ALL NEWS

Fear, boredom, adventure fill each day on quarantined ship

Feb 13, 2020, 6:49 AM | Updated: Mar 12, 2020, 9:15 am
quarantined ship...
FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2020, file photo, a reporter walks near the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, near Tokyo. Life on board the luxury cruise ship, which has dozens of cases of a new virus, can include fear, excitement and soul-crushing boredom, according to interviews by The Associated Press with passengers and a stream of tweets and YouTube videos. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — Fear. Surprising moments of levity. Soul-crushing boredom.

Life on the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship quarantined in a Japanese port with scores of cases of a new virus, means experiencing all these things, according to interviews by The Associated Press with passengers and a growing stream of tweets and YouTube videos.

At times there’s an almost festive atmosphere, as when locals on Jet Skis buzz the ship, shouting greetings. Other times, there’s deep worry, like on the days when new cases of the illness are confirmed, pushing the total on the ship to 218 — the largest cluster of infections outside China. One passenger who became ill described the initial terror of being whisked to a hospital while covered in protective plastic, but also of the surprisingly mild symptoms.

The days pass with petty frustrations and inconveniences — tiny rooms, dirty sheets, boring food — and difficult work for the hundreds of crew members.

With the number of illnesses increasing, there’s also a nagging doubt about whether this kind of quarantine works. Some experts question if keeping about 3,500 passengers and crew in such close quarters might spread the viral disease, COVID-19.

With another week or more of quarantine to come, the AP looks inside the vacation cruise that’s gone seriously off course:

___

THE GOOD

Even during the quarantine, it can seem like Cheryl and Paul Molesky are still on vacation.

The couple from Syracuse, New York, can be seen in their YouTube videos lounging, often in plush bathrobes, on their balcony, enjoying the sweeping views of a glittering, sun-streaked ocean and, on occasion, snow-capped Mount Fuji.

“We try to have an upbeat presentation and make sure that our attitude comes across that, we’re not hurt, we’re not in pain, … we’re actually just enjoying ourselves,” Paul Molesky, a 78-year-old potter, said in an interview. “It’s been very nice.”

There was the time a man came to the docks in a Spider-Man costume and played music for an hour and a half to the delight of the passengers.

And the time, early in the quarantine, when eight people on Jet Skis cruised up, yelling out “Welcome!” and playing music. The passengers clapped and waved from their balconies.

The ship, which has 17 decks, has upped its internet service, and Cheryl spends several hours each day answering emails and texts and editing their YouTube videos.

“Now that we’re here in quarantine we’re getting so much attention. We never get that much attention at home,” said 59-year-old Cheryl, a retired art and media teacher.

There’s definite concern each time a new batch of confirmed cases is announced. But, Cheryl said, “Rather than just sit here and worry about, are we going to get the coronavirus, we decided to make the most of every day, and just forget about that for now. If it happens, it happens.”

___

THE BORED

Elsewhere on the ship, a Japanese man in his 30s who refused to give his name because of privacy concerns said he spends his days mostly taking photos of each meal and posting them anonymously on Twitter.

“All I can do is to wait and tweet,” he said.

The ship has a sushi restaurant, Japanese style bath and theater, but passengers are now mostly confined to their rooms. Many cabins — spread across decks with names such as Aloha, Dolphin and Emerald — are as small as, if not smaller, than many hotel rooms.

More affordable rooms on the ship are not much wider than a double bed and don’t have much seating space aside from a desk chair, according to pictures posted in the ship’s website. The cheapest ones don’t even have windows. Many balcony rooms are around 222 square feet or less, according to the website. A lot of the interior rooms, which feature large mirrors in place of a window, are only 158 to 162 square feet.

Guests must often change their own sheets, clean their bathrooms and do their own laundry because contact with the crew has been limited since the first 10 cases were confirmed on board.

The days often revolve around food service. Knocking on four doors at once, an elaborate delivery choreography takes place: one masked and gloved crew member hands out the plates, another the silverware, while another checks off names and room numbers.

The boat has added more movies and TV channels to try to help with the boredom. People without balconies are allowed to walk on the deck for about an hour each day, as long as they keep 2 meters (yards) apart. Passengers chat and wave to each other from their balconies.

Passenger Matthew Smith has been compiling regular food reviews on Twitter, and often details his attempts to get extra coffee. He tweeted that he feels, while sitting in his room between meals, just like his cat “waiting for her daily serving of canned food. Is it time? Is it time?”

For the Japanese man on the ship, the food is one of the biggest reasons he wants to leave. “I miss Japanese food.”

___

THE SCARED

In a recent video posted on Twitter, a group of men wearing Diamond Princess jackets, masks and what appear to be the uniforms of kitchen workers stand before a camera.

“We are scared. We appeal to the Indian government and the United Nations to help us, segregate us urgently,” a man identified as crew member Binay Kumar Sarkar says after removing his mask. “We should be rescued immediately and reunited with our families before it is too late.’’

Some of the crew members who’ve tested positive for the virus are restaurant, bar or housekeeping staff who most likely had contact with passengers until Feb. 5 when the first test results were released and restaurants and bars were closed.

“Until the quarantine started, everything was business as usual, and everyone was freely moving around on board, so there are various possibilities of infection during that time,” said Kazuho Taguchi, director of global health cooperation at the health ministry.

Crew members still share rooms, as the number of cabins for them is limited, Taguchi said.

One crew member, though, said he had been isolated in his own 6 by 10-foot (1.8 by 3-meter) cabin on the third deck near sea level for two days after he reported a sore throat.

“Everyone on the ship is scared. Many people are falling sick, and now the crew’s getting sick too,” he said, requesting that his name not be used because the cruise line company has told workers not to post anything about the situation on the ship to social media.

But while awaiting the results of a throat swab, he has been reading all the news he can find about the ship, and responding to worried friends and family.

Authorities in Japan say isolating people on board is the way to prevent the disease’s spread; other experts say the measure could create more infection.

“More and more people are getting infected by people still in the incubation period or without symptoms while they are trapped on the ship, which is not good for disease prevention,” Reiji Goto, a physician at the department of infectious diseases at Daiyukai General Hospital in Ichinomiya, told TBS television on Tuesday.

A hospital — not a ship — is the best place to keep people quarantined, according to Tara Smith, a professor who researches infectious diseases at Kent State University’s College of Public Health. The Diamond Princess may have already had environmental contamination when the quarantine began, which puts passengers and crew at risk of further transmission. “I think this was done without a lot of thought to consequences of ongoing transmission within the ship and the mental health of the passengers,” Smith said.

For some, the fear might be worse than the virus.

On Thursday, an Australian mother and daughter wearing face masks told Australia’s Nine Network television from a Japanese hospital that officials took them off the ship after the daughter tested positive for coronavirus.

“They put me in, like, a wheelchair, sort of, and put like a plastic — almost like a bubble around it — and they were just wheeling me everywhere,” the daughter, Bianca D’Silva, a 20-year-old law student, said.

Bianca and her mother, Suzanne, said they were both briefly ill, but feel fine now.

“Honestly, it just felt like your everyday cold. Like, I feel absolutely fine now, physically,” Bianca said. “I had a bit of headache before and just a slight fever but that’s about it, honestly.”

___

Associated Press journalists Emily Wang and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Rod McGuirk in Australia and Vineeta Deepak and Emily Schmall in New Delhi contributed to this report.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

The community built a small memorial in front of Macie Hill's family home. Hill passed away after a...
Amie Schaeffer

GoFundMe started to remember 8-year-old girl who died in Kaysville parade

The Kaysville City Fourth of July parade turned tragic when Macie Hill was hit by a vehicle. She reportedly died from her injuries.
1 day ago
Highland Drive Closed...
Heather Kelly

Highland Drive open after closing for hours due to fatal crash involving Coke truck

A crash left Highland Drive closed between 4500 and 4600 South on Tuesday morning. The crash left a 74-year-old woman dead.
1 day ago
A brush fire started in Saratoga Springs last night. Photo Credit: Saratoga Springs Fire Department...
Devin Oldroyd

Fire officials say aerial firework caused brush fire in Saratoga Springs

An aerial firework caused a brush fire in Saratoga Springs Sunday night.
2 days ago
FILE - Fireworks explode over Baltimore's Inner Harbor during the Ports America Chesapeake 4th of J...
BOBBY CAINA CALVAN ASSOCIATED PRESS

A turbulent US this July 4, but many see cause to celebrate

July 4 has arrived as many citizens struggle to find a reason to celebrate. Yet many also see cause for celebration, including President Joe Biden.
2 days ago
The Deuel Creek Fire started on the hillside above Centerville late Sunday night....
Devin Oldroyd

Deuel Creek Fire starts in Centerville overnight, evacuation order lifted

The Deuel Creek Fire began late Sunday night in Centerville.
2 days ago
Tooele City announced its firework restrictions Sunday evening. Photo Credit: Tooele City's Faceboo...
Devin Oldroyd

Tooele City releases fireworks restrictions map

Tooele City announced its firework restrictions Sunday evening.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Fear, boredom, adventure fill each day on quarantined ship