A cruise ship stranded for days in the South China Sea amid coronavirus fears has been granted entry to a Cambodian port, the vessel's captain has told hundreds of passengers onboard.
The Westerdam, which is operated by Holland America, was refused permission to dock by numerous countries in the past 11 days, including the Philippines, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.
Port authorities have cited fears that passengers may be carrying the coronavirus, despite the ship's operators saying they have "no reason" to believe there were any cases on board.
The ship is carrying more than 2000 people, including 802 crew and 1455 passengers, some of whom have expressed relief that days of waiting at sea will soon be at an end.
"We will immediately begin making our way to Sihanoukville in Cambodia," Westerdam captain Vincent Smit told passengers.
"There will be a brief health inspection on board by the Cambodian authorities, which will take place at anchor just before we arrive alongside."
The Westerdam was most recently refused entry to Thailand, after approval to dock in Bangkok was revoked.
The ship was expected to reach Cambodia on Thursday – a development welcomed by Adelaide businessman David Holst and his wife Judy.
"Back to Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where we were on day seven. The nearest major airport is five hours' drive away," Mr Holst posted on Facebook on Wednesday night.
"Holland America will advise travel details sometime in next two to three days."
8.00 pm : Wednesday ShiptimeDay 28: When the Thai Navy started loading its guns we fled. 🏃🏻♂️🏃🏻♂️🏃🏻♂️🏃🏻♂️Rejected…
Posted by David Holst on Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Mr Holst, who has criticised Holland America's handling of the situation, also joked grimly: "Maybe the president of Holland America will send his private jet."
Another passenger, Michael Bellinger from NSW, said the vessel was being "escorted by a navy ship".
"We'll be all transported back to Vietnam, and we'll be flying from Vietnam back home," he told ABC News Breakfast.
"In Cambodia, apparently they have a medical crew coming on to do all body checks, heat checks and everything on everyone before they get off. So it might take a couple of days.
"You can imagine what it's going to take to reorganise flights for 1700 people on board."
Mr Bellinger said passengers had been patient and were preparing for a final leg of waiting.
"Everything is swell. Everything is fine on the ship. [It's a] floating hotel. It's really great. Plenty of food, and the staff have been fantastic," he said.
The Westerdam moored at a port in South Korea in February 2019. Photo: AAP
'Funny and sad at the same time'
The vessel was scheduled for a two-week cruise, but with that period running out this week, there had been worries about fuel and food supplies.
Many on board are elderly and there were also concerns they could be running out of medicines.
Passengers on board the ship have been subjected to regular health checks, according to Holland America – a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp.
Stoking fears of authorities in countries on the ship's route has been the ongoing quarantine in Japan of the Diamond Princess, also managed by a unit of Carnival Corp.
A total of 175 out of the 3700 people on board the Diamond Princess have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Late on Wednesday, the Westerdam changed its course away from Bangkok and began heading towards Cambodia, according to data published by the Marine Traffic ship tracking website.
Earlier, the Thai Navy warship Bhumibol Adulyadej could be seen escorting the Westerdam in waters just off the Thai coast, according to passengers and Marine Traffic.
The ship's next cruise, which was due to start on February 15, has been cancelled.
The patience of some passengers has been tested by the prolonged uncertainty, with one passenger reporting that others pushed and shoved for access to one of the ship's only available computers and printers, to re-book flights home.
"Hard to imagine these senior cruisers coming to blows but guess that happened," one said.
"It's funny and sad at the same time."