Jubilant US passengers were greeted with Valentine’s Day flowers and kisses from Cambodia’s Prime Minister today as they finally disembarked the Westerdam cruise ship after two weeks of being stranded over coronavirus fears.
Prime Minister Hun Sen presented red roses and embraced some of the 1,500 passengers who poured from the vessel after they had been turned away from five countries despite no cases of the deadly contagion aboard.
The ship’s galleries were filled with cheering passengers when Mr Hun’s helicopter swooped onto the tarmac on Friday afternoon before he greeted them and made a speech.
Mr Hun said: ‘Today, 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. If Cambodia did not allow this ship to dock here, where should this ship go?
A jubilant American passenger got down on his knees and clasped his hands together to express his gratitude today as the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed to let the Westerdam dock after five countries had barred it over coronavirus fears. An alcohol hand rub dispenser was placed at the end of the runway
Prime Minister Hun Sen hands over a flower on St Valentine’s Day as he greets a passenger arriving at Sihanoukville. Mr Hun agreed for the Westerdam to dock at the port of Sihanoukville on Thursday after Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Guam had barred the ship
Passengers react after they disembarked from the MS Westerdam, back, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Mr Hun swooped in by helicopter this afternoon as the ship’s galleries filled with passengers waving flags and cheering before some 1,500 walked off the cruise liner.
Mr Hun hands roses to Cambodian passengers disembarking the massive vessel today
Mr Hun swooped in by helicopter this afternoon as the ship’s galleries filled with passengers waving flags and cheering before some 1,500 walked off the cruise liner
Mr Hun made plain he had little anxieties over the virus, planting a kiss on one passenger’s cheek as he handed her a St. Valentine’s Day rose. A strong supporter of China, Mr Hun has downplayed down any threat from the new virus and, unlike other Asian nations, he has declined to ban direct flights between Cambodia and China, saying that would disturb bilateral relations and hurt his country’s economy.
‘I want to inform Cambodians and the world that me 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.’
The boat was unwelcome even though operator Holland America Line said no cases of the Covid-19 viral illness had been confirmed among its 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members.
Around 20 passengers had reported stomach aches or fever, but tests for the virus at the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh showed none had the illness.
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
A young passenger Westerdam cruise ship holds up a sign thanking Cambodia on one of the arranged coaches after disembarking in Sihanoukville
Passengers on board the Westerdam cruise ship wave in Sihanoukville
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
A Twitter post from Westerdam passenger Christina Kerby (@ChristinaKerby) shows people standing on deck of the cruise liner after it docked at the port in Sihanoukville
The passengers cheered as they walked toward waiting buses and waved goodbye to other passengers watching from the ship’s deck.
‘How 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.
A strong supporter of China, Mr Hun has downplayed down any threat from the new virus and, unlike other Asian nations, he has declined to ban direct flights between Cambodia and China, saying that would disturb bilateral relations and hurt his country’s economy.
ambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (C, left) distributes roses to passengers as they leave the MS Westerdam cruise ship at a seaport in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia
Passengers depart the MS Westerdam cruise ship at a seaport in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomes a passenger of MS Westerdam, a cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over fears that someone aboard might have the coronavirus, as it docks in Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Passengers leave the MS Westerdam cruise ship at a seaport in Preah Sihanouk province
Mang Sineth, the vice governor in Preah Sihanouk province, told reporters 414 passengers will leave the port on Friday and fly to Cambodia’s capital before travelling to their final destinations.
Three flights from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh were arranged to take all the ship’s passengers.
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.
Jubilant passengers react as they disembark from the Westerdam cruise ship in Sihanoukville
Passengers who disembarked from the Westerdam cruise ship get on a bus in Sihanoukville
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen arrives in a helicopter next to the docked Westerdam cruise ship in Sihanoukville as hundreds look on from the balconies