Revelstoke mother and 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 on-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 embassy’s 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.

Holland America’s president Orlando Ashford met with passengers. (Submitted)

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 its 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

FortisBC offers 90-day bill deferrals to customers impacted by COVID-19

Customers can apply for the relief program through the utility’s website

RCMP pursuit in Okanagan Falls leads to arrest of Penticton man

Seamus Kirby of Penticton is facing numerous charges including flight from police

North Okanagan bands together in support against COVID-19

New group launches website with tools to help endure crisis

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen cuts two positions

Management roles cut as a result of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Summerland couple sharing positive messages

Carsten and Val Nielsen are displaying professionally made signs during COVID-19 pandemic

WATCH: Salmon Arm artist hosts virtual art show amid COVID-19

Roxi Hermsen’s show “Into the Cosmos” is a tribute to her father Bill Sim

HERGOTT: COVID-19 and ICBC

Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer based in West Kelowna

COVID-19: Armstrong gym fined $345 after failure to close

The fitness centre was issued a ticket a day after province ordered all gyms to close

Bus rider who travelled to Golden tests positive for COVID-19

The passenger travelled from Calgary to Golden on March 15

Armed robbery of legal grow-op in Sicamous ends in arrest near Enderby

Residents alarmed over increased police presence Tuesday morning

Wildfire burns out-of-control on Adams Lake band land in the Shuswap

BC Wildfire Service reports Shuswap two-hectare fire is not threatening structures

COVID-19: Vernon homeless shelters combine in curling club

Gateway and Our Place shelter sites housed under one roof amid pandemic

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

Most Read