US president Donald Trump’s administration has been credited as being “instrumental” in enabling a cruise ship to dock in Cambodia after being refused entry to five other Asian countries.
Passengers on board Holland America Line ship Westerdam were due to leave the ship today at the port of Sihanoukville.
HAL said: “President Trump and his State Department and National Security Council teams worked closely with Cambodian officials and were instrumental in Westerdam gaining access to the port.”
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The vessel, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew which left Hong Kong on a 14-day cruise on February 1, had been denied entry to several countries, despite showing no signs of coronavirus on board.
The line said: “Out of an abundance of caution, 20 guests and crew who visited the medical centre during this cruise were screened for coronavirus.
“All results came back negative from the Pasteur Laboratory in Phnom Penh and the results were announced by the Cambodian Health Ministry today.”
The ship’s original itinerary should have included calls at ports in the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.
But Westerdam was denied entry following the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China, which quickly spread to other countries.
“Despite not having any known cases of coronavirus on board, Westerdam was denied entry to several countries to end the cruise and allow guests to return home,” HAL said.
“Separately, we were not able to call at Manila, the Philippines, on February 3 due to a new policy prohibiting any ship with guests that had passed through China, Macau or Hong Kong in the prior 14 days.
The cruise was previously scheduled to end on February 15 at Yokohama in Japan.
Passengers will now disembark in Sihanoukville over the next few days and transfer via charter flights to Phnom Penh for forward travel home.
The company is arranging and paying for all flights and passengers have received a full refund as well as a 100% future cruise credit
Holland America Group and Carnival UK chief executive Stein Kruse extended “deepest gratitude” to president Trump and Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen and governments around the world “for providing support and being effective allies in bringing our guests home”.
He added: “We are pleased with the successful resolution of this challenging journey that was complicated by unfounded fears stemming from erroneous information with respect to the medical condition of Westerdam’s guests and crew.
“This has all been a terrible and unfortunate misunderstanding that has impacted 2,257 people on board and hundreds of others shoreside who have worked 24/7 to get our guests home.”
HAL also received “vital assistance” from US embassies in several countries and the line’s flag state of The Netherlands in effectively working through diplomatic channels.
“We also would like to extend our sincerest thanks to all of Westerdam’s guests, crew and their loved ones for their patience, support and positive attitude during this two-week ordeal,” added Kruse. “Our corporate teams around the world who worked tirelessly deserve recognition as well.”
The line said: “Future Westerdam voyage plans are still being finalised.
“The February 15 cruise scheduled to embark in Yokohama has been cancelled.
“No cancellations for cruises with departure dates beyond February 15 have been announced at this time.
“However, we are assessing the impact of current port restrictions in Asia on cruises departing February 29 or later.
“We will communicate details as they become finalised in the next few days.”
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