World Central Kitchen Is Feeding Cruise Ship Passengers Quarantined Due to Coronavirus
The Diamond Princess has been quarantined in Yokohama since February 5, 2020.
Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Gay Courter spent 14 days in quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and during her time aboard what she described as a "rather posh penitentiary," she was grateful for every single slice of cake.
"The meals have been getting better and better," she told Sky News last week. "We have a choice of three items now for lunch and dinner, not exactly the huge dining room menu, but it's been tasty [...] The real hero for me on the ship is the pastry chef. He's determined that Death by Chocolate is preferable to the virus, and he's sending us all kinds of wonderful, delightful desserts."
She and her husband, documentary filmmaker Philip Courter, were among the Americans who were evacuated from the ship over the weekend and flown back to the United States—although they're now facing another two-week quarantine at the Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
The passengers and crew members who remain on the ship may or may not be getting Death By Chocolate every day, but they are getting some specially prepared meals from a different group of heroes. According to a statement, Princess Cruises has partnered with chef José Andrés' nonprofit World Central Kitchen. "Starting with lunch [on Tuesday], we will be integrating WCK meals into our food service options," the cruise line wrote. "Meals will continue to include breakfast, lunch and dinner, which will be delivered to staterooms accommodating all dietary requirements."
Matthew Smith, one of the Americans who is still stuck on the Diamond Princess, said that the ship's captain made an onboard announcement about the arrival of World Central Kitchen. "This is to relieve pressure on the crew," he tweeted. "But I also believe this is the first step toward transitioning from quarantine of the remaining passengers to quarantine of the crew themselves." (Josh Phelps, a relief operations manager for WCK, also suggested that the crew could "start to quarantine themselves" now that they're not cooking three meals a day.)
The World Central Kitchen crew, led by director of field operations Sam Bloch, set up a field kitchen at the Yokohama port where the ship has been docked. The organization said that the food itself is prepped and cooked at its "actual kitchen" in Tokyo, but it also needed a way to ensure that those meals would make it onto the ship safely, securely—and hot, when necessary. (WCK has also driven four oven trucks and six refrigerated trucks to the port.)
"It’s definitely a different situation for us, but then again, every disaster, every immigration crisis, every situation that we address is a unique and different situation,” Bloch said in a Twitter video.
"Every one has its own challenges that we are able to quickly adapt and figure out [...] We really don't know what the future is going to hold, so we're just preparing for all possibilities."
Bloch has been manning a forklift, driving pallets of meals to the ship, before crew members carry them onboard and place them outside each guest's cabin door. "[The passengers] get some yummy hot food, and the crew doesn't have to cook and do all of the work," he explained. "They get to get some rest."
Princess Cruises says that it is working with the Japanese Ministry of Health to coordinate how and when to get the remaining passengers off the ship, and it expects the process to take several days. Andrés has pledged that his WCK crew will remain on-site "as long as we are needed."
The real heroes, indeed.