SAULT STE. MARIE -- After spending 20 days isolated at sea in a small cabin, a Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. couple is now home and sharing their experience.

Bill Purnis and Flo MacLeod are happy to be home after returning from their month-long cruise ship trip around South America.

The goal for the birdwatchers was to see as much wildlife as possible and the trip was supposed to be like any other cruise ship they had taken before.

However, after a week into it, they knew something wasn’t right. 

"We knew something was wrong and then we felt we were in the safest place in the world, a ship totally isolated from the rest of the world and disease-free, but we were wrong," said Purnis.

COVID-19 struck, killing four people and getting 200 crew members and passengers sick.  Everyone was ordered to stay inside their room and all of their meals were brought to them.

"Good thing we get along because the first one we had isolation on, the Zaandam, we had a cabin with no windows. We were just in a small room all day together," said MacLeod.

Each day, MacLeod says the captain of the ship would bring them puzzles and a deck of cards to entertain themselves. 

Purnis says when he heard the news that four people died, he got scared.

"I got a paper out to say we’re sort of really sorry because we didn’t get to say 'goodbye.' Because we thought we could be next and we won’t have said 'goodbye' to all of our family and friends. But I had tears in my eyes and I couldn’t write anything," said Purnis.

The couple eventually spent 20 days trapped on two different ships. They say the captain and crew on the Holland America ship were "amazing." 

After numerous countries refused to let the ship dock at their ports, the couple arrived back in the U.S. on April 3 and boarded a plane to Toronto. 

"When we landed in Toronto, the people just clapped and some started to sing 'O Canada.'  It was very moving," said Purnis.  

The pair arrived back in Sault Ste. Marie two days later. 

They are now in isolation until next Friday, April 17.

The first thing they will be doing once they can leave their house will be to take MacLeod to her regular chemo appointment.