Cruise ‘inmates’ bored, isolated and running out of undies

In total isolation and with symptoms starting to hit, a 61-year-old Australian woman who caught coronavirus on board the Diamond Princess is passing the time by planning her next cruise.

Feb 11, 2020, updated Feb 11, 2020

“The Baltics look good,” she told the ABC from inside a Japanese hospital she was in on enforced quarantine.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, is one of the seven infected Australians who were travelling on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship when it was hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Despite catching the virus from another passenger on board, she has no regrets about her cruise ship holiday.

“[I’d go back] in a heartbeat,” she said.

“At 2:00am this morning, I was googling the Princess [Cruises] website to see what I could book next.”

A shot of a hospital room including a sink and bed
The Australian woman is being kept isolated in this Japanese hospital room while she recovers from coronavirus. (Picture: Supplied)

The Australian woman is among at least 70 people who were taken off the ship and put into hospitals around the country.

Another 60 people were diagnosed with the virus yesterday, bringing the total number of people infected on the ship to at least 130.

There are 225 passengers and three Australian crew on board, according to the Australian Department of Health.

And they are among the 3600 in lockdown, mostly confined to their cabins for at least two weeks.

Small numbers of passengers are allowed out, generally for about one hour at a time, and not every day.

The infected Australian woman was taken off the ship on February 7 with few symptoms, but she said she began sneezing soon after she arrived at hospital.

“I came in here feeling absolutely fine. Now I don’t,” she said.

“I’ve definitely got a head cold. My head’s all blocked up. At home I’d be taking some paracetamol and just getting on with my day.”

Despite her minor symptoms, Japanese hospital staff are checking her every two hours.

“They’re in here … checking on my pulse, checking on my blood pressure, taking the temperature and just keeping a really good eye on me,” she said.

“I feel safe here, which is great.”

‘We lose a sense of time’

The crisis began on board the Diamond Princess when an 80-year-old man from Hong Kong fell ill after disembarking the ship.

A few passengers on balconies on a cruise ship
The Diamond Princess has been on lockdown since a former passenger was diagnosed with coronavirus last month. (Photo: Reuters: Kim Kyung-Hoon)

He had boarded the cruise ship in Yokohama on January 20 and got off in Hong Kong five days later.

The Japanese Government put the ship on a mandatory quarantine period that is due to finish on February 19.

But passengers who have been in close contact with confirmed cases will have the clock reset and have to wait another 14 days from their last interaction with the infected person.

Two teenagers in bunk beads in a tiny cruise ship cabin
The Tan family are sharing a small windowless cabin on the Diamond Princess as they wait out the quarantine period. (Photo: Supplied: Aun Na Tan )
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Despite the isolation, some cruise fans have no regrets.

“We would definitely cruise again,” Melbourne woman Aun Na Tan said from her small windowless cabin.

“We have the bridge cam on the TV to give us a feel of a window. The main thing is we lose sense of time.”

Staff on board the Diamond Princess are handing out crosswords and Sudoku puzzles to help keep passengers occupied.

A teenage girl poses near board games and cards.
The crew gave Aun Na Tan’s teenage daughter Kaitlyn a supply of board games, cards and art supplies to keep her busy. (Photo: Supplied: Aun Na Tan)

Aun Na Tan and her family are doing what they can to pass the time.

“We are watching movies, the news, reading, we have played card games with the kids. [My daughter] Kaitlyn has homework that she is following up online with teachers and [the] school portal,” she said.

Her husband has given up on the holiday altogether, working remotely from his laptop.

For some passengers, the biggest frustration is the lack of laundry services.

To prevent the spread of infection, clothes and bedding are not being cleaned, leaving passengers to turn to hand-washing in their bathrooms.

Life goes on as best it can onboard, despite the extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances.

Two male passengers leaning on their railings on board the Diamond Princess
Some passengers on the Diamond Princess say they have not had a chance to do laundry and are running out of clothes. (Reuters: Kim Kyung-Hoon)
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