19 Feb 2020

Coronavirus: Westerdam passenger describes journey home

7:20 pm on 19 February 2020

A passenger who was on board the Cambodian cruise cut short by the cornavirus outbreak has arrived back in the country to find she did not need her temperature checked.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Fifteen New Zealand passengers and one crew member on board the Westerdam were cleared to disembark at the weekend.

Some asked for assistance to find flights home and, so far, all but three have returned to the country.

Maria Angus and her parents arrived back in the country today after getting off the Westerdam cruise ship in Cambodia on Saturday.

Their cruise was cut short when the ship was denied entry to Japan due to the Covid-19 outbreak and the vessel was then also refused entry at three other ports.

It wasn't the holiday the 20-year-old student imagined when they booked a year ago to celebrate a friend's 60th birthday.

"It was a little bit frustrating because we didn't know where we were going to end up and we were trying to book flights home. But the crew were amazing and they put on a lot of activities so we were definitely not bored," Angus said.

The Angus' were travelling in a group of eight and it wasn't until they were off the cruise ship they found out a fellow passenger, an elderly woman, had been diagnosed with Covid-19 when she arrived in Malaysia.

"I haven't had contact with an 83-year-old that I'm aware of so I wasn't really concerned and the people we were travelling with weren't concerned. Also, the hygeine on board was amazing."

Undeterred, Angus and her parents spent a few days in Phnom Penh before flying to Bangkok, where they were given health checks and had their temperatures taken before continuing on to Auckland.

She said New Zealand Immigration had their names flagged, and being symptom-free they were simply given information and advice.

They did not have their temperatures checked.

"We've been told to self-isolate but, because we haven't been through mainland China, they're not too concerned. I've just got to check in with school and see where they stand on it," she said.

The Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield said the people who were on the Westerdam are not in the same risk category as those returning from the Diamond Princess.

He said they were only testing people at the border who show symptoms of being unwell.

"Those New Zealanders who arrived back today were assessed at the airport, they didn't just receive information, they received a health assessment and were all given advice and the expectation to go into self isolation and they will be monitored on a daily basis by public health staff."

Meanwhile, House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said some people were cancelling cruises booked for this year after some New Zealanders were quarantined on ships.

"There's definitely some people who have cancelled and some looking to postpone if they can do that, but the vast majority are still going," he said.

Mr Thomas said most cruises around Southeast Asia were still going ahead but those scheduled to call into ports in China were being redeployed.

"What we're likely to see is a movement of the ships closer to home, so we'll see some more out of Australia and we know that is a very popular destination to take cruises."

The world's largest cruise association, Cruise Line International, has 270 cruise ships under its umbrella worldwide, sailing the seas with strict hygiene and health precautions.

The association's figures show 112,000 New Zealanders took a cruise in 2018.

Angus and her travel companions hoped to be counted among those soon.

They have been given a full refund for the cruise and the same amount to spend on a future cruise and plan to take the same cruise when travel restrictions are lifted.

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