The day before, tests conducted in Cambodia had cleared a first batch of 406 passengers, and they looked forward to heading home to the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
On Tuesday morning, Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, who has basked in international accolades for allowing the Westerdam to dock after it was turned away from five other ports, announced that passengers who were waiting in a hotel in the capital, Phnom Penh, would be allowed home on flights through Dubai and Japan.
Orlando Ashford, the president of the cruise operator Holland America, who had traveled to Phnom Penh, told the anxious passengers to keep their bags packed.
“Fingers crossed,” said Christina Kerby, an American who had boarded the ship in Hong Kong on Feb. 1 and was awaiting approval to depart. “We’ve been cheering as individuals begin to head to the airport.”
But as the day progressed, prospects clouded over. A cohort of passengers who had gone to the airport reappeared back at their hotel, echoing the experience of some passengers on Saturday, who spent chaotic hours at the same airport.
On Saturday, passengers spent hours at the airport lining up and struggling to hear fuzzy announcements, only to be denied boarding because an 83-year-old American woman who had disembarked earlier and flown to Malaysia tested positive for the coronavirus. (She had not been tested before being allowed to disembark the Westerdam.)
Pad Rao, a retired American surgeon, sent a downcast message from the Westerdam, where more than 250 passengers and about 750 crew are still stuck onboard: “New fly in the ointment, the countries that the flights have to go through are not allowing us to fly,” he wrote, urging help from global travel organizations and the World Health Organization.