A cruise ship which spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over fears that someone aboard may have the coronavirus arrived in Cambodia on Thursday to the relief of passengers and the praise of global health officials.
The MS Westerdam, which has 1,455 passengers and 802 crew on board, could be seen at an offshore anchoring point from the docks of the Cambodian port town of Sihanoukville early on Thursday morning.
Welcome preparations were underway at the docks, with embassy officials and Cambodian health authorities from Phnom Penh waiting alongside journalists and people carrying bouquets of flowers.
“We’ve had so many near moments we thought we were going home only to be turned away,” Angela Jones, an American tourist on board the ship, told Reuters in a text message.
Jones and her fellow passengers had spent almost two weeks at sea as the ship failed to find a country that would allow it to dock.
“This morning, just seeing land was such a breathtaking moment,” said Jones. “I thought: Is this real?”
Passengers on board the ship have been subjected to regular health checks throughout the troubled journey, according to Holland America, the ship operator and a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp.
Although no-one on board has fallen ill, the ship was turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand over fears that someone on the cruise could have the new flu-like virus that has killed more than 1,300 people, almost all of them in China.
To kill time on board and break up the monotony of endless ocean scrolling past cabin windows, the ship’s crew have organized dozens of activities to keep people occupied, tourists on board the vessel told Reuters earlier this week.