Jensine Morabito and her daughter Eva were quarantined in Cambodia (Submitted)

B.C. mother, daughter return home after coronavirus quarantine in Asia

Jensine Morabito and her daughter were on Holland America’s Westerdam but did not catch the virus

Jensine Morabito took her daughter on a month-long cruise through Asia because she thought it would be simple.

“It was going to be an easy vacation. Uneventful. We would just follow a schedule,” said Morabito.

However, Morabito’s planned itinerary covered in scribbles with port after port crossed out shows it was anything but. Due to fears of COVID-19, Holland America’s Westerdam was turned away by Japan, the Philippines, Guam and Thailand.

According to the Johns Hopkins CSSE map, as of Feb.27, the virus has infected more than 82,500 people around the world and killed 2,810.

Although none of the Westerdam passengers had tested positive for the virus, since the ship originated from Hong Kong on Feb. 1, few countries would let them dock. The virus is thought to have originated in China.

At times, Morabito said the ship seemed more or less adrift at sea.

“Because we had nowhere to go.”

The Westerdam had 1,455 passengers and 803 crew on board.

In Taiwan, the Diamond Princess docked beside Holland America. As of Feb. 24, four people from the Diamond Princess have died from the virus and hundreds more are infected. (Submitted)

Near the start of the cruise, Westerdam was allowed to dock in Taiwan, right beside the Diamond Princess. However, the two ships didn’t stay long and left abruptly. Morabito didn’t know at the time, but there were confirmed cases of coronavirus on the Diamond Princess.

READ MORE: Five more Canadians test positive for the new coronavirus aboard cruise ship

READ MORE: Government to evacuate Canadians from quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship

As of Feb. 24, four people from the Diamond Princess have died from the virus, with hundreds infected.

Each day, the captain on board the Westerdam would get on the intercom to explain a change of plans and to reassure passengers that the ship had enough food, fuel and water.

“For days we didn’t know where we were going. Just south. Cruising and cruising,” said Morabito.

“People on board were nervous. They were nervous about the virus.”

Yet, Morabito said there are far worse places to be marooned then on a fully-catered boat.

After two weeks, the ship was finally allowed to dock in Cambodia and it arrived with fan fair. Even Cambodia’s Prime Minister came to greet the passengers and gave everybody on board a gift.

Although the cruise was supposed to continue, Holland America decided to send everybody home. Soon after, a 83-year-old American Westerdam passenger was en route home and tested positive for coronavirus while transferring flights in Malaysia.

The Canadian embassy in Cambodia brought Tim Hortons to quarantined Canadians. (Submitted)

Quickly, the rest of the passengers from Westerdam were put into quarantine. Morabito and her were daughter were confined to their hotel room in Cambodia. Various embassies set up shop in the hotel to help passengers, even the Canadians brought Tim Hortons. Holland America’s president Orlando Ashford also came for a visit.

Although the passenger’s temperatures were frequently taken on board the ship, Morabito and her daughter were fully tested in Cambodia for the virus.

“The testing was horrible,” said Morabito.

To test for the virus, health officials put swabs as far as they could up Morabito and her daughter’s nose.

“I had to pin my daughter down, she was just screaming,” Morabito said.

READ MORE: Prepare for new coronavirus like an emergency, health minister advises

Several days later, it was announced that the American woman did not have coronavirus and the prior positive result was a mistake.

Regardless, results for Morabito and her daughter came back negative and the two were allowed to return to Canada. However, it was challenging as there are no direct flights from Cambodia to Canada and few countries would allow planes with former Westerdam passengers to land, even just to refuel.

Morabito said it’s strange to arrive back in Canada, where no one is wearing a mask.

“In Asia, everyone has a mask. We wore them everywhere.”

Throughout the ordeal, Morabito said Holland America went above and beyond.

“It was amazing how they handled it. How they kept 1,500 passengers calm was unreal.”

Holland America refunded the cruise, paid for extra hotels, flights and also provided the Westerdam passengers with another free cruise.

The cruise was the end of a year long trip for the mother and daughter. Morabito said it’s important to show her daughter the world outside of Revelstoke. Before the cruise, they had been to Morocco, Egypt, Netherlands, Italy, Mexico and Greece.

Out of all the places they visited, Morabito said the cruise stands out.

“It’s a trip I will always remember.”


 

@pointypeak701
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Northern Health preparing ‘for a changing situation’ in response to COVID-19

The health authority is taking a number of measures to free up hospital capacity where possible

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Northwest Regional Airport says ridership extremely low amid COVID-19

The airport has enacted enhanced sanitary measures and reduced flights

Shames Mountain pleads for public to stay away from ski hill following large social gathering

Camera footage shows a parking lot full of people mingling, ignoring social distancing mandate

Fisherman drowns crossing Skeena River

59-year old Prince Rupert victim pronounced dead at Mills Memorial

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

‘Tremendous’ response from blood donors has supply keeping pace with demand

About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million residents give blood on a regular basis

Morning world update: Cases surge past 600,000; positive news in Germany

Spain suffers its deadliest day as Germany considers April 20 to possibly loosen restrictions

VIDEO: Penguins roam empty halls of Vancouver Aquarium

COVID-19 has forced the Vancouver Aquarium to close access to guests – leaving room for its residents

Kids get back to learning in B.C., online

Ministry of Education rolls out new tool for school

Most Read