/Diamond Princess Quarantine: What Its Like For One Family

Diamond Princess Quarantine: What Its Like For One Family

“If the kids want boundaries, they head up [to] their bunk bed and put on their headphones,” the mom told BuzzFeed News.

Posted on February 8, 2020, at 12:37 p.m. ET


Aun Na Tan

Aun Na Tan with her children Xander Soh, 19 and Kaitlyn Soh, 16, in their room on the quarantined Diamond Princess.

Being trapped in a tiny windowless interior room of a cruise ship with your parents for two weeks may not be a dream holiday, but one family quarantined on the Diamond Princess due to a coronavirus outbreak is making the best of it.

“All you need is a pair of headphones and music and you are all set,” Xander Soh, 19, told BuzzFeed News.


Aun Na Tan

Jeff Soh with his kids in their quarantined Diamond Princess room.

Soh, his 16-year-old sister Kaitlyn, and their parents are among the approximately 3,700 people stuck on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama in Japan — including around 1,000 cruise ship staff.

So far, 61 people on the ship have tested positive for coronavirus, and they are being treated in hospitals on shore.

“We have lost all sense of time but thankfully we have social media to chat with friends to keep us grounded and sane,” said Kaitlyn.

Passengers must remain in the rooms at all times, with staff leaving food and drink for them outside their door.

Several other Diamond Princess passengers have tweeted photos of the quarantined meals.

Princess stepping up its game with food service on #DiamondPrincess. Don’t believe the honeymooners who would rather be in an American hospital. You might have to drag me off the ship when the quarantine ends.

On Friday afternoon, the cruise ship staff let passengers from interior rooms take turns to visit the deck of the ship for fresh air, for an hour at a time.

For the Soh teens, it was the first time they’d been out of their approximately 168 square-foot room since Tuesday.

Their mother, Aun Na Tan, 43, told BuzzFeed News that the coronavirus quarantine had initially been a huge shock, particularly after learning they would be not allowed to leave until February 19. Luckily, none of the Soh family members have displayed any virus symptoms (staff provided passengers with thermometers to check their temperature).

“I had to spend a little time composing emails to the kids’ schools, [and] dance and music teachers, and it slowly calmed us down,” she said.

The family was supposed to have already returned to their home in Melbourne, Australia (they’ve had to cancel flights twice), and because of the quarantine, Kaitlyn will miss final callbacks for a dance role with the Victorian State School Spectacular, a big musical theater event for public schools.

The family will also miss out on a Queen and Adam Lambert concert “that we were very much looking forward to!” said Tan.


Aun Na Tan

Walking outside when passengers were allowed onto the deck for a brief period on Friday afternoon.

But right now, the family is just trying to make the best of it.

This is the third cruise the family has been on together — although it’s the first time they chose an interior room, not one with a balcony — and Tan says she’s confident they will cruise again even after this experience.

“We mesh along quite well and make jokes, and if the kids want boundaries, they head up [to] their bunk bed and put on their headphones,” said Tan.

Every day, the cruise’s kids’ club team members have dropped by to check on Kaitlyn and leave her care-bags of games, activities, coloring books and even a soft toy.

The teens love to dance but the lack of space limits them to just some basic stretches.


Aun Na Tan

Xander stretching in the room.

Instead, they entertain themselves by reading, watching videos and playing on their phones. Kaitlyn said she’s “relieving my boredom by surfing BuzzFeed and Kpop news.” (We appreciate you Kaitlyn!)

Their dad Jeff Soh is working remotely for his job at a financial institute from the room’s small desk.

Tan worries what the end of the quarantine will mean for her family, and if their return to Australia may result in further waiting.

“Will we be subjected to more quarantine?” she asked. “That is our biggest worry at the moment. We don’t know what our standing is, and what we need to get through before we are finally home and back to everyday life.

“But we bounced back to look at this time as an adventure,” she told BuzzFeed News. “We are safe, we are together, we are in comfort and we are being looked after by the crew. We are a positive bunch and we’ll be alright.”