboard at the moment there are equal number of rumours, innuendo and conspiracy theories as people hear of other ships being quarantined.”
Seabourn Ovation left Hong Kong on Feb. 1 and has since been denied entry at two ports in the Philippines and one in Vietnam.
If they can dock in Thailand, all passengers will be screened for coronavirus, Finch said. He suspects some will head straight home rather than finish their trips.
Cruise managers have told passengers that no one onboard has presented with coronavirus symptoms yet and that passengers are being proactive by staying in their cabins if they feel sick.
“Almost all of the communications from the cruise company has references to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and WHO (World Health Organization) guidance when making deliberations affecting the cruise,” Finch said.
"We've met a number of people who got on in Hong Kong who really did not want to be here. They wanted to either cancel their cruise or delay the cruise, but because the WHO and CDC had not put Hong Kong under the same medical categorization as mainland China, the 'epidemic' aspects weren't covered by the insurance. So if people did not come on the cruise they were out of pocket."
The ship has now bypassed Vietnam and is headed for Thailand in the hope that passengers can visit Bangkok and ship supplies can be restocked.
“Thailand was our first port on the outbound portion of our voyage and our first experience with the Chinese Lunar New Year and tens of thousands of Chinese tourists,” he said.
“If we get into the port, it will be very interesting to see if there has been a dramatic change in tourist numbers over the last couple of weeks.”
Around 150 guests cancelled their Hong Kong-to-Singapore cruise over fear of the coronavirus, Finch added.
Seabourn Ovation is scheduled to arrive in Bangkok on Feb. 7.
The Finches’ cruise was supposed to end in Singapore on Feb. 14, but that has been pushed back one day, and further changes are possible as cruise lines grapple with an increasingly uncertain situation.
Finch told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview that Air Canada changed their flights home free of charge.
"The biggest issue is confusion. It is very, very difficult to get an honest answer as to what is going on and why the cruise company is doing one thing or another,” he said.
“Seabourn has been very, very good at trying to keep the people on board happy, but you can't keep everyone happy.
"If we get off in Bangkok, I won't be surprised if lots of passengers head straight home from there."