A cruise ship was stranded at sea for 2 weeks after 5 ports rejected it over coronavirus fears - but no one was actually infected
- The Westerdam cruise ship has finally docked after being stuck at sea for 13 days, in Cambodia.
- Five different ports turned it away after fearing that passengers were infected with the Wuhan coronavirus.
- Twenty passengers were tested and cleared of the virus, allowing people to finally go home.
- Passengers were asked to fill out health screening questionnaires and are in high spirits as they wait for clearances to be completed and visas to be issued, passenger Christina Kerby told Insider.
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The Westerdam cruise ship - which had been rejected entry from five different ports over two weeks over fears that its passengers may be infected with the Wuhan coronavirus - has finally docked.
The ship was received by a port in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and its more than 2,250 passengers were quarantined while 20 were tested for coronavirus.
None of them have been infected, the country's ministry of health said.
Some people who complained of mild respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms were being treated by the Westerdam's own doctors, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, said on Twitter.
The luxury liner was stranded at sea for 13 days
The luxury liner, operated by Holland America Line, set sail from Hong Kong on February 1 only to spend 13 days stranded at sea as port after port turned it away.
Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and the US territory of Guam refused to permit the Westerdam to dock due to coronavirus fears.
Coronavirus cases are nearing 60,000 and almost 1,400 people have died of the illness, according to Beijing's National Health Commission.
Unlike the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been quarantined off the coast of Yokohama and is plagued by a seemingly ever-rising number of coronavirus patients - 218 at last count, Holland America Line insisted that its guests and crew have not tested positive for coronavirus.
"All guests onboard are healthy and despite erroneous reports, there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have there ever been," Holland America Line wrote in a statement on Wednesday.
Once permitted ashore on Friday morning, passengers will able to take charter flights to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, from where they can fly home. Holland America Line, which is owned by Carnival Corp., will arrange and pay for the travel of the 2,257 people on board. Guests have been refunded the cruise's costs and offered credit toward a future cruise as well, the statement said.
Passengers are 'upbeat' and enjoying the weather in Cambodia
Tweets with footage from bystanders and local media showed passengers making heart shapes with their hands, and cheering and applauding when they finally reached Cambodia.
Christina Kerby, who has been live-tweeting from the Westerdam and regaling people with stories of bath towel animals and dessert samplings, shared her excitement upon spotting land for the first time.
She quipped also that after nearly two weeks at sea, she may need a water bed at home to fall asleep.
An apparent fan of Westerdam's muesli, Kerby said that people are "upbeat" even after the cereal ran out, noting that officials have boarded the ship to collect passports so passengers can be issued visas to enter Cambodia.
Kerby told Insider that passengers were asked to fill out a standard health screening questionnaire and disclose cough, fever, and diarrhea - all stomps of coronavirus.
"I imagine those who reported symptoms may receive additional screening," she said. "The captain tells us he's hopeful we'll be able to disembark tomorrow and it could take [two to three] days to get all passengers' travel arrangements."
Meanwhile, people are spending their time swimming, eating ice cream, and generally enjoying the weather in Cambodia, she said. Deciding to live on the edge a little, Kerby donned sneakers to dinner.
Kerby said she was started awake when the captain of the ship announced that all 20 passengers tested negative for coronavirus - but said the news was worth it.
The Westerdam's February 15 cruise has been canceled, Holland America Line said. Additional precautionary measures, including preboarding medical screenings and delaying crew members from China from coming to work on any ships, are being enforced.
People who have traveled from or through mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau in the 14 days prior to their cruise start date will be denied entry, as will anyone who has come in contact with a person who has contracted coronavirus or been quarantined for it.
After the ship docked, Ghebreyesus thanked Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen for embodying the "international solidarity" that the WHO has been calling for.
"It's time for solidarity, not stigma," he said.
Passengers on the #Westerdam cheered and applauded Cambodian in sihanouk port after it had spent two weeks at the sea after being turned away by countries over fear that someone on aboard may have the coronavirus, video:local media pic.twitter.com/EtNq1lZUKL- Mech Dara (@MechDara1) February 13, 2020
Passengers on #Westerdam formed their hands into heart to express their thanks to #Cambodia govt to allow the Cruises to get in Preah Sihanoukville international port as 5 countries rejected their requests. pic.twitter.com/bHwqn31jTn- Neth Pheaktra (@pheaktraneth) February 13, 2020
First land sighting from the #Westerdam as the sun rises over Cambodia. I'm told there will be a health check onboard before passengers may disembark. @tdmv can we buy a waterbed when I get home? Not sure I'll be able to sleep on dry land.- Christina Kerby (@ChristinaKerby) February 12, 2020
Out of muesli in the #Westerdam buffet yet somehow passengers remain upbeat. We're still offshore. Cambodian officials onboard now collecting passports to issue visas for the passengers who have already been assigned tickets out of Phnom Penh.- Christina Kerby (@ChristinaKerby) February 13, 2020
#Westerdam Captain says the clearance process is going well, just taking a little longer than anticipated. People seem relieved to have time for more swimming and ice cream onboard. I've never seen the Lido pool so crowded. The weather in Cambodia is gorgeous.- Christina Kerby (@ChristinaKerby) February 13, 2020
Captain came over the ship's loudspeaker at 11pm our time to share the news. Worth getting startled out of bed! It could take 2-3 days for @HALcruises to arrange travel for all passengers. Going back to sleep now to prepare for a big day ahead. ❤️- Christina Kerby (@ChristinaKerby) February 13, 2020
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