Fear, boredom and adventure: How each day is filled up on a quarantined cruise ship

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

Life for passengers on board a cruise ship placed in quarantine because of the coronavirus has been described as a mixture of fear, surprising moments of levity and boredom.

The Diamond Princess is quarantined in a Japanese port with scores of cases of coronavirus, locking those inside away from the outside world.

But social media posts and interviews given by those on board suggest that at times there is an almost festive atmosphere, with tales of locals on jet skis buzzing past the ship, shouting greetings.

However, other days are filled with concern and sadness when new cases of the deadly illness are confirmed.

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 Diamond Princess is anchored as emergency vehicles stand by at Yokohama Port, near Tokyo (AP)
Confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world. (PA)

With the number of those ill increasing, there is also a doubt about whether this kind of quarantine works, with some experts questioning if keeping more than 3,500 passengers and crew in such close quarters might spread what is now known Covid-19.

Despite the tiny rooms, dirty sheets and boring food, some passengers appear to feel like they are still on holiday – despite being quarantined.

Cheryl and Paul Molesky, 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 the snow-capped Mount Fuji.

Read more: Doctors warn of rapid spread of coronavirus on London Underground

Mr Molesky, a 78-year-old potter, said: ”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. It’s been very nice.”

Mrs Molesky added: "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.”

Paul Molesky, left, gets a DNA swab test in his cabin room on the Diamond Princess (AP)
Passengers stand on the deck of the Diamond Princess cruise ship (AP)

Elsewhere on the ship, a Japanese man in his thirties 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 theatre, but passengers are now mostly confined to their rooms.

Many cabins are as small as, if not smaller, than many hotel rooms, while the more affordable rooms are not much wider than a double bed and do not have much seating space aside from a desk chair, according to pictures posted in the ship's website.

Cheryl Molesky and Paul Molesky film a selfie video on their balcony of the Diamond Princess (AP)
Mr Molesky scrubs the toilet in his cabin while being in quarantine (AP)

The cheapest ones do not even have windows. Many balcony cabin 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.

A woman with a teddy bear waves to another passenger quarantined on the cruise ship (AP)
Media gather outside the quarantined Diamond Princess where life on board the luxury cruise ship is mixed (AP)

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 an hour each day, as long as they keep two metres apart. Passengers chat and wave to each other from their balconies.

Meanwhile, 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 stood before a camera saying: "We are scared.”

Read more: Diamond Princess cruise passenger speaks out on coronavirus quarantine

A man identified as crew member Binay Kumar Sarkar said, 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 have tested positive for the virus are restaurant, bar or housekeeping staff who probably had contact with passengers until 5 February when the first test results were released and restaurants and bars were closed.

Masked passengers are seen on the deck of the cruise ship as scored tested positive for coronavirus (AP)
Masked passengers stand outside on the balcony of the ship (AP)
Confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK so far (PA)

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.

Read more: Woman describes life on board Diamond Princess as passengers

"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," said daughter, Bianca D’Silva.

Student Bianca, 20 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."