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Holland America cruise ship passengers begin to disembark in Cambodia

It’s been an emotional ride for guests on board Holland America’s MS Westerdam. But now, the ship’s aimless journey is coming to a close: Passengers began to disembark early Friday at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, their detour the result of fears around coronavirus. 

“The first passengers are off the Westerdam and headed home!” the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia tweeted early Friday local time. “We’re happy to greet them as they step onto dry land. Thank you to the government of Cambodia who helped this happen.”

The ship’s 1,455 passengers had been waiting for the all-clear from the Cambodian Health Ministry. After 20 samples were tested for coronavirus at the Pasteur Laboratory in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, passengers received permission to disembark.

Erik Elvejord, Holland America’s public relations director, said the process would take a few days, with the goal of having everyone off the ship by Sunday. The cruise originally was scheduled to end on Saturday.

The company was working to book return flights for passengers from Phnom Penh. In a tweet early Friday, the embassy told the ship’s U.S. passengers to look at the airport for personnel wearing blue hats with an American flag, who would assist them with their departure.

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