Coronavirus causes Greenburgh couple to be stuck on cruise ship near Asia

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Instead of touring Asia, a married couple from Greenburgh have been stranded at sea for 12 days.

Glenn Eisen and Barbara McNear are two of 1,455 guests aboard Holland America’s MS Westerdam cruise ship, which departed from Hong Kong on Feb. 1, and has been barred from docking anywhere in the region due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Their 14-day cruise was scheduled to visit Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan, but has been turned away from each. 

The pair, who have lived in Hastings-on-Hudson since 2008 and take frequent cruises, wrote in emails that Westerdam’s captain has been “unacceptably silent” regarding their situation. They said they had not received adequate updates on when or where they might finally dock.

“We only know what we read in the press,” Eisen said in an email to The Journal News/lohud.

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They said that the lack of information, combined with the spread of possibly false information regarding whether someone on the ship has coronavirus, have raised tensions on board. 

“We are both well, but I won’t go so far as to add ‘and happy,'” McNear said in an email.

Eisen, a former member of the Greenburgh Ethics Board and a tai chi instructor in Greenburgh, celebrated his 80th birthday early this week. He and his wife decided to take a cruise on the South China Sea, a place Eisen had visited in 1960 when he was in the Army.  

But things have not gone as planned.

As of early Wednesday, the Westerdam was heading toward Cambodia, where Holland America officials say the ship will be allowed to dock on Thursday. McNear said that passengers have been told that Cambodian authorities will do a brief health examination upon their arrival to ensure no one on board is infected. 

Holland America, in a statement on its website Wednesday, said, “All guests on board are healthy and despite erroneous reports there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have there ever been.” 

The ship was scheduled to dock at several locations in Japan last week, but the Japanese government would not permit Westerdam to call into Japanese ports, Holland America said in a Feb. 6 statement.

The cruise ship was also turned away from Guam, a U.S. territory. 

The ship then sailed toward Laem Chabang, Thailand. Guests were told on Feb. 10 that they would be able to disembark there and eventually travel home. Eisen and McNear said they learned that they would not be able to dock in Thailand through the Bangkok Post. Thailand’s public health minister, Anutin Charnviakul, also shared on Facebook that he prohibited the ship’s entry.  

McNeal said that the Westerdam’s captain told guests that Holland America was having discussions with the highest levels of several governments, including the United States, Canada, England and the Netherlands, about “Westerdam’s interesting journey” and that they were working to get guests home as soon as possible.

Despite the uncertainties on board, Eisen and McNear praised the ship’s upbeat crew. They said that there is plenty of food and amenities to go around.

“We continue to have full run of the ship and no indications of any health problems [on board],” Eisen said. “We don’t know whether or not to start packing or to send out laundry.” 

Holland America said the line will arrange and pay for all flights home and will offer a full refund for the cruise and a credit toward a future cruise. Their next scheduled cruise on Feb. 15 has already been canceled, and the cruise line is working to assess how port restrictions in Asia will impact cruises departing on Feb. 29 and onward. 

Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner shared the couple’s story on numerous town web pages. encouraging residents to be understanding of those in the community who may be affected by the coronavirus.

According to Feiner, there is a large Chinese population in Greenburgh, some of which have family who have been affected by the coronavirus. He hopes to welcome the couple home at a Feb. 26 town board meeting. 

Twitter: ijkeane 

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