Matt Smith and Katherine Codekas are making the best of a coronavirus quarantine situation.
The married couple, family law attorneys from Sacramento, California, were in the third day Friday of what will be at least a 14-day quarantine for the Diamond Princess, now docked in Yokohama, Japan.
“We’re doing fine. We’re among the more fortunate,” Smith tells USA TODAY via cellphone from the Diamond Princess. His account is more favorable than early reviews from some other passengers.
Princess Cruises reported late Thursday that 41 additional cases of coronavirus had been diagnosed by the Japanese Ministry of Health, bringing the total to 61 reported on the ship. Japanese health officials have reviewed 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew members on board Diamond Princess for symptoms, Princess Cruises’ Public Relations Director Negin Kamali said in a statement.
Passengers on the ship have been instructed to stay in their suites or cabins during the quarantine.
Those in interior cabins with no window or outdoor access have been able to go on deck for up to an hour-and-a-half, but must stay at least a meter from fellow passengers, Smith says.
He and Codekas, both 57, are both feeling fine. They say they were lucky to have a suite with a balcony, allowing them to go outside to get fresh, if chilly, air. It’s sunny outside, but temperatures have been in the upper 30s.
“We’re at the pier right now. We have a view of the harbor. There’s a nice suspension bridge,” he says, adding that they don’t have the view of emergency vehicles that passengers on the other side of the ship can see.
The couple, who boarded the ship in Yokohama on Jan. 20 for a cruise that was to have stopped in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan and Okinawa, now expect the quarantine is likely to exceed the length of their initial 15-day voyage.
Smith says the situation is “inconvenient,” but that they are comfortable on board, with fresh water, electricity and meals dropped off at the door by the ship’s crew. Friday’s breakfast included bacon, eggs, sausage, fresh fruit and yogurt.
The staff is “going through the hallways with carts. We think they’re doing a bang-up job,”he says.
Internet service has sometimes been spotty, but the couple say the cruise line has provided more on-demand movies and added live TV channels to help passengers while away the quarantine. They requested and received clean sheets, but changed the bed themselves after crew dropped them off at the door to avoid close contact.
The crew is distributing masks and thermometers, as passengers are being asked to take their temperatures and report readings above 37.5 degrees Celsius, Smith says.
Status updates from the ship’s captain have increased and improved as the quarantine has gone on, Smith says. More dire accounts from other passengers “reported on social media didn’t seem accurate to us,” he says, acknowledging it’s more difficult for people in interior cabins who don’t have access from their rooms to outdoor light and air.
Initial dissatisfaction may have been shaped by “people’s expectations,” he says. “Some people thought they were going to have two more weeks of cruising. Then they heard, ‘You can’t leave your cabins.’ “
Smith acknowledges the situation is “inconvenient,” but that they have received welcome cooperation regarding rescheduling hearings involving their law practice, with care for their pets and with rearranging their travel plans once the quarantine ends.
With the door drop-offs, Smith says, “It gave me insight into animals in a zoo … waiting for someone to knock on the door and drop food off.”
That said, “I think we’re pretty accepting of it. They’re trying their best to keep the virus from spreading into Japan.”
Still, they’ll be happy when the quarantine ends. As Codekas puts it: “I am looking forward to getting home and having some tacos!”