Personal Accounts of Those Stranded on Coronavirus Cruise Ships

Passengers on a cruise ship have been stranded for weeks now as one of the passengers had tested positive for the coronavirus.  The ship has been turned away by many ports, and it seemed there was a light at the end of the tunnel for them to get off at Holland America’s MS Westerdam.  The cruise ship is now docked in Cambodia, and still, the passengers are not allowed to leave the ship due to fear of spreading the virus.

Accounts are given from the passengers to the rest of the world as what is going on onboard the ship as everyone waits for the green light to go back home.  USA TODAY received emails from passengers on updates.  Elly Chybowski and her husband gave positive accounts.

The guest onboard the ship are given at least two updates per day, one at 10 am and the other at 2 pm.  The Holland America staff provides information to keep everyone as calm as possible.

Chybowski sent an email stating, “Today they had posted that several more countries will not let us fly through.  When passengers gain flight arrangements, they will be provided with a letter bearing their test results.”  Only one has tested positive.

She went on to explain that they are at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital.  Everyone tested at the hotel, “so far all negative.”  She continues, “We have been told not to leave the hotel in case we are assigned a flight. At the meeting this morning, 15 people were given flights home today.”

Chybowski added, “Our needs are being met. Very comfortable accommodations. The staff is wonderful.  Holland America is providing guests with $50 stipends per person per day (breakfast is included with the hotel stay).”

She added what is keeping her, and her husband in good spirits is “Video conferencing (with) our children & grandchildren daily.  On the ship, we used workout facilities daily. Here in the hotel, we need to be ready to leave at any minute, so will do what I can in my room!”

A different account was given on the downside of the wait.  Steve Muth and his family from Michigan told USA TODAY everyone is being told to remain in their rooms and wait on any changes or updates.  He stated over 24 hours, nothing changes much.  “It’s just a lot of confusion, chaos, and frustration.”

Muth’s two sons are in Michigan while he has his wife, daughter, and her boyfriend are stuck in Phnom Penh.  He explained, their ticket back to America came to a screeching halt after the test results came back from an American passenger showing the virus had been contracted.

Holland America Line confirmed an elderly American woman reported she was sick when leaving Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airport.  Everyone was quarantined when the test came back positive.  The 83-year-old woman is known to be in stable condition at a Malaysian hospital.

Some of the passengers were lucky enough to be moved into the hotel, while others were not so lucky.  Some still remain onboard the cruise ship, unable to get a room.  Lorraine Oliveira and her family from the U.K. told USA TODAY they have not left the ship.

She stated their expected time on board will be at the earliest, two more days.  Her message relayed what everyone else must be feeling at this time, “I just want to go home now.”

Many countries have turned the ship away, including Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Guam.  At the time, there were no passengers on board who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Holland America confirmed there are 255 passengers and 747 crew members who are still on the MS Westerdam.  Chybowski added in another message, “We are all concerned about the staff & passengers still on the Westerdam.”

The latest update at the beginning of the week came from Buck Banks, the spokesman for the cruise line.  Banks said, “Guests at a hotel in Phnom Penh have all completed the COVID-19 screening.  Results are being returned when completed, with the first batch of 406 all being negative. Cleared guests may travel home, and arrangements are being made for those guests. Guests in both locations are being very well cared for, including assisting with any medications needed.”

Muth told USA TODAY, their main concern is, will they be quarantined for another two weeks upon arrival in the US?  Answers from the State Department is the only complaint everyone is having.

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