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Trapped on a Cruise Ship by the Coronavirus: When Is Breakfast?


TOKYO — Hidden away in her cabin, Masako Ishida reckons she doesn’t face much risk from the coronavirus that has stalked her cruise ship, forcing an onboard quarantine of 3,700 passengers and crew members in the port city of Yokohama.

Ms. Ishida, 61, is trying to see the bright side as she faces two long weeks stuck inside the ship. She has a window to gaze out of, unlike some passengers. She, like her two traveling companions — her husband and her mother, both in their 80s — is healthy and not in need of any medications.

By no means, though, is this going to be easy.

Confusion arrived quickly. Ms. Ishida said she first learned that her two-week cruise might be extended not from the crew, but from an article she read online on Monday. That report said a man from Hong Kong who had disembarked from the ship, the Diamond Princess, in his home city on Jan. 25 had tested positive for the virus.

When she asked some crew members about it, they confirmed the news, she said. But it took a while for other passengers to learn that they might have been exposed to the virus, which has killed hundreds in China.

“There wasn’t much information,” Ms. Ishida said from the ship on Wednesday during a call via Facebook.

The Diamond Princess, which has 13 decks and offers entertainment like movies under the stars and live musical productions, arrived in Yokohama on Monday night and stayed at anchor for two days while the authorities decided what to do.

Japanese health workers have begun screening 273 people who displayed symptoms or came into contact with the infected man. So far, 10 of them, including passengers from Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and the United States, have been found to be infected. They were being taken to hospitals.

All 3,700 people on board received an initial health screening. Ms. Ishida said the authorities who performed it didn’t seem to take it very seriously.

When they first took her husband’s temperature, she said, the reading was 32 degrees Celsius, or 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit, well below a normal temperature of 98.6.

Ms. Ishida asked them to retake it. The second reading was 35 degrees Celsius, or 95 Fahrenheit.

“They didn’t put the thermometer into our ears properly,” Ms. Ishida said.

She has also felt the chaos of the sudden quarantine at mealtimes. Breakfast, delivered by staff members in goggles and masks, didn’t arrive until almost 2 p.m. Then lunch came right on its heels.

Nevertheless, the crew members are “serving guests with a smile,” Ms. Ishida said. “That’s giving us some peace of mind.”

The ship is steaming back out to sea so it can empty its bilge and supplement its water supplies, its owner, Princess Cruises, said on its website. It will return to port on Thursday to take on food and other supplies.

Ms. Ishida and her family enjoy cruises and had been especially looking forward to relaxing aboard the Diamond Princess as it wended its way from Yokohama to Kagoshima, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan and Okinawa.

Now, instead of taking a dip in the freshwater pools or going on a “Chocolate Journey,” Ms. Ishida and her family are whiling away their time playing games on their tablets, reading, watching movies and speaking to family and friends using the ship’s now-free Wi-Fi.

Judging by social media, other passengers trapped on board have had more difficult moments.

In a Facebook video, David Abel, a passenger from Britain, said on Wednesday morning that he was concerned about how the quarantine might affect his diabetes, saying that he had not eaten in many hours and was fearful that he could fall into a coma.

The problem was resolved, he said, after staff members aboard the ship responded to a flood of emails expressing concern about his condition.

Earlier that morning, he had been more optimistic. As an announcement about the quarantine came over a loudspeaker, Mr. Abel said that the passengers would be confined to their cabins and that he was looking forward to the free time.

“Most of my day will be spent writing and researching and so on,” he said, adding, “What my bar bill is going to be, goodness only knows.”

For Ms. Ishida, her biggest worry is about the toll that being stranded on board for such a long time will take on her family.

Still, things could be worse. The last time she went on a cruise, she said, everyone caught the flu.

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