This comes after the ship was originally allowed to dock in Laem Chabang in Bangkok, Thailand with the voyage coming to an end on February 13. The ship had previously been refused entry by five countries over concerns that passengers might have been infected with the new coronavirus that has killed 1,116 and sickened over 45,000 worldwide.
Holland America said it had been assisted by U.S. embassies working through diplomatic channels, and thanked passengers and their families for their patience "during this two-week ordeal".
Holland America, which operates the Westerdam, said in a statement on Thursday that 20 samples taken aboard the ship had come back negative for coronavirus infection after being tested by the Pasteur Laboratory in Phnom Penh.
Holland America is chartering everybody from Cambodia to Vietnam, paying for everybody to fly home, refunding the cruise and giving a 100-percent credit for a future cruise to all guests. US Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy tweeted later the same day that he greatly appreciated Cambodia's assistance, as there are US citizens on the ship.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier he was pleased Cambodia had agreed to accept the Westerdam and described it as an example of the worldwide solidarity advocated by the United Nations health agency.
"So it was a question of being really, really thankful to the Cambodian government and really, really relieved that we can go home", Stanley said.
The company said passengers were scheduled to begin disembarking today, and that it would pay for all flights home. "He has a wonderful heart", she said.
"Also, Thailand was also never a planned destination on the ship's route", he said.
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.
Meantime, US Embassy spokesperson Emily Zeeberg told The Post: "We are greatly appreciative of Cambodia's efforts and assistance, and its hospitality during this hard time". 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.
In Sihanoukville port, Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng, Minister of Public Works and Transportation Sun Chanthol, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon, Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun, and officials from several relevant embassies are waiting to welcome the passengers.
Passengers expressed relief and thanks to Cambodia as they disembarked.
The cruise line statement said all passengers were "healthy, and despite erroneous reports, there are no known or suspected cases of the coronavirus on board, nor have they ever been". First, they would be transferred by buses to Sihanoukville worldwide airport for their flight to the Phnom Penh global Airport.
A 14th case in the USA was reported yesterday. If you are interested, please join us to receive updates.
Separately, pro-establishment lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, who is a vice-chairman of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, asked Hong Kong's Wuhan Economic and Trade Office to arrange transport for the stranded Hongkongers as well as provide them with adequate protective gear before they can arrive safely at an assembly point prior to travel to Hong Kong on charter flights. "We took tai chi".
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