Ottawa couple stuck on cruise ship in South China Sea because no port will accept them over coronavirus fears

OTTAWA —
What started as an “ideal vacation” for an Ottawa couple on a cruise from Hong Kong has come to an abrupt end with the ship “wandering” the South China Sea because several countries have denied disembarkation to the more than 1,400 passengers on board.

“A lot of passengers are anxious,” says Pierre Boucher. “Anxious to go, concerned about their health…anxious really to get a final answer about what could happen.”

The 14-day cruise left Hong Kong on Feb. 1 and was scheduled to arrive in Yokohama, Japan on Feb. 15. It has since been cancelled with the focus shifting to getting passengers off the ship.

There are 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members on board.

Although there are no cases or suspected cases of the coronavirus, now called COVID-19, on the Westerdam, the ship has been turned away from the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan. Passengers had been scheduled to disembark in Thailand on Wednesday but were told by the captain they were again denied.

“Unfortunately this afternoon as we were getting close to Bangkok the military arrived, escorted us and we were advised…that we would have to find somewhere else to go,” Boucher says.

The ship is now sailing towards Cambodia and is expected to arrive on Thursday morning local time.

In a tweet, Holland America Line says “all approvals have been received & we are extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for the support.”

On its website, the cruise company says it “will arrange and pay for all flights home, in addition to the full cruise refund and 100% future cruise credit already communicated.”

Boucher says he and his wife are in good spirits.

“Holland is doing marvelously well by all of us,” he says. “We are well-fed, well-entertained, we have received all the support we can expect and even more.”

A Feb. 15 cruise scheduled to leave from Yokohama, Japan has also been cancelled. The company says it is “assessing the impact of current port restrictions in Asia on cruises departing Feb. 29 or later. We will communicate details as they become finalized in the next few days.”



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