Roughly 2,000 passengers and crew aboard the Holland America Line Westerdam are stranded on the open seas. Fears of the novel coronavirus (now officially known as COVID-19) has prompted four different nations and the U.S. territory of Guam to deny them entry despite no one on board being diagnosed with the illness that has caused global panic.
After being denied entry into Japan, Guam, the Philippines and Taiwan, unnerved vacationers were initially relieved when the cruise ship’s captain announced on Monday that they’d finally be disembarking in Bangkok, Thailand, on Feb. 13. But the ship is back in limbo after Thailand Public Health Minister Anutin Charnverakul shared on Facebook Monday afternoon that it would not be allowed to dock after all.
Still waiting for @HALcruises to verify we are not disembarking Thursday. Everyone onboard is passing around articles that says we aren’t. But no @HALcruises We have less than an hour to cancel our third rearranged flight. Crickets from our ship…really sad #sos #westerdam
— AJ (@Mountain_AJ) February 11, 2020
The cruise launched Jan. 16 from Singapore, according to the Associated Press, and was originally planned to end on Feb. 15 in Yokohama, Japan, according to a statement by the cruise line. But Yokohama is where another cruise ship has quarantined roughly 3,700 passengers and crew, and at least 61 have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the AP.
Globally, more than 43,000 people have been infected with the virus, and more than 1,000 have died as a result. Most cases have been in mainland China.
On Feb. 6, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that the Westerdam, en route from Hong Kong, would not be allowed to dock, according to the AP.
Country after country has since rejected the Westerdam’s requests to dock for fear that passengers carry COVID-19, despite repeated statements from cruise line officials that there are no known cases of the virus on board and the ship is not under quarantine.
Holland America Line updated their public statement Tuesday after Thailand became the latest country to reject the ship, saying they’re aware of reports regarding the status of the ship’s call to Bangkok and are “actively working this matter.”
“We know this is confusing for our guests and their families and we greatly appreciate their patience,” the company said.
What happens next for the passengers remains uncertain. Holland America Line has promised that all guests will be 100% refunded and will receive 100% future cruise credit. The cruise line was expected to launch again for a new cruise from Yokohama on Feb. 15, but it has canceled that trip.
The line has also announced that guests who traveled from or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau or had contact with a suspected case of COVID-19 at least 14 days prior to the scheduled departure would not be permitted on board any Holland America Line cruises.
“For all of our cruises, we continue to monitor the evolving situation with respect to the coronavirus that originated in mainland China, and our medical experts are coordinating closely with global health authorities to implement enhanced screening, prevention and control measures for our ships globally,” the company announced on Feb. 6.
The Thai government announced Tuesday that though the ship could not dock, the country would provide humanitarian assistance, such as fuel and food, according to the AP.
For now, many passengers have shared their experiences on social media, and some have maintained a more optimistic outlook. One passenger, Christina Kerby, has taken up towel folding and has shared jokes about her experience on Twitter.
— Christina Kerby (@ChristinaKerby) February 10, 2020
— Christina Kerby (@ChristinaKerby) February 11, 2020
Here’s a science fiction plot line for ya. Amidst a global epidemic that wipes out the earth’s population, it’s up to the people aboard one cruise ship- the only safe place on earth- to repopulate the planet. **Passengers onboard the #Westerdam begin eyeing each other nervously**
— Christina Kerby (@ChristinaKerby) February 9, 2020
Others have thanked the crew working on the Westerdam.
— Lorraine ????? (@lorrain34100) February 9, 2020
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Contributor: Jasmine Aguilera