A 2,200-Person Carnival Cruise Is Stranded at Sea—Despite No Coronavirus Detected

A passenger said she's been killing time learning how to fold bath towels into bunnies.

The Westerdam cruise ship (back) operated by Holland America Line.
The Westerdam cruise ship (back) operated by Holland America Line. Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images

On February 1, a Westerdam cruise ship with 1,455 guests and 802 crew members on board departed from the port of Hong Kong for a 14-day cruise with stops in Japan and Taiwan. But, so far, the ship hasn’t been able to dock anywhere as countries across Asia close borders to tourists as a measure to help contain the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

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On Monday, after being rejected entry at four ports—Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Guam—passengers were told that they would be disembarked in Thailand this Thursday. But on Tuesday morning, Thai officials confirmed that they’d been ordered by Thailand’s Public Health Minister to turn the ship away due to coronavirus concerns.

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The Westerdam’s operator, Holland America Line, a brand under cruise giant Carnival Corp., said it has no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board and that the ship is not under quarantine.

Holland America Line said on Tuesday that it’s “actively working this matter” and promised to give an update as soon as possible. The World Health Organization (WHO) is trying to help, too, suggesting that health authorities could board the ship to assess the passengers’ health to see whether they may be allowed to enter Thailand.

The Westerdam was originally scheduled to disembark on February 15 in Yokohama, Japan, where another Carnival ship, the Diamond Princess cruise ship, has been under a 14-day quarantine since last week after dozens of coronavirus cases were identified among the 3,700 passengers on board. As of Tuesday, 135 people on the Diamond Princess have been confirmed to have the novel respiratory virus.

Passengers on the Westerdam are struggling to cope with the “limbo” they’ve been left in. “Definitely stressful. We have been at sea 14 days as of this Friday,” a passenger who goes by “Mountain_AJ” on Twitter wrote on Tuesday.

“I can understand how despair can set in when hope is dashed,” she tweeted a few hours later. “As of now, our ship hasn’t told us we are not going to Thailand to disembark. First time this morning laughter was heard that has again quieted.”

Others are try to keep their spirits up and keep themselves busy through this difficult time.

Christina Kerby, a health care manager at Blue Shield of California, said the passengers were being treated very well by the crew. “So grateful for the upbeat crew, great entertainers and the captain keeping us well informed,” she tweeted on Saturday.

Since then, there has been an Oscars viewing party, a morning cycling club and a towel folding class.

A 2,200-Person Carnival Cruise Is Stranded at Sea—Despite No Coronavirus Detected