While some elderly passengers with pre-existing conditions and other medically vulnerable passengers may be taken off of Princess Cruises' Diamond Princess to finish the coronavirus-induced quarantine on land, others will remain on board.
Passenger Matt Smith, who has been keeping USA TODAY up to date on the situation on the ship, said the captain made an announcement that they would begin that process by removing 11 passengers from the ship Friday afternoon, local time. Since early February, 218 people – including 20 Americans – have been removed and taken to medical facilities after testing positive for the virus.
Many remain quarantined on the ship, which originally set sail Jan. 20 with 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew. And because they've confined to their cabins for the past 11 days, passengers feel almost as though they are on the ship alone.
But Friday is Valentine's Day – the holiday of love – is not a day many people want to spend in isolation.
Luckily, it seems Cupid's arrow is far-reaching. Passengers and crew stuck on board are making the most of their situation by spreading messages of love for the holiday.
Matt Smith, a passenger on Diamond Princess, traveling with his wife, Katherine Codekas, has kept USA TODAY up to date on their time in quarantine.
On Friday, Smith said that the captain and crew had done a few things to try to lift passengers' spirits on Valentine's Day.
"It was sweet," he said, noting that the captain read a poem to the passengers and crew. "It was literally, 'I'd like to read you a poem: Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.' I read those lines once at a friend's wedding," Smith added.
Breakfast included a chocolate croissant, decorated red for the holiday. Smith also tweeted a photo of other treats provided by Princess Cruises, including a rose and dark chocolate.
Yardley Wong, a passenger who has been tweeting updates throughout the quarantine, shared an image of the menu provided by Diamond Princess's crew ahead of Valentine's Day.
"order a special meal for Valentine’s Day, a reserved bottle of red for tmw. Coq Au Van, yes pls!" Wong wrote with a series of emojis and hashtags.
#day9 #coronavirus #coronavirusoutbreak #Quarantined on #diamondprincess order a special meal for Valentine’s Day, a reserved bottle of red for tmw. Coq Au Van, yes pls! 🍽🍷#HanginthereDiamondPrincess #ValentinesDay pic.twitter.com/KZNgfigVPV
— Yardley Wong (@yardley_wong) February 13, 2020
According to the Cupid-stamped menu, guests were offered special selections for dinner and lunch.
For lunch there was terrine on lettuce with cranberry jelly as an appetizer and a choice of fish and chips; bangers and mash; or a baked bell pepper with aromatic rice, bok choy and tomato sauce. And of course, dessert.
For dinner, guests could dine on "Cupid's" avocado and shrimp salad before choosing from three entrees including: "Shrimp Valentine Japanese style," coq au vin with mashed potatoes and vegetables; or Bermuda onions and potato tart with caponata. "Valentine's Day surprise dessert of the day" was listed, too.
And Wong's son created a Valentine's Day card for the crew, as well.
#day9 #coronavirus #CoronavirusOutbreak #Quarantined on #diamondprincesscruise my son draw a #ValentinesDay card for the #crewsquarantined. HAPPY VALENTINES DAY 🌹🌷🌹💋❤️❤️ #HanginthereDiamondPrincess pic.twitter.com/JlrjcHTihM
— Yardley Wong (@yardley_wong) February 13, 2020
Wong and her son aren't the only passengers doing a little something to celebrate.
Dan Ponce, a television anchor from Chicago, posted on Twitter that his mother-in-law was quarantined on the ship and created Valentine's messages for the crew, which she taped on her cabin door.
"My mother-in-law Linda is among the passengers quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan," he wrote. "Today she used manicure scissors to make valentines for the crew. So thoughtful!"
"Thank you for taking care of us," one of the hearts read.
My mother-in-law Linda is among the passengers quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. Today she used manicure scissors to make valentines for the crew. So thoughtful! #diamondprincesscruise #Coronarivus pic.twitter.com/Fxb1604O8y
— Dan Ponce (@DanPonceTV) February 13, 2020
Smith said the crew has been great.
"The crew brings the food, which is obviously vital," he said Friday. "They are unfailingly polite and cheerful, and in the morning in particular, even boisterous. And you just feel grateful, not being able to do for yourself, that these people are providing for you."
"It's kind of an introvert's dream here'
Even before Valentine's Day, many passengers had been doing their best to stay positive about the situation, while others likened to a being on a "floating prison."
But as the quarantine continues through Feb. 19, those on board are still being tested for coronavirus. And the results are leaving passengers concerned.
"We've always been concerned, but we're still thinking that if the incubation period is two weeks, and quarantine is for two weeks, we should be getting new cases still for a while," said Cheryl Molesky, a passenger on Diamond Princess.
"When it comes over the speaker .... you feel really worried and let down about it," she said of hearing about new cases aboard the ship. "But you do have to think, 'well, this is to be expected,' and the captain mentioned that it is to be expected," she added.
But she and travel companion Paul Molesky have tried to remain positive.
"It's kind of an introvert's dream here. I don't have to get dressed in the morning; I can sit out on the balcony and can read all day," she continued.
They have come up with a routine of chores and keep entertained by watching people practicing water sports, like jet skiing in the harbor.
"I feel it's not only my attitude but also (my grandson's) attitude and the family attitude that's helping us through this all," Paul said.
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Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Diamond Princess cruise ship: Feeling the love despite coronavirus