Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Pariah cruise ship heads to Cambodia as Thailand bars entry

Feb 12. 2020
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By Syndication The Washington Post, Bloomberg · Natnicha Chuwiruch

The outcast Westerdam luxury cruise liner is headed to Cambodia to dock after Thailand became the fifth country or territory to turn it away because of concerns over the coronavirus.

The liner will reach Sihanoukville, Cambodia, at 7 a.m. local time on Thursday, Holland America Line, the operator of the ship, said in a statement. It will remain in port for several days and passengers will be allowed to go ashore.

Thailand had said it would consider helping any sick persons aboard but stood by its decision to bar entry, effectively prolonging the ordeal for the 2,257 passengers and crew looking to disembark. Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Guam also rejected it on concerns over the virus, which has killed more than 1,000 people.

Holland America, part of Carnival Corp., said all the guests are healthy and there's no reason to believe there are any coronavirus cases on board. But Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul questioned Wednesday whether that could be known with certainty, while adding he was ready to consider providing medical aid, food and water if asked.

"We must think about the safety of our people," Anutin told reporters in Bangkok on Wednesday. "We've been told that there are no cases of infection on the ship, but how can we be sure?"

Some passengers took to Twitter to say they'd been told they're headed to Cambodia.

Holland America will arrange and pay for customers' flights home, as well as refund the cost of the cruise, it said. The Westerdam's next scheduled voyage, from Yokohama on Feb. 15, is canceled, and the cruise line said it's "assessing the impact of current port restrictions in Asia on cruises departing Feb. 29 or later."

The Westerdam departed Hong Kong on Feb. 1 on a 14-day Taiwan and Japan cruise. The 1,455 guests and 802 crew members were originally scheduled to disembark at Yokohama on Feb. 15. The ship has sufficient fuel and food provisions to last until the end of the voyage, according to a Holland America Line blog post.

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