Susan Anabel, a 67-year-old woman from Marysville, Washington, was looking for an adventure when she booked a single, windowless stateroom on Carnival’s Diamond Princess cruise ship. She was scheduled to return to Seattle from Tokyo after her relaxing two-week cruise ended this week. But now she is one of 428 Americans stuck in a living-hell-limbo that has trapped more than 5,000 people on two massive cruise ships after several passengers tested positive for the deadly coronavirus.
“I signed up for an adventure, and I’m getting an adventure,” she told KIRO 7 news channel via a FaceTime chat in which she explained that the crew told them they cannot even open their door unless someone brings them food. “I don’t have a window and I don’t have a balcony, so it could get a little tight in here.”
After one passenger tested positive for the virus, it took 18 hours to take the temperature of the remaining passengers and crew. Princess Cruise Lines confirmed that 10 people—one American, two Australians, three Japanese, three Hong Kong citizens and one Filipino crew member—were diagnosed with the virus and taken off the ship. By Thursday morning, a further ten people had been confirmed to have the virus and 171 passengers were awaiting test results, adding more uncertainty to the length of the quarantine.
But the rest are now under quarantine for at least two weeks. Anabel was not sure whether they would eventually be allowed to leave their rooms, and with no window, she can’t even tell what is happening outside.
At the end of the interview, the captain could be heard telling passengers that the ship was running low on water, so they were asked to only flush if necessary.
“I guess they don’t want us near land,” Anabel said, explaining she was getting some information via messages from people with windows in their rooms. “They have a Japanese coast guard circling our ship.”
The passengers and crew aren’t even 24 hours into the saga, but many are already posting desperate messages on social media. One creative passenger has started a Twitter account with the handle @quarantinedondiamondprincess through which they are posting a rather uneventful online diary including pictures of the food that is brought to their room and recordings of the captain’s announcements.
“Day 1: Arrangements are being made to collect passengers’ prescription medications. Four additional live tv channels are being added to ship feed, including USA, Australia, and China channels.”
Other passengers are tweeting through relatives on shore who have been regularly updating the unchanging status. One man on shore tweeted that his parents don’t speak any of the languages being used on public announcements being piped over the ship’s intercom, so he is trying to relay information that he can through other people on the ship.
One passenger, who tweets under the handle @yardley_wong and describes herself as a “Christian entrepreneur, faith based e-commerce marketplace startup founder,” has been posting more emotional dispatches. “Tried to sleep but having a hard time, knowing that there is more test result come out tmw,” she wrote. “Fear and unknown really got me #chill #outbreak #coronavirus #DiamondPrincess #quarantine #StayStrong.” In another post, she includes a picture of her stateroom door, under which she writes, “So much wondering through this door.”
Another person whose mother is on the ship was able to get the staff to deliver soap to her room after posting a handwritten sign in which she pleaded that without access to laundry, she had to wash her clothes by hand in her bathroom sink. “She finally got some bar of soap thank you!,” the person wrote. “She can not go to laundry, she has to wash her clothes by bar of soap for next 14 days.”
Less is known about a second cruise ship, the World Dream, with 1,800 people on board which is docked in Hong Kong. Three people are suspected of having the coronavirus on that ship, but communication has been limited as the ship’s internet is reportedly not working.
AFP journalist Daniel Suen posted a haunting picture of various passengers from that ship on their balconies in Hong Kong’s harbor.
The coronavirus has affected more than 20,000 people in mainland China and nearly 200 people across 25 countries. The death toll has risen to 492 people, with all but two in mainland China.