Wandering ship becomes “best cruise ever” despite coronavirus fears

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By Clare Baldwin

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia, Feb 15 (Reuters) – After almost two weeks solid away in quest of a port that will take them, passengers aboard the MS Westerdam cruise ship spoke of an ordeal that was something however harrowing.

“Everybody says ‘poor you’. However there was no poor you. We had free web and free wine. We had three-course meals. There was a lot selection,” mentioned Zahra Jennings, a retired employees nurse from Britain.

How was it? “Pretty,” she mentioned.

The 1,544 passengers and 802 crew had by no means anticipated a port cease in Hong Kong to metastasize into full-blown concern that a few of the ship’s passengers carried the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, late final yr and has killed greater than 1,500 individuals.

Turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand, it was Cambodia that lastly let the misplaced ship dock – and it was found there that not one of the passengers was contaminated.

The one criticism aboard? “They ran out of hash browns a few days in the past, and tomato sauce,” mentioned Robert Sayers, a 60-year-old chemical firm worker from New Zealand. “However that was it. It was wonderful, actually.”

Cruise ships round Asia face widespread fears they could be spreading the virus because it was discovered aboard the Diamond Princess that’s now at anchor in Yokohama and the place 218 of the passengers have been recognized with the virus.

Vietnam turned again two ships on Friday.

ROSES

It was Valentine’s Day when the primary passengers disembarked from the Westerdam. The prime minister, Hun Sen, flew in from the capital, shaking fingers with passengers and handing out roses. Authorities officers draped “Welcome to Cambodia” banners on buses. All passengers got free visas.

Hun Sen, an authoritarian ruler condemned by Western nations for human rights abuses mentioned: “Our present illness all over the world is concern and discrimination,” he mentioned. “If Cambodia did not enable this ship to dock, the place ought to these 2,000 passengers go?”

Holland America despatched letters to all passengers saying it will reimburse the price of the cruise, give them one other free 14-day cruise, and constitution them flights residence. The corporate, it mentioned, would do its finest to match the category of flight they’d initially booked.

The cruise had been scheduled to finish in Shanghai on Saturday. In Shanghai it was 14 Celsius, overcast and raining. In Sihanoukville, it was 27C and sunny.

Holland America organized free coaches to a close-by seaside for the stranded passengers, throughout the road from the villa the place Hun Sen stays in Sihanoukville and surrounded by Chinese language casinos.

“This was my finest cruise ever,” mentioned retired Canadian aerospace engineer Pierre Ashby. “Normally you purchase a cruise and you recognize precisely what you’ll get. This was an journey.”

His spouse was sitting beside him in a yellow bathing swimsuit with two purple roses. Barefoot within the sand, he smiled and gestured out to sea.

“Take your time.” (Reporting by Clare Baldwin Further reporting by Prak Chan Thul and James Pearson Enhancing by Matthew Tostevin.)

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