Cruise stranded by virus fears ends with roses in Cambodia

  • Passengers react after they disembarked from the MS Westerdam, back, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia.

    Passengers react after they disembarked from the MS Westerdam, back, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia. Associated Press

  • Passengers react after they disembarked from the MS Westerdam, back, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia.

    Passengers react after they disembarked from the MS Westerdam, back, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia. Associated Press

  • Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, center, gives a flower to a passenger who disembarked from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia.

    Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, center, gives a flower to a passenger who disembarked from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia. Associated Press

  • Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen waves to passengers of the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia.

    Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen waves to passengers of the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia. Associated Press

  • Passengers wave from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, docked at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of the cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia.

    Passengers wave from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, docked at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of the cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia. Associated Press

  • Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, gives a bouquet of flowers to a passenger who disembarked from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia.

    Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, gives a bouquet of flowers to a passenger who disembarked from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia. Associated Press

  • A Cambodian man holds his national flag in front of the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, dockked at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia.

    A Cambodian man holds his national flag in front of the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, dockked at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia. Associated Press

  • Passengers talk at each other on the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, docked at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia.

    Passengers talk at each other on the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, docked at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia. Associated Press

  • Passengers react after they disembark from the MS Westerdam, back, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia.

    Passengers react after they disembark from the MS Westerdam, back, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia. Associated Press

  • A man waves to passengers of the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, docked at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia.

    A man waves to passengers of the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, docked at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia. Associated Press

  • Passengers of the MS Westerdam sit in a busa after they disembarked from the cruise ship, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia.

    Passengers of the MS Westerdam sit in a busa after they disembarked from the cruise ship, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia. Associated Press

  • Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, center left, greets passengers after they disembarked from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia.

    Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, center left, greets passengers after they disembarked from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia. Associated Press

  • A passenger waves from a bus after she disembarked from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Passengers finally disembarked on Friday from the cruise ship allowed to dock in Cambodia following two weeks of being stranded at sea after being refused entry by four Asian governments because of virus fears.

    A passenger waves from a bus after she disembarked from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Passengers finally disembarked on Friday from the cruise ship allowed to dock in Cambodia following two weeks of being stranded at sea after being refused entry by four Asian governments because of virus fears. Associated Press

  • A passenger leads a girl after they disembarked from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Passengers finally disembarked on Friday from the cruise ship allowed to dock in Cambodia following two weeks of being stranded at sea after being refused entry by four Asian governments because of virus fears.

    A passenger leads a girl after they disembarked from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Passengers finally disembarked on Friday from the cruise ship allowed to dock in Cambodia following two weeks of being stranded at sea after being refused entry by four Asian governments because of virus fears. Associated Press

  • A passenger, right, is hugged by Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen after she disembarked from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Passengers finally disembarked on Friday from the cruise ship allowed to dock in Cambodia following two weeks of being stranded at sea after being refused entry by four Asian governments because of virus fears.

    A passenger, right, is hugged by Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen after she disembarked from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Passengers finally disembarked on Friday from the cruise ship allowed to dock in Cambodia following two weeks of being stranded at sea after being refused entry by four Asian governments because of virus fears. Associated Press

 
 
Posted2/14/2020 7:00 AM

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia -- Hundreds of cruise ship passengers long stranded at sea by virus fears cheered as they finally disembarked Friday and were welcomed to Cambodia by the nation's authoritarian leader who handed them flowers.

Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed to let the Westerdam dock at the port of Sihanoukville on Thursday after Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Guam had barred the ship earlier.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

'œToday, although Cambodia is a poor country, Cambodia has always joined the international community to solve the problems that the world and our region are facing,' he said as the first passengers disembarked.

'œHow wonderful it is to be here. Thank you very much to the prime minister. He has a wonderful heart,' said Anna Marie Melon, from Queensland, Australia. 'œI'm very excited (to be here)," she said as she waved a rose Hun Sen handed to her.

The passengers cheered as they walked toward waiting buses and waved goodbye to other passengers watching from the ship's deck.

'œYour country did a great job. Did a wonderful job. Thank you very much. We appreciate it very much,' Joe Spaziani, 74, from Florida, told reporters. He and many other passengers wore a krama, a traditional Cambodian scarf, around their necks.

'œCambodia alone, even the United States, Guam, did not let us land, but Cambodia did, so that's wonderful. Absolutely wonderful," Spaziani said. "We appreciate it very very much. It's been a long struggle and we appreciate everyone being here.'

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Westerdam was unwelcome elsewhere even though operator Holland America Line said no cases of the COVID-19 viral illness have been confirmed among its 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members. Some 20 passengers had reported stomachaches or fever, but tests for the virus done at the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh showed none had the illness.

Hun Sen has said he acted for humanitarian reasons and said at the dock he wanted to allow passengers to return to their home countries.

'œIf Cambodia did not allow this ship to dock here, where should this ship go?' he said. "I want to inform Cambodians and the world that I coming here even for a short time means this is no time for discrimination and to be scared, but a time for everyone to be in solidarity to solve the problems we are facing now."

A strong supporter of China, Hun Sen has downplayed threats from the new virus and unlike other Asian nations, he declined to ban direct flights between Cambodia and China, saying that would disturb bilateral relations and hurt his country's economy. Cambodia has one confirmed case of the virus, a visitor from China, despite its popularity with Chinese tourists.

Acting as a good Samaritan is an unusual role for Hun Sen, who has been in power for 35 years. His party swept 2018 elections that drew sharp condemnation as neither free nor fair after a court dissolved the only credible opposition party.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The U.S. has imposed diplomatic sanctions due to Cambodia's repressive political climate, and the European Union earlier this week declared its intention to do the same, citing human rights and trade union violations.

Taking advantage of the opportunity to boost his country's tourism profile, Hun Sen said the passengers were free to go to the beach, go sightseeing in Sihanoukville or even visit the famous centuries-old Angkor Wat temple complex in the northwest.

Mang Sineth, the vice governor in Preah Sihanouk province, told reporters 414 passengers will leave the port Friday and fly to Cambodia's capital before traveling to their final destinations. Three flights from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh were arranged to take all the ship's passengers.

He said that if the flying arrangements went smoothly, all passengers would probably be leaving Sihanoukville by Sunday.

U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy on Twitter called the disembarking activities 'œheartwarming sights ... with Cambodian hospitality on full display."

He said 'œjoint operation '˜Homeward Bound' is underway!'

The COVID-19 illness has sickened tens of thousands of people in China and a few hundred elsewhere, including 218 on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which made stops in Hong Kong and other ports before arriving in Japan last week.

The Westerdam began its cruise in Singapore last month and its last stop before it was refused further landings was in Hong Kong, where 53 cases of the disease and one death have been confirmed.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.