When COVID-19 hit last spring, it hit hard and very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that when the Diamond Princess cruise ship set sail from Yokohama, Japan on January 20, 2020, hardly anyone had ever heard of the coronavirus. But by the time the ship returned, there were 712 people infected with 14 deaths.
A new HBO documentary, The Last Cruise, showcases the panic and horror on that cruise ship from the perspective of the passengers and crew on board during that nightmarish ordeal. From the happy departure to the confusion during passenger quarantine in tiny cabin rooms to the ultimate worst-case scenario, the film is mostly a collection of cellphone footage that tells the story from the inside.
The Film Stage recently reviewed the film during its SXSW debut, stating that the documentary captures “the early days of COVID when so much was unknown” and turns into a “vital and horrifying record of a crisis that we should have quickly learned from.”
“While the film could have easily been stretched beyond its 40-minute running time,” the review states, “padded with global health experts, The Last Cruise instead remains focused on what we did not know. The only medical expert interviewed is the ship’s doctor and it’s reasonable to assume other voices may not have felt comfortable to appear on screen due to nondisclosure agreements signed with the company.”
Interestingly enough, one commenter on the HBO YouTube channel tells her tale of working on a Princess cruise ship during the pandemic. “I’m working for princess cruises and this documentary is just making me sad. I don’t know if I cant watch it really. I got stuck on one of their ship during the pandemic and stayed there for 3 months and the company took care of us. They ended all our contracts though but they made sure that all of us will go home safely. I am still thankful to this company because of that.”
The Last Cruise documentary will release March 30 on HBOMax.