2,000 People Are Stranded on a U.S. Cruise Ship After 4 Countries Reject Entry Over Coronavirus Fears

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.

The Westerdam is the latest cruise to be caught in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak. A virus-stricken ship has been under quarantine at the Yokohama Bay in Japan since Feb. 5. At least 174 people on board the Diamond Princess have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday.

Last week, passengers on a World Dream cruise in Hong Kong were held for four days after the company learned that three passengers who had sailed on the vessel earlier were confirmed to have the virus. All passengers were finally allowed to disembark on Monday after all crew tested negative for the virus.

After being denied entry into Japan, Guam, the Philippines and Taiwan, unnerved vacationers on the Westerdam 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.

Globally, more than 45,000 people have been infected with the virus, and more than 1,100 have died as a result. A vast majority of 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.

Jackie Roos, 61, is aboard the Westerdam with her partner, daughter and two other families. The New Zealander says she planned the trip a year ago to celebrate a friend’s 60th birthday.

“We’re disappointed that we haven’t been able to visit the countries we expected to,” she tells TIME. “We chose this cruise because of the itinerary.”

But she says she has no regrets coming on the cruise, and has been keeping herself busy with free gym classes, live shows and spa sessions. The cruise is also offering free wi-fi and complimentary champagne.

“We really can’t complain, we are after all on a luxury cruise ship,” she says.

Sally Walmsley, who is on the cruise with her husband and three kids, says her family has had to cancel most of their travel plans because of the outbreak. But the extended duration on the ship has provided quality family time, and she is grateful that the staff on board have been extremely accommodating and tending to their every need.

“We came on this trip to make memories, and no one can argue that that’s not what we are doing,” the 42-year-old from New Zealand adds.

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.

Others have thanked the crew working on the Westerdam.

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