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HBO Documentary Films: THE LAST CRUISE – Review

by Jef Dinsmore
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Overview: Using intimate footage recorded by passengers and crew, THE LAST CRUISE is a first-person account of the nightmare that transpired aboard the ill-fated Diamond Princess cruise ship, which set sail from Yokohama, Japan on January 20, 2020 in the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. By February 26, 2020, the ship accounted for more than half of all the documented COVID-19 cases outside of China, with more than 700 people on board infected. The world watched. Debut date: Tuesday, March 30, 2021 

Expectations: Again, like the previous documentary on this topic, it is good to chronicle the major historic events of the times. We can all share similar stories we had/have with the pandemic as it affected our daily lives, but this film offers a unique look into the one specific incident that may prove quite interesting to observe. It is only 40 minutes. Let’s take the time.  

Gut Reaction: Firstly, I can see why this is just a short film. In the midst of the self-contained crisis abroad this vessel not everyone, depending on their level of panic or sickness, was going to have the desire to chronicle it over their phone. I know I wouldn’t have freakin’ bothered. So, to cobble some sense of a plotline from phone footage must have taken some deal of investigation and editing. Kudos to the filmmakers for generating what they did.  

Docs_TheLastCruise-PicThey did end up padding some unnecessary moments but coupling both passenger & employee footage, showing two different perspectives on how the citizens of the ship dealt with the issue at hand was wise. Quite honestly, the most interesting testimony out of it all was from the staff. Keep in mind, that this all plays out as a frightening mystery to all onboard. This is early in the pandemic when not a lot of medical knowledge was accrued.  This was staff below deck not sure of what all was happening above the water line in the guest cabins. This was hundreds of guests locked in cabins for days not sure what was going to happen. Before you know it this film is over and it leaves you a bit stunned.        

In Conclusion: At the time, when this made the news, the real impact of it didn’t register. Seeing THE LAST CRUISE put it all in perspective. This cruise ship was a petri dish, an unfortunate test lab for medical teams. It proved a valuable scenario for further understanding the virus and how it was transmitted; all crucial knowledge needed in those early stages. This documentary, short & concise, makes that point clear and makes this documentary worth seeing.  

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