Photo by Artak Petrosyan (Unsplash).
The phrase “taking a cruise” seems to immediately turn our thoughts toward luxury, relaxation, sun, and fun – well, under normal circumstances, that is.
But, right now, the world is not experiencing normal circumstances, and cruise ships are on the frontlines in the battle against a widening epidemic.
While most vacationers never want their dream cruise to end, hundreds of others are desperate to get off their floating prison.
The current epidemic of the Coronavirus has claimed more than 1,100 lives in China to date, and thousands of others are under quarantine.
Centered in Wuhan, there are now more than 500 cases all over the globe, including two other deaths, as governments and health officials work to get the epidemic – now officially titled COVID-19 — under control before it gets worse.
The Cruise from Hell
In addition to being the central hub of dream vacations, cruise ships are also notorious for being breeding grounds for viruses.
Thousands of travelers living together in a floating city of sorts, with ventilation systems churning circulated air that has spread illnesses like norovirus, the flu, and now Coronavirus.
But for passengers aboard the Diamond Princess, their cruise has garnered international attention after being quarantined in off the coast of Yokohama, Japan after a man from Hong Kong left the ship and was later diagnosed with the virus.
Now, nearly four thousand passengers and crew are under quarantine as the virus continues to spread on board.
At last count, more than 60 people have tested positive for the virus, including a dozen Americans, and daily testing of passengers is sure to uncover more cases.
Four are in serious condition – two in intensive care and two on respirators – as quarantined passengers pray for good news.
Currently, if no more passengers test positive in the coming days, the quarantine is due to end on February 19th. But desperate passengers are not counting on it.
Although infected passengers are being taken to local medical facilities, morale is sinking as supplies dwindle to dangerous levels.
For those who were fortunate enough to book balcony cabins, they are at least able to see a glimpse of sunshine and get some much-needed fresh air.
For others, 24-hour lockdown in their cabins is becoming more than they can bear, and American passengers are pleading for help from President Trump to rescue them.
They are isolated and losing hope, only able to communicate with family and plead for help through the media via Skype.
Gone are the carefree days on board, full of entertaining games, shows and all-you-can-eat buffets.
One American couple Gaetano Cerullo and Milena Basso, reports that everything is being rationed, from food to medical supplies.
On one day, they requested two bottles of water from the crew. It took four hours to receive them. The next day, they made the same request and were given a cup of water each.
What’s worse, this couple is on their honeymoon, and they didn’t expect the start of their new life together to be under these circumstances.
Others are hanging laundry over their balconies and pacing their few square feet of freedom like caged animals. A sign could be seen on one balcony begging for help due to a shortage of medicine.
While passengers report that crew members have done everything they can to meet their needs and stay positive, all on board are seeing first-hand how emotionally debilitating boredom and fear of the unknown can be…
Especially when they have a daily view of people scrambling in and out in hazmat suits as they try to replenish supplies from the mainland and keep the virus contained.
A shared concern seems to be that the information is being withheld on the status of their quarantine and the severity of their circumstances.
Passengers are fully aware of the poor quality of circulated air aboard a cruise ship bound for nowhere, and are making it known that the decision to keep them quarantined in an unsafe environment could have devastating consequences.
One female passenger told media outlets that she is scared she will leave the ship “in a box,” and that sentiment seems to be spreading among other frazzled passengers – likely to never take a cruise again, desperate to get home safely.
Other ships under observation…
Those aboard the Diamond Princess are experiencing the worst-case-scenario in cruise ship quarantine, but they are not the only ones being monitored.
A Holland America cruise ship, the MS Westerdam, was turned away from port in Thailand amid Coronavirus fears.
Although there have been no confirmed cases of the virus on board, the panic over stopping the virus seems to be creating floating prisons all over the world.
The Thai government has promised help with medicine, food, water, and fuel, but that doesn’t alleviate all the fears of the nearly 1,500 passengers, including 650 Americans.
For now, their prayers are focused on avoiding the same fate as those aboard the Diamond Princess.
President Trump has addressed the Coronavirus crisis and has praised the efforts of the Chinese government in working to keep the deadly virus from spreading outside its borders.
But that comes as little comfort to those aboard the Diamond Princess.
Crew members are strictly enforcing the need for passengers to stay in their rooms, and there is a palpable fear that their jail cells will become like those on Death Row – never knowing who will become the next victim of this frightening epidemic.
Proud American Traveler will keep you updated on any new developments on the effect of the Coronavirus on international travel.