'Vile' food and days without sunlight: What it was like inside the quarantined cruise ship.

After 14 days in quarantine aboard the coronavirus infected Princess Diamond cruise ship, 72-year-old Lyn Hedger arrived in Darwin with the knowledge she wouldn’t be free for another 14 days.

“I went through a very bad time when I came here. I felt kind of dumped,” she told Mamamia over the phone from isolation.

The cruise, a Christmas present from Lyn’s daughter Clare, 35, took a turn on February 3 when the captain told them over the loudspeaker they’d be docking about 12 hours early in Yokohama, Japan.

The Victorian mother and daughter would remain there, isolated and in quarantine for the next 14 days.

All 3,700 passengers on board their ship were vigorously tested over the next fortnight, with more than 700 infected and six COVID-19 deaths recorded so far – including the first Australian death. 

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“We’re okay considering,” Clare told Mamamia, from their new quarantine accomodation in Darwin, where they’ve been since mid-February.

They hadn’t really considered the risk of coronavirus when they first hopped on their cruise on January 20, but as they got closer and closer to Yokohama, the fear started to build with every new port docking.


“In the first week we were only allowed out twice. That was the most horrendous part of it, because there was no differentiation between night and day. We had no idea what time it was,” Clare said.

“It was like prison. I was a little bit scared at certain points, I was getting a bit claustrophobic – and not having an escape was hard.”

Lyn and Clare cruise
Lyn and Clare were lucky to get the wheelchair accessible cabin, which was slightly bigger than a regular room. Image: Supplied.

They were given unlimited access to the WiFi early on which became a lifeline, and overall the mother and daughter have only praise for the cruise liner's handling of the emergency.


"They put extra movies on the TVs, they kept us informed.... the captain came on the loudspeaker three times a day, and they tried to keep us entertained with things like Zumba and napkin folding via the TVs," said Clare.

coronavirus diamond princess
Japanese soldiers and emergency workers in protective clothing walk from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Image: Getty.

Lyn actually thinks the experience has "been very good for our relationship," and found her struggles with the whole debacle came when the decision was made to move them.


On the plane, they were suddenly sitting toe-to-toe with other passengers after spending two weeks being told to "stay one metre away from others".

"It was a bit disconcerting... suddenly we were all jumbled together," she said.

diamond princess cruise ship
The hallways of the cruiseship were monitored to ensure passengers didn't leave their rooms. Image: Getty.

Once in Darwin, they were separated into their second batch of quarantine in an old miner's village.

"They're geared for emergencies... the mental load isn't their main focus. They are looking for life or death. But it was a bit of a let down for a lot of people... I saw three people break down crying in the first few days of getting here," Clare said.


Apart from the mental difficulties, "vile" food has been the other major hardship for both women while in quarantine both on the ship and in Darwin.

clare and Lyn
Lyn says the experience has actually done wonders for her and her daughter's relationship. Image: Supplied.
Here is an example of what Clare and Lyn have been fed the past month. Image: Supplied.

"When you finish the evening meal there's always this film of grease at the bottom," said Clare.

"It's horrible. You'd think we were in some third world country," added Lyn.

Lyn and Clare (if all goes to plan in the next 24 hours) will have their second quarantine lifted at exactly 1:30am Thursday morning, which coincides with the time the doors closed on their Qantas flight from Japan.

After 28 days in two bouts of quarantine they both agree their most immediate need is a salad full of the freshest ingredients they can find.

Feature image: Supplied. 

This article originally appeared in Gemma Bath's weekly news deep dive email. You can subscribe right here.