On January 20, 2020 the Diamond Princess cruise ship set sail from Yokohama, Japan. By February 26, the ship accounted for more than half of all the documented coronavirus (COVID-19) cases outside of China, with 700 people on board infected. The cruise ship and its dire predicament — unable to dock or let its passengers leave their rooms, while forcing infected crew members to continue working — was breathlessly covered by the international media as uncertainties and paranoia over COVID-19 grew in the early days of the pandemic. The entire thing is chronicled in a documentary short from HBO, aptly titled The Last Cruise. Watch The Last Cruise trailer below.
The Last Cruise Trailer
Using footage recorded by its passengers and crew, The Last Cruise offers a first-person account of what it was like to be stuck in the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise.
Directed and produced by Hannah Olson and produced by Shane Boris, Joe Beshenkovsky, and James A Smith, The Last Cruise is a bit of a depressing documentary due in part to its release by HBO before the pandemic has even ended. Though vaccines have been rolling out successfully, it’s hard to drum up the interest to watch a documentary about an ordeal we’re all still in, even if the sheer paranoia of the early days of COVID-19 has mostly abated by now.
Here is the synopsis to The Last Cruise:
The quarantined Diamond Princess floating in a Japanese harbor became a global spectacle – a faraway symbol of the new virus and its potential to upend any sense of normalcy. Otherworldly scenes – scientists in hazmat suits, passengers in face masks and cleaning teams spraying disinfectant on empty shipboard buffets — packed the nightly news. With little information available about the new virus and limited access to resources, the ship’s cases soared.
Passengers were quarantined in their staterooms for weeks while the number of cases on board skyrocketed. Meanwhile, the crew tended to the passengers, delivered room service and slept and dined in cramped, shared quarters. They’d become what we’d later term “essential workers.” The ship would ultimately account for the first citizens of Argentina, Israel, Portugal, Russia, Ukraine, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, and New Zealand to test positive for COVID-19.
While the Diamond Princess was in quarantine, U.S. government scientists studied what was transpiring on board. Despite their findings that the virus was likely airborne and that asymptomatic people contributed to the spread, it would be more than one month before the CDC advised the use of masks and more than two months — and one million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States — before the CDC advised testing asymptomatic people who had been exposed to the virus.
Following its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in the Documentary Shorts Competition category, The Last Cruise will be available on HBO and to stream on HBO Max on March 30, 2021 at 9:00-9:40 P.M. ET/PT.
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