According to Holland America Line, an 83-year-old American woman who departed from Westerdam on Friday later reported feeling ill at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and tested positive for coronavirus. The passenger is in stable condition at a hospital in Malaysia, according to a release from the cruise line shared with USA TODAY by Buck Banks.
“We are in close coordination with some of the leading health experts from around the world,” said Grant Tarling, chief medical officer for Holland America Line, said in the release. “These experts are working with the appropriate national health authorities to investigate and follow-up with individuals who may have come in contact with the guest.”
As of Sunday morning, no other guests or crew on their way home had reported any symptoms of the illness, according to the cruise line. The passenger who tested positive never visited the ship’s medical center while on board.
All guests who have already arrived home will be contacted by their local health department and provided with additional information.
The MS Westerdam is still docked in Cambodia. 747 crew members and 233 guests were still awaiting arrangements to travel home on Sunday morning.
The Westerdam departed Hong Kong on Feb. 1 and was scheduled to disembark in Shanghai on Saturday before coronavirus gripped mainland China and forced itinerary changes. The ship was turned away from multiple countries, despite the cruise line reiterating there were no cases of coronavirus aboard.
After days in limbo, the ship’s journey came to a close when passengers began to disembark early Friday in the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
But on Saturday, Bloomberg reported the Malaysian Ministry of Health said that a passenger tested positive for coronavirus after arriving on a flight to Kuala Lumpur International Airport and was sent to a hospital. The woman’s husband tested negative, according to Bloomberg and Reuters.
Relief, frustration, skepticism and medical needs:Life on Holland America cruise ship stuck in limbo
In a statement from the cruise line shared with USA TODAY Saturday by Buck Banks, Holland America said all 2,257 passengers and crew were temperature tested with no elevated results, and disembarking passengers completed a written health questionnaire. Common signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
Passports of everyone on board were also reviewed to ensure no one had traveled through mainland China in the prior 14 days.
The cruise line reiterated in the statement that during the voyage, there was no indication of coronavirus on the ship and that it is awaiting secondary testing for confirmation. The ship is still in Cambodia with 236 guests and 747 crew on board. Holland America is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as officials in Malaysia and Cambodia.
The ship had tried to dock several times before being accepted in Cambodia.
The Philippines barred the ship from making a scheduled port call during the sailing. Then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe barred the vessel from docking in Yokohama. Next, Guam, a U.S. territory, turned it away, rejecting a request from the State Department to let the ship in.
And on Tuesday – one day after Holland America announced it had gotten permission for the ship to disembark at Bangkok’s Laem Chabang port – Thailand’s public health minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, issued orders denying the ship permission to disembark there.
Hundreds of cruise ship passengers cheered as they got off the ship early Friday with Prime Minister Hun Sen there to greet them.
Erik Elvejord, Holland America’s public relations director, said the process of getting passengers home would take a few days, with the goal of having everyone off the ship by Sunday.
After transferring to Phnom Penh via charter flights, passengers were to catch flights home, which were arranged and paid for by Holland America. All passengers will also receive a full refund and a future cruise credit.
More than 67,000 people have contracted coronavirus and 1,527 have died as of Saturday afternoon, according to John Hopkins data. The majority of the cases have been in mainland China and the province of Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak. In Malaysia, there have been 22 cases.
Life on Holland America cruise ship:Relief, frustration, skepticism and medical needs
Contributing: Julia Thompson