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Diamond Princess guests dub quarantine a floating prison

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — David Abel’s 50th wedding anniversary luxury cruise began with him eating his fill and enjoying the sights of East Asia.

It’s ending with him quarantined in his cabin aboard the Diamond Princess for two extra weeks, eating a “lettuce sandwich with some chicken inside” and watching 20 infected people escorted off the ship, heading for hospitals for treatment of a new virus.

Abel is among hundreds of passengers on two cruise ships — in Japan and Hong Kong — caught in the drama and fear about the little-understood virus that just emerged in December. Tests are still pending on some passengers and crew who have symptoms or had contact with infected people.

“It’s not going to be a luxury cruise; it’s going to be like a floating prison,” Abel said on Facebook from the ship in the port of Yokohama, outside Tokyo.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship, with over 3,700 people quarantined onboard due to fears of the new coronavirus, is seen anchored at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port on February 6, 2020.

As Japanese officials loaded the ship with supplies Thursday to make the quarantine as bearable as possible, passengers took to social media to highlight small kindnesses by the crew and to complain about dwindling medicine, the quality of the food and the inability to exercise or even leave their cabins.

Their photos and videos showed the vessel that once had 3,711 passengers and crew is now a ghost ship, deserted reception areas, swimming pools and hallways. Babies on the Hong Kong ship were reportedly running out of diapers and milk.

“I think for many passengers, it’s going to be absolute boredom,” Abel said in a separate interview. He considers himself lucky that he has a cabin with a balcony. “The people I feel really sorry for are those with inside cabins who’ve got no natural light, no fresh air. It’s going to be pretty grim for them for two weeks.”

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 06: Passengers look out from a balcony of the Diamond Princess cruise ship while it is docked at Daikoku Pier.

Grim is one way to describe the virus and the fear it’s created. China counts more than 28,000 cases and it’s spread to more than 20 countries. Still, fear has spread faster than the disease. Masks and hand sanitizer are sold out in many areas of Seoul, Tokyo and Bangkok. Health workers are striking in Hong Kong and anti-Chinese discrimination has been seen across Asia. Taiwan has banned international cruise ships.

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