Local couple stranded on cruise ship at center of coronavirus outbreak
A Vincennes couple is aboard the Princess Diamond cruise ship currently docked in Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city, and under quarantine as more than 60 passengers have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
A local attorney Jim Levell, and his wife, Linda, a member of the city’s Utilities Service Board, were among the 3,700 people — and just eight Americans — who boarded the cruise ship in Yokohama on Jan. 20 for a two-week cruise through southeast Asia.
They went on excursions in Tokyo and Okinawa in Japan as well as Hong Kong, China, and ports in Vietnam and Taiwan before heading back to Yokohama on Feb. 3. They were set to disembark on Feb. 4, but soon came an announcement they were heading in early.
And that’s when the Levells started to worry.
“We had heard rumblings that a man had gotten on the ship on Jan. 20 and gotten off on Jan. 25 in Hong Kong,” Linda Levell said, speaking from her cell phone Thursday night from the ship. “Then we heard he had later been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
“But we went to dinner that night with our friends. Later, they told us we would be delayed a day, maybe two. The next day, before we’d even woken up, they announced we would be confined to our cabins for 14 more days.”
While talking with Levell Thursday night, Japanese Ministry officials announced that another 41 passengers had tested positive for the virus, one that has swept across China and spread to 24 other countries, including 12 confirmed cases here in the U.S.
It has affected more than 31,000 people globally.
And the total number of sick Princess Diamond passengers now totals 61.
“Of course we’re freaking out,” Linda said. “There are people in masks, they deliver our food — breakfast, lunch and dinner — and always with Japanese authorities giving orders, telling them what to do.
“We hear news reports, things like that. We have TV, lots of movies and channels to watch. We’re not allowed to go anywhere. They are starting to let people go, floor-by-floor, to the upper deck for some fresh air, but they must wear masks and plastic gloves. We have a balcony, so we’re going to stay right where we are. We feel that’s the safest place to be.”
Both Jim and Linda Levell say they aren't experiencing any symptoms at this point — neither are any of the couples they’ve met and spent time with during their two-week vacation. They’re communicating with one another, she said, via Facebook messenger.
That simple pleasure, she said, has been a “morale booster.”
They’ve been told they’ll be issued thermometers, Linda said, so they can monitor their own temperatures. Anyone with an elevated temperature has been given an emergency number to call.
Initially, Linda said Japanese officials set out to test about 300 people, all of whom they knew had contact with patient zero, whether they were located on his floor or even shared a dining room during his brief stay on the ship.
Of them, 61 have tested positive so far.
“We’re both healthy right now, we both feel fine,” she said. “We’re hoping we will get through this. And no one is sick that we know.
“But the thing that alarms us is that more people keep contracting the virus,” she said. “And it’s been a couple of weeks since that man got off the ship.”
The Levells are seasoned cruise-takers. This, she said, is their 15th cruise — their third with Princess — although their first through southeast Asia.
Still, when eyeing more than a month in that small cruise ship cabin, emotions are running high.
They’ve also run out of their necessary daily medications, she said, although Princess officials have taken individual passenger orders and promised to deliver it soon.
“I’ve made a little calendar, and I’m marking off the days. Jim brought three books. He’s reading. I’m not an avid reader, but I may have to grab one of his books,” she said with a chuckle.
“I sit on the balcony,” she said, adding that the weather is about 40 degrees and sunny. “I grab my jacket, put on my scarf and try to enjoy the air. I text or call my friends. That’s really about it. Oh, and they brought us a deck of cards.”
Mount Fuji, she said, is visible off in the distance, although she envies her friends who have a starboard view of all the medical goings-on beneath.
“They can see the people that are being taken off the boat, the ones that are sick,” she said. “There are ambulances, police cars, all that stuff.”
But through it all, they’re trying to remain positive. What else is there to do, she says.
They’re communicating regularly with family back home; a friend and neighbor is caring for their dog for as long as necessary.
It could be worse, she says with confidence.
“At least it’s 14 days,” she said. “Or at least I’m hoping it’s just 14 days. Then I’m hoping we can fly home. I’m hoping that since we’ve already been quarantined for so long that we won’t be quarantined again before being allowed back in the states.
“We’re trying to keep a positive attitude,” she said, offering a little sigh. “What we want is to stay healthy. If we knew for sure, at the end of the 14 days, that we would be healthy and safely on our way home, then I’m fine to stay right here.”