Cruise ship Diamond Princess is seen anchored off the Yokohama Port, after people on the cruise liner tested positive for coronavirus in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Cruise Ships Return to Japan Three Years After ‘Diamond Princess’ Kicked Off a Global Pandemic

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March 2, 2023

By Low De Wei (Bloomberg) —

International cruise ships are returning to Japan, three years after the Diamond Princess became the world’s first luxury ship to face a major Covid outbreak. 

Amadea, operated by Germany-based Phoenix Reisen, is now docked in Tokyo Bay after earlier arriving at a port in Shizuoka prefecture in western Japan, according to shipping data tracked by Bloomberg.

The outbreak on Carnival Corp.’s Diamond Princess, which docked on the country’s shores in February 2020, drew global attention to the risks of infection aboard sea vessels. At one point, the ship had the most cases outside mainland China, where the virus originated. 

A months-long saga eventually ensued after the ship was quarantined off the nation’s shores, with about a fifth of the 3,711 passengers onboard the luxury ship infected and 12 deaths. That crisis also heralded a wider shutdown of the industry during the pandemic. Japanese authorities were criticized by some infectious disease experts for failing to contain the spread of the virus, with people quarantined on the ship without proper ventilation in place. 

Since then, the country has joined other nations around the world in removing pandemic curbs, loosening travel restrictions last October. Meanwhile, major cruise operators like Royal Caribbean have also seen bookings rebound. 

The nation has geared up to welcome back cruise ships, which brought more than 2 million people to Japan in 2019.

In an indication of changed attitudes, there was much fanfare for the crew members and the mostly German passengers on board the Amadea. Local authorities organized a drum performance to entertain guests, and rolled out the local mascot, a blue dinosaur called “Shizulla” to greet them. 

As the ship departed to continue its journey to Tokyo, fireworks were set off. “There will be more cruise ships coming in future,” the mascot’s publicity Twitter account said.

–With assistance from Marika Katanuma.

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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