Fear, boredom, adventure fill each day on quarantined cruise ship
YOKOHAMA, Japan — 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 been an almost festive atmosphere, as when locals on Jet Skis buzzed the ship, shouting greetings. Other times, there is deep worry as new cases are confirmed, pushing the total to 218 — the largest cluster of infections outside China. Five of those patients have severe symptoms and are in intensive care or on artificial respirators, Japan's health ministry said.
Others have reported surprisingly mild symptoms, including one Australian woman who described the initial terror of being whisked to a hospital while covered in protective plastic.
The days pass with petty frustrations and inconveniences — cramped 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 some 3,500 passengers and crew in such close quarters might spread the viral disease, recently named COVID-19.
With another week or more of quarantine to come, the AP looks inside the vacation cruise that’s gone seriously off course:
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 Molesky 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,” the 59-year-old retired art and media teacher said.
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 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 are not much wider than a double bed and don't have much seating space aside from a desk chair, according to pictures posted on the ship's website. The cheapest ones don't even have windows. Many balcony rooms are around 222 square feet or less, the website said. A lot of the interior rooms, which feature large mirrors in place of a window, are only 158 to 162 square feet.