“Maybe they don’t have it under control”: new documentary reveals lessons learned from the Diamond Princess

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Last Updated on March 3, 2021 by YGK News Staff

A new documentary is going behind the scenes to explore the science behind outbreaks on major cruise lines, and how these lessons continue to affect all of us today. 

The Covid Cruise, produced by filmmaker Mike Downie, is among recent productions that were filmed in the Kingston area. Downie is the older brother of late Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie.

“CBC docs put out a call for covid related documentaries and my producing partner Dave Wells came up with the idea telling a story of the covid story on the crew ships,” Mike Downie told YGK News in an interview. There were crews hired from Mumbai, Tokyo and San Francisco.

The documentary begins with Canadian graduate student Spencer Fehrenbacher, who describes his initial experience on the Diamond Princess. A video of Ferenbacker went viral while on the cruise ship, after learning that there had been 67 new cases on the cruise while on live TV. 

Photo of Downie (Supplied)

Over the course of a week, Fehrenbacher watched the Diamond Princess go from a luxurious cruise ship into a large floating hospital. Within days, Fehrenbacher tells Downie that the view outside of their cruise ship became men in hazmat suits, journalists and the Japanese military.

In order to recreate some of these scenes in the documentary, Downie used Kingston’s Delta Hotel to film various shots of the dining hall and elevator areas. The documentary was ultimately pieced together by a combination of interviews, live videos shot by passengers of the ship and interviews with experts.

“I remember taking my mom there a few years ago and I knew the Delta had a nice contemporary feel to it, and I also wanted to find a place outside of Toronto this summer,” Downie said. Downie rented a house on Wolfe Island and took the ferry work in the mornings. 

One of the key lessons learned from the Diamond Princess outbreak was how the virus spread from person to person. In particular, the scientists noted that the disease was being transmitted through small aerosols particles from the mouth. 

Finally, we asked Downie if making the film changed his perception on cruise ships, and whether he would go on one again. “I’ve never been on a cruise ship and I don’t think anything in this documentary is going to sway me to go on one, but I will say this, I understand why people do cruises,” Downie said.

“People get a little older and you need a little more security, sometimes mobility is an issue. Everyone loves to travel and see new parts of the world,” Downie said. “I’m not one of those people, but I get it.”

You can watch the Covid Cruise tonight at 9pm ET on CBC or anytime on CBC Gem.

Watch as the Diamond Princess became the biggest centre of COVID-19 outside China:

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