By Hina Alam, The Canadian Press
A Canadian-American couple on-board a cruise ship that has been quarantined off the coast of Japan say they’re “a little stir-crazy” from being confined to their room.
A two-week cruise that Roger and Karey Maniscalco embarked on Jan. 24 has now turned into a nearly month-long stay after 61 people were tested positive for the new coronavirus aboard the ship.
A statement from Princess Cruises, the operator of the Diamond Princess, said seven of the 61 passengers who tested positive are Canadians. The ship carrying 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew was first quarantined in Yokohama on Tuesday following a confirmed outbreak of the new coronavirus.
The couple were scheduled to disembark Feb. 4 but the statement said the quarantine end date will be Feb. 19, unless there are any other unforeseen developments.
“If we knew Feb. 19 we will be back home it will make it a lot less stressful than not knowing what’s going to happen after this … whether they’ll let us go on the 19th,” said Roger Maniscalco, who is Canadian but lives in the United States.
“Uncertainty is the worst. Not knowing information is the worst.”
The couple first heard the outbreak from a friend, he said.
“We weren’t going to mainland China so we weren’t so concerned. And it just escalated like crazy.”
On Monday, Japanese authorities began testing the passengers in their staterooms and gave them forms to fill out, which included their recent travels and whether they were feeling sick.
“They started at 11 p.m. and we were given the exam at 3:30 am in the morning and it went on and on for hours,” Maniscalco said.
“It was almost another full day when they actually got everyone done. We were told on an announcement that we were being quarantined for 14 days and it was quite devastating.”
Princess Cruises said local public health authorities will disembark the passengers who are infected with the virus for transport to local hospitals. The company said staff are doing their best to make the quarantined passengers comfortable.
Maniscalco said the couple is lucky they have a small balcony and can get some fresh air and sunlight.
Passengers without a balcony are taken out on the deck – a few at a time – with gloves and masks, he said.
The couple pass their time watching movies, talking to family and friends on social media and trying to get some exercise inside their room. They say they are healthy and have no symptoms.
“This is a tough situation for everyone,” Maniscalco said.
“The food isn’t the same as the normal food for cruise line either…everything’s just changed and now we just want to get home.”
The viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 31,400 people globally.
China has seen 636 deaths and 31,161 confirmed cases on the mainland. In addition, Hong Kong has had 22 cases, including one death. Macao has had 10 cases. Most of the deaths have been in central Hubei province, where illnesses from the new type of coronavirus were first detected in December.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said foreign passengers on another ship, Holland America’s Westerdam, won’t be allowed into Japan. He said suspected coronavirus patients were on board, but the Seattle-based operator denied anyone had the virus.
At least four other cruise ships, two foreign and two Japanese-operated, are headed to Japan by the end of the month, Japanese Transport Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba said, urging port authorities around the country to turn them away.
Meanwhile, Maniscalco said he can either be devastated by the situation or take it in stride.
“We try to make the best of it,” Maniscalco said, adding that it makes for a good story.
“It’s a great way to break ice. It really is. Not the way I would like to but yes.”
— With files from The Associated Press.