Toronto

'I don't know how long people can last': Quarantined cruise ship passengers confined to cabins

"We have no window. We have no daylight. They haven't let us out yet for fresh air," said Lana Chan, who's staying with a friend in a 180-square foot interior cabin.

Diamond Princess passengers frustrated by coronavirus outbreak; may be allowed to leave rooms Friday

The cruise ship Diamond Princess anchored at Yokohama Port for a re-supply of food and water today. (Hiroki Yamauchi/Kyodo News via The Associated Press)

Passengers from Toronto aboard a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan after a coronavirus outbreak are questioning how they'll cope for two weeks restricted to cramped cabins.

"We have no window. We have no daylight. They haven't let us out yet for fresh air," said Lana Chan.

"We've been cooped up in this little room for two and a half days now."

Chan is travelling with three friends on the Diamond Princess, along with some 3,700 other people. She's rooming with one of them in a 180-square-foot room in the ship's interior.

Japan announced Friday that 41 new cases of the virus have been found on board, bringing the total to 61. Of those new cases, five are Canadians, bringing the number of Canadians aboard with the virus to seven. Those who tested positive and have been taken off the vessel for medical care. 

The 290-metre, 19-storey ship is currently floating in Yokohama Bay, near Tokyo.

A Canadian on board the quarantined ship describes what it is like:

Jennifer Lee, a Canadian who is among several thousand passengers quarantined on board the Diamond Princess off-shore from Yokohama, Japan, gives the latest news on the situation, and how she and her fellow passengers are coping. 5:19

One of Chan's travelling companions, Gloria Ho, said she feels fortunate to be with her husband in a cabin with a balcony.

"We can at least know if it's day or nighttime right now," Ho told CBC Radio's Metro Morning in an interview Thursday.

"I've seen interior rooms with a family of four. Such a small space, with four people and 14 days of not going anywhere? I don't know how long people can last," she said.

The view from Gloria Ho's balony on the Diamond Princess cruise ship when Japanese health officials were screening passengers for coronavirus infection. (Submitted by Gloria Ho)

Ho questioned whether the cruise line, Princess Cruises, could have notified passengers earlier that a person who had been on board tested positive for coronavirus infection. 

That was a man who disembarked the ship in Hong Kong on Jan. 25. He later went to hospital, and health authorities there publicly confirmed the case on Feb. 1.

Ho said she read about the man's case in a Chinese newspaper the day it was announced. She and Chan said they then went to the ship's reception centre and asked staff if there was any need for concern, but the crew members they spoke with said they weren't aware of the situation.

Watch The National's full report on Canadians stuck on the Diamond Princess:

More than 250 Canadians have been quarantined in their cabins on a cruise ship near Japan. Two Canadians on board are among the 20 passengers who have tested positive for coronavirus. 2:07

Life on the ship continued as usual, Chan said.

Then, on Feb. 3, passengers were told that they would not be disembarking at the pier and that Japanese health authorities would be coming aboard to screen everyone. 

"We were a little bit upset," Chan said. "We kind of knew something was happening, so we asked the cruise ship and they didn't disclose anything.

"If they had told us in advance, people probably would have been more cautious."

(Submitted by Gloria Ho)

Ho said she feels similarly.

"I think they should have let us know earlier."

CBC Toronto reached out to Princess Cruises, which owns and operates the Diamond Princess, multiple times for comment on when the company was first made aware of the confirmed case among passengers and when it let the others know, but did not receive a response on that issue.

Passengers are getting three meals a day and bottled water was delivered to rooms earlier today, Ho said.

Trudy Clement, who is also stuck on the ship, told CBC News Network that everyone who delivers food to the room is wearing a mask, gown and gloves.

"You just feel like a little bit alien, with that," she told host Heather Hiscox in a Skype interview.

Canadian stuck on cruise ship shows what it's like:

Trudy Clement shows what it's like to be among 251 Canadians quarantined on a cruise ship off Japan. 7:18

People quarantined in their rooms have been told they'll get a chance to stretch their legs, provided they are wearing masks.

Clement said she thinks the captain has been good about letting everyone know what's going on, and people were recently given a requisition form to ask for additional prescription medication if needed.

She said it's not yet clear what will happen to the people on board at the end of the 14-day quarantine — particularly if other people on the ship become sick within that period.

In a statement posted to its website Thursday evening, Princess Cruises said that for the remainder of the quarantine, "guests will continue to be provided complimentary internet and telephone service to stay in contact with their family and loved ones."

The company said it has also added additional in-room TV channels and movies, and the crew is "packaging games, puzzles and trivia and delivering them to guest staterooms."

About the Author

Lucas Powers

Senior Writer

Lucas Powers is a Toronto-based reporter and writer. He's reported for CBC News from across Canada. Have a story to tell? Email lucas.powers@cbc.ca any time.

With files from Metro Morning, News Network and Jennifer Walters

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