Passengers stuck on cruise ship due to coronavirus struggle to pass the time

Maggie Rulli reports for ABC’s Perspective podcast on the “ship of doom.”

An Oscars screening, tons of movies, internet, and workout classes. Some would say this sounds like a great vacation -- but it isn’t the kind of vacation guests on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship were expecting.

Officials have found more than 200 cases of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, on board the cruise ship, which has been docked at Japan's port of Yokohama since Feb. 3.

Reporting for ABC’s Perspective podcast, Maggie Rulli has been talking to passengers aboard the vessel that some passengers have nicknamed the “ship of doom.”

Listen to the full episode of Perspective here:

John Haering and his wife Melanie went on the cruise to celebrate his retirement. Now he’s quarantined off the boat with a 103 degree fever and a positive test for the virus, while his wife remains on the ship. “I’m alone here in the room and would rather be back on the cruise ship,” John said.

But being quarantined on a ship for days can affect mental health, so the cruise line is providing entertainment packages and helping those aboard pass the time with movies and online workout classes. With some passengers getting only one hour outside over the last six days, it’s important to keep spirits high.

Back on land, the mood in Japan is fearful so the number of people going out on weekends and nights has noticeably decreased. Restaurants, theaters and bars are about half as full as they usually are at peak times. People in the street cover themselves with face masks.

“You don’t know where the germs are; we still don’t really know how it’s transferred,” Rulli reports outside the docked ship. “Washing my hands nonstop, I have hand sanitizer on me at all times, I have those wet wipes, I try to wipe down my phone every hour with those wipes.”

With more than 1,300 coronavirus fatalities in China, officials are not taking chances -- so those who are infected or at high risk are being quarantined until their test results come back negative.

A passenger on the Diamond Princess described the ship as “the ship of doom” due to a feeling of helplessness that comes with being trapped in small rooms without windows.

The cruise ship is currently starting to unload some of its passengers, but there are still many to go before all guests are clear to return to their normal lives.