Forest Grove couple featured in HBO's 'The Last Cruise'
More than a year after Forest Grove's Kent and Rebecca Frasure were quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess as COVID-19 raced through the ship's 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew, HBO has released a documentary about the voyage, "The Last Cruise."
Before the cruise was over, 700 people aboard the ship tested positive for the novel coronavirus — including Rebecca Frasure. While Frasure survived, coming down with only a mild case of COVID-19, 40 people aboard died.
Not only are the Frasures prominently featured in the "The Last Cruise," but Kent Frasure — who works in Washington County's booming high-tech industry — ended up serving as an associate producer on the project.
Kent Frasure said HBO contacted him last year and the documentary's director, Hannah Olson, walked him through her vision of what would turn out to be a 40-minute-long film.
"It was something I really felt like it could work," said Kent Frasure, who works for Intel Corp. in Hillsboro as a technician. "I do have some film experience myself, both film and photography, so I basically said, 'Hey, I could really help with this also, and not just be a participant.'"
The cruise was originally set on a roundtrip to Southeast Asia.
A short trailer for the documentary, which includes first-person accounts and extensive cell phone video, features a couple on the deck of the Diamond Princess looking at health care workers gathered along the port in Yokohama, Japan.
"OK, they've got a bunch of people in white coats," a man says to a woman next to him as they film the workers.
"They're not white coats," the woman corrects him, "They're white hazmat suits."
An announcement soon comes over the ship's loudspeaker, stating, "This is your captain speaking: Please be advised that two guests tested positive for coronavirus."
One crew worker says that she felt "only the rich" would be taken care of in the film, which made its debut on HBO March 30 and can be streamed on HBO Max.
HBO notes that the Diamond Princess cruise during the beginning of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic "became a global spectacle — a faraway symbol of the new virus and its potential to upend any sense of normalcy."
"Passengers were quarantined in their staterooms for weeks while the number of cases on board skyrocketed," according to an HBO press release. "Meanwhile, the crew tended to the passengers, delivered room service, and slept and dined in cramped, shared quarters."
Kent Frasure said he learned a lot as an associate producer of the production.
"It was a lot of gathering footage and talking to a lot of people, trying to get basically enough people that we wanted to interview and talk to that also had footage," he said. "That was very important. There were a lot of people who didn't want to talk."
Among those who declined to speak about the event were any of the Japanese passengers Kent Frasure talked with, saying he found them not wanting to discuss anything involving their private lives.
"We were really fortunate to get some crew to talk to," Kent Frasure said. "It's very difficult for them to talk because of the nature of the business. They're just contract workers. So they're putting their job at risk by just talking to us."
When he was involved with the ship's drama unfolding in real time, Kent Frasure said what frustrated him most was a lack of information.
"They really weren't telling us anything that was going on," he said. "I was learning more from news media then outside then I was on ship."
Kent Frasure ended up being quarantined on the ship for 17 days. The third day into quarantine, Rebecca Frasure tested positive for the virus and was taken off the ship and transported to a nearby hospital, luckily with only a little cough and feeling tired.
Kent Frasure was released from the ship on Feb. 22, 2020.
"It was a rainy night," he recalled. "I remember riding in a taxi to a hotel and it was a big relief to finally get off the ship and finally feel a little bit of sense of normalcy."
Still, it was a while before he could visit his wife, and then only to wave to her in the hospital's parking lot. It wasn't until March 5, 2020, that he actually was able to see her in person.
"The one thing I really didn't want this film to be was a like a hit piece against the cruise ship industry and Princess (Cruises), because we really do like Princess," Kent Frasure said. "We actually have another cruise scheduled in November, and so I really wanted to focus on the passengers and the crew and really our experience. This is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing that nobody really could see coming, and it's not really their fault at all."
His big takeaway regarding the event?
"Governments really need to react to what's happening and react quickly to big events like this," Frasure said.
He continued: "Just expecting things to go away and not affect you personally, it's not going to happen. You always have to be ready and willing to maybe change your life a little bit to help everybody else and really make it better for everybody else."
In the end, Princess Cruises refunded the money the Frasures paid for their cruise, as well as paid for Rebecca Frasure's hospital expenses. The couple flew home on March 7, 2020.
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