Cruise Ship Denied Entry to Ports Over Coronavirus Concerns
With one cruise ship already under quarantine in Tokyo Bay, the Japanese government has denied permission to enter for the cruise ship Westerdam. She recently called in Hong Kong, where 24 cases of the Wuhan coronavirus have been confirmed out of a total population of seven million people.
According to operator Holland America, there are currently no known coronavirus cases on board the ship, and the vessel is not under quarantine.
The Westerdam had previously been denied permission to disembark passengers in the Philippines over similar concerns. Due to the risk of the spreading coronavirus epidemic, Manila has banned entry to all foreign nationals arriving directly from China, Hong Kong and Macau.
Westerdam called in Hong Kong on February 1 and took on several hundred passengers for a 14-day cruise. After about 24 hours under way, the crew announced over the intercom that the vessel would not be calling in the Philippines, passenger David Holst told ABC Australia. The vessel continued on to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, departing Monday for Japan; she has been under way since.
"Holland America Line has been notified that the Japanese Government will not permit Westerdam to call in Japanese ports," the cruise line said in a statement. "The ship had been scheduled to call to Ishigaki Island, Naha, Okinawa, Nagasaki and Fukuoka (Hakata), before its scheduled turn in Yokohama on Feb. 15, where the next cruise was scheduled to embark."
This upcoming February 15 cruise has now been canceled, Holland America Lines said, and the company is making new arrangements for the remainder of the current itinerary.
As of Thursday, the Westerdam was making about eight knots off the east coast of Taiwan, headed northeast towards Japan.
Westerdam may be among the last cruise ships to call in Taiwan until the risk of the coronavirus has passed. On Thursday morning, Taiwan's government announced that it is closing all ports to all international cruise vessels, effective immediately - putting the possibility of returning Westerdam to Kaohsiung out of reach.