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Michigan family released from cruise ship quarantine still unable to return home

family posing with cruise ship CEO
The Muth family
(From left to right) Steve Muth, Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford, Jane Muth,Kate Muth (Daughter) and Erik Deneau. Photo taken Monday, 02/17/2020 in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh

Updated Monday February 17, 2020 at 3:49 p.m.:

Almost 1,500 passengers and over 800 crew members were stuck on a cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean for two weeks, after fears of the coronovirus prevented the vessel from docking at a majority of their scheduled stops. That changed last Friday when passengers were finally able to disembark in Cambodia. 

Although no cases of the coronavirus were confirmed on board during the ship's two-week trek, travel plans out of Cambodia for many of those passengers were cancelled after a passenger tested positive for the virus upon disembarkment. 

The Muth family of Onsted, Michigan, was aboard Holland America's MS Westerdam, and told Stateside's April Baer that they were looking forward to returning to the United States, in an interview on Friday. Baer followed up with Steve Muth Monday, now that their flights home have been cancelled and they're stuck in a Cambodian hotel in Phnom Penh. 

"I'm afraid to say, we thought we had crossed the finish line and with all of 2% left, we couldn't get there. What happened was, we started the process of taking flights home [...] only to go into the main ticketing area and find out our flight was not leaving," Muth said. "Initially told it was delayed, but realistically what happened was was that there was an 83-year-old American woman, supposedly, that fell ill in Kuala Lumpur, and that stopped everything. Nobody was going anywhere from that Westerdam flight, unfortunately. So, they basically diverted us to a hotel here in Phnom Penh, And here we've sat for the last three days wondering what our future looks like."

Muth said his family went through testing for the virus yesterday, and although the results have come back negative, they haven't received details about when they can leave. He also indicated that the people of Cambodia, as well as the cruise line have been very accomodating and helpful for the family and other passengers, but noted he hasn't received help from the U.S. State Department or the Embassy. 

Original post, Friday, February 14, 2020

Almost 1,500 passengers and over 800 crew members have been stuck on a cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean after not being allowed ashore at the majority of their scheduled stops. Though no cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed onboard, many officials at the ports feared the spread of the disease nonetheless.

The Muth family from Onsted, Michigan is among those passengers. Steve Muth says the service has been great, but they’re happy to be headed home after two weeks of being on the ship.

“Once we get back, I'm going to request that we, at least certainly myself, my wife's a nurse, she'll request as well, that we get an official coronavirus test, just to make sure there's no issues," he says. "I want to make sure that there's absolutely no problem with us being out in public.”

Muth told Stateside Friday that his family’s experience has changed his perspective on how serious the coronavirus is, and the international response to it.

Holland America's MS Westerdam docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico on November 24, 2015.
Credit Master0Garfield / Wikicommons
Holland America's MS Westerdam docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico on November 24, 2015. The Muth family along with almost 1500 other passengers have been on the ship for almost two weeks.

“This is, obviously, a very exceptional situation. You know from a health perspective, the seriousness of it, what should be the protocol moving forward? I've got some real concerns with countries basically saying we're not going to let you come off the boat because you may have sick people.”

He was particularly surprised that Japan, a longtime ally of the U.S., and Guam, a U.S. territory, wouldn’t let passengers come ashore.

Muth says he won’t let this experience deter him from taking advantage of the full refund and the free cruise Holland America has promised passengers to make up for the experience

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Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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