A Vancouver, B.C., couple is among thousands of cruise passengers in limbo due to the new coronavirus — even though there are no confirmed cases on board their ship.
The Japanese government said Thursday it won’t allow Holland America’s Westerdam to dock at any of its scheduled ports.
That was news to Stephen Hansen and Carolle Sauro, who are among the 271 Canadians currently on board.
At the time Hansen spoke with Global News, no such announcement had been made. Regular updates were given on the ship indicating that the next port of call had been cancelled and further information would follow.
“I anticipate now this morning, once people are awake, the captain will come on and let people know,” Hansen said in a late-night interview.
“But I’m hearing it first from you guys.”
The Westerdam is stranded off Taiwan with 1,455 guests and 802 crew onboard.
The operator, Holland America Line, said the ship is not under quarantine and there are no known cases of the new coronavirus on board.
However, Japanese media outlets citing the country’s prime minister said that the ship was denied entry due to suspected coronavirus cases.
“We are closely monitoring the evolving situation with respect to coronavirus that originated in mainland China and our medical experts are co-ordinating closely with global health authorities to implement enhanced screening, prevention and control measures for our ships globally,” Holland America said in a statement.
The cruise departed from Hong Kong on Feb. 1 on a 14-day tour of Taiwan and Japan, though many passengers, including Hansen and Sauro, have been on board for longer because they were on a previous voyage.
The Westerdam was supposed to arrive at five ports of call in Japan before passengers were to disembark in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.
“Now that we can’t get into Japan at all, we don’t know where we’re going to end up, how long it’s going to take to get there and what arrangements we can take to get home,” Hansen said.
With all of the uncertainty, the couple will have to cancel their flights home at a cost of a few thousand dollars, Hansen said.
Hansen called on the cruise line to be more transparent with passengers about what is happening.
“Right now, our main concern is let’s get home. But this has turned into a disaster and it’s not going in the right direction,” he said.
On Friday, Holland America said in a statement that passengers would receive a full refund as well as credit for a future cruise.
The Westerdam is one of several large cruise ships unable to arrive in port due to restrictions intended to curb the spread of the new virus.
The new coronavirus strain, which is believed to have started in Wuhan, China, has led to the deaths of 636 people in that country. It has spread to two dozen nations, including Canada, where there are seven confirmed or presumptive cases.
About 3,700 people aboard the Diamond Princess will undergo testing and quarantine for at least two weeks while the vessel is docked at Yokohama. Japanese health officials said the number of passengers who have tested positive for the virus has risen to 61 from 20.
Officials said among 41 positive tests for the virus identified in the latest round of tests conducted by the Japanese Ministry of Health, seven Canadians tested positive for the new coronavirus aboard the ship.
There are 251 Canadians on board overall, including Rose and Greg Yerex of Port Dover, Ont.
Rose Yerex said Princess Cruises is trying to do the best it can to accommodate passengers in the circumstances. Those on board have internet access, allowing them to connect with their families, she said.
Yerex has had to cancel flights and a hotel as well.
“There’s no way we can book anything else because have no idea as to how or when or where this is going to end,” she said.
In Hong Kong, another cruise ship with 3,600 passengers and crew was quarantined for a second day pending testing with three cases on board.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Friday there are 30 Canadians among the passengers.
Taiwan has now banned international cruise ships from docking.
— With files from Global News’ Redmond Shannon and Alanna Rizza and Reuters