SIHANOUKVILLE – Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen was on hand – without wearing a mask – to greet more than 400 passengers from Holland America’s Westerdam when they left the ship on Friday (Feb.15).
It is expected that a full disembarkation will take a few days given the charter flight schedule. During this time, guests will remain comfortably on board with full service in operation.
Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines had previously barred the ship from docking even though Holland America said none of its 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members onboard had contracted Covid-19.
Hun Sen said earlier he had let the Westerdam dock in Cambodia for humanitarian reasons.
"Like I said, the real disease is fear, not the virus. We want to eliminate the fear of disease," he said in an interview with an online news service.
Holland America, in a statement sent to Travel Weekly Asia, said, “We sincerely thank all those in Cambodia who have demonstrated a willingness to welcome us with an open mind and make decisions based on facts.
“We also extend our deepest gratitude to President Trump, Cambodia’s Honorable Prime Minister Hun Sen, Canadian Foreign Minister Champagne, elected officials across the country and governments around the world for providing support and being effective allies in bringing our guests home,” said Stein Kruse, group CEO, Holland America Group and Carnival UK.
Mr Kruse added, “We are pleased with the successful resolution of this challenging journey that was complicated by unfounded fears stemming from erroneous information with respect to the medical condition of Westerdam’s guests and crew.
“This has all been a terrible and unfortunate misunderstanding that has impacted 2,257 people on board and hundreds of others shoreside who have worked 24/7 to get our guests home.
“It is expected that a full disembarkation will take a few days given the charter flight schedule. During this time, guests will remain comfortably on board with full service in operation.”
In addition to homeward travel provided by Holland America Line, guests have received a 100% refund of their cruise fare, plus an additional 100% future cruise credit.
‘We hope that guests on this voyage will join us again and sincerely thank them for the many compliments we have received for our crew and the acknowledgements that this situation was out of our control.”
Westerdam was on a 14-day cruise that departed Hong Kong Feb.1, 2020. The cruise was previously scheduled to disembark Feb. 15 at Yokohama, Japan.