The holidays turned into a nightmare: the documentary “The Last Cruise” on a COVID epidemic at sea
The Last Cruise, released on Disney-Hotstar, uses intimate footage recorded by the ship’s passengers and crew on cell phones. A first-person account of the nightmare that happened aboard the ill-fated cruise
On January 20, 2020, the sprawling Diamond Princess cruise ship set sail from Yokohama, Japan. There was a lot of pent-up excitement inside the ship, as spirits flew high as the colorful balloons released to celebrate the launch of what was meant to be a relaxing and fun journey.
At that time, many of the ship’s passengers had a vague idea of the four confirmed cases of a disease called coronavirus around the world at that time. But they never imagined that this virus would turn their vacation into their worst nightmare.
On February 26, 2020, the Diamond Princess cruise ship turned into the scene for a “horror movie,” as it was cordoned off in the Japanese port and placed in quarantine for two weeks. Eventually, it turned out to be the center of the first major COVID-19 outbreak outside Wuhan around that time – 712 people infected, 14 of whom were said to die.
The Diamond Princess has become a global spectacle, a distant symbol of the new virus and its potential to completely turn our lives upside down.
The miserable fate of the 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew on board, who were forced to remain inside the ship, totally unaware of this mysterious disease, is documented in a 40-minute documentary titled ” The Last Cruise, “which began streaming. on Disney + Hostar at the start of the month.
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The documentary uses intimate footage recorded by the passengers and crew of the ship on their cell phones. And, is a first-person account of the nightmare that occurred aboard the ill-fated cruise at the start of the pandemic last year.
With little information available about the new virus and limited access to resources, the ship’s cases had skyrocketed. Passengers were quarantined in their cabins for weeks and would ultimately be the first citizens to test positive for COVID-19 in their own country.
Meanwhile, the documentary shines the spotlight on the hapless crew, who had to continue to look after passengers, provide room service, and had to sleep and dine in cramped, shared quarters. They had become what we would later call “essential workers” without realizing it at the time.
“The Last Cruise” clearly evokes the fear and anxiety of coexisting with “an amorphous and misunderstood threat”, it was kind of like what will happen in the world soon after. But back then people had to deal with it all stuck in a confined, claustrophobic space.
Documentary producer Hannah Olson, who watched the headlines like everyone else at the time and saw the ship quarantined in a Japanese port with Covid cases on board, began collecting social media messages from passengers on board early.
Several of these people were interviewed on ‘The Last Cruise’ – scared passengers who couldn’t leave their cabins; the crew were rightly terrified of working in shared facilities to prepare meals for passengers without protective gear, cramped next to coughing colleagues, without any safety procedures.
“It was like a horror movie that I watched unfold in social media footage and I started compiling it,” Olson said, according to media reports.
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In the film, we see American passengers evacuated on February 17 in government-chartered planes, and Italians, Canadians and Australians afterwards. But the last to leave the ship were the crew, most of whom came from Indonesia, India and the Philippines.
It was not until March 1 that all passengers had evacuated the Diamond princess for good, with the Indonesian crew being the last to leave. But until they finally landed, their main concern was that they had been left for dead or rather “to be killed slowly”.
“We felt like only the rich would be taken care of,” says Maruja Daya, pastry chef and single mother of two, in the documentary. “It’s not just passengers who are at risk from this virus, so why are we still working? she asks.
The music has a dystopian tone like we are watching the movie “Jaws” as the documentary tries to create a buildup of the trauma that is about to unfold. But, for those who have read about the Diamond Princess when the pandemic hit the world, you can see what happened inside the luxury cruise liner. The documentary effectively captures the isolation, fear and confusion that had befallen the passengers and crew. Maybe viewers will easily connect with this feeling.