Valentine’s Day on the coronavirus-struck Diamond Princess cruise ship involved gifts of iPhones, chocolate, and roses — with masked dancing below deck

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  • Passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship have been under quarantine since February 4. They get to go out and stroll around outside for only about an hour, if that, and they are cleaning their own rooms.
  • On Valentine’s Day, there was dancing below deck in the kitchen, and all rooms were given an iPhone for medical support from the Japanese government.
  • The first group of healthy people was also allowed to leave the ship. Eleven passengers older than 80 have opted to serve the rest of their quarantine on dry land, but approximately 3,500 others are still on board.
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It has been 25 days since the passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship were last allowed to set foot on dry land.

They’ve been under a government-imposed 14-day quarantine in the Port of Yokohama since their two-week cruise was slated to end on February 4. That’s when Japanese Health Ministry officials came aboard and discovered 10 people were sick with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Since then, at least 218 passengers and crew on the ship – which was originally carrying more than 3,700 people – have been diagnosed with the virus and taken ashore for medical care. This is by far the largest number of COVID-19 infections outside mainland China.

Business as usual has changed significantly on the ship. Passengers have been making their own beds, scrubbing their own toilets, receiving room-service-only meals from perpetually gloved and masked crew members, and counting down the days until February 19, when their quarantine is scheduled to end.

On Valentine’s Day aboard the ship, passengers were gifted roses, chocolates, and (courtesy of the Japanese Health Ministry) new iPhones featuring a special app for medical support. More than 2,000 extra prescription medications have also been brought on board, crew members said.

Dinner on Friday was a choice between shrimp “Valentine,” coq au vin, or a potato tart.

Kids on board drew pictures, and the crew danced below deck.

Passengers who were allowed to leave the confines of their staterooms and stroll outside for a bit took advantage of the fresh air to get in some exercise.

But not everyone was allowed above deck. As one mother aboard enjoyed some fresh air above deck, she said she wouldn’t be able to go back outside again until Sunday because the outdoor schedule for thousands of passengers on board is on a rotation.

Higher-ups at Princess Cruises said the ventilation system on the ship, which normally blows a mix of fresh and recirculated air, has been altered “in an abundance of caution” to circulate more fresh air than usual. (Most public-health experts agree that the coronavirus is typically spread person to person through coughs and sneezes, and epidemiologists don’t think it could infect people in different rooms on the ship.)

Passengers have been offered face masks for days (which they’re required to wear when outside). But, for the holiday, they were gifted masks of a different sort.

In something of a Valentine’s treat, 11 healthy passengers were let off the ship under a new protocol established by the Japanese Health Ministry, which is prioritizing the oldest, most vulnerable passengers over 80 years old. (Those passengers will still need to finish out their quarantine in government facilities on land.)

But perhaps the most substantial Valentine’s gift the guests have received yet is their full refund for this cruise, which has now stretched into a monthlong quarantine saga slated to end next Wednesday.

“The end is now in sight,” a crew member announced to the ship on Friday night. “Five days to go.”