COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — One year ago, Steve and Rachel Mushrush were just getting back from what was supposed to be a two-week South American cruise. It turned out to be a deadly COVID-19 nightmare that lasted more than a month.

“There’s nothing in South America yet we think you’ll be ok,” Steve Mushrush said as he recalled a pre-cruise conversation with his doctor. “Just be careful.”

That is what the doctors told the couple before they flew to Chile for their Coral Princess Cruise on March 5th, 2020.

“On the ninth, which is four days into your trip, you’re told you probably shouldn’t be traveling?” I asked. “Right, the state department tells Americans to avoid cruises, right,” Rachel read from the journal she kept on the trip.

Then they got sick. Rachel was first and then Steve. They had a slight fever and mild flu-like symptoms. They recovered and never for a second considered coronavirus.

“Are there any masks on the ship?” I asked. “No!” Steve said emphatically. ”No safety protocols?” I wondered. “Oh no,” Steve insisted.

Then the Captain started making regular announcements.

“Higher presentation than normal of flu like symptoms,” they read from the journal and continued.

“We tested 15 people, 12 have COVID, nine passengers three crew. We’re quarantined. We really got a problem now.”

They dock in Buenos Aries to let everyone off to find a way home.

“Well, they wouldn’t let us off because the Argentine authorities wouldn’t let us off the ship,” Steve says. “And you are huddled in a mass of people?” I asked. “We are,” he said noddingly.

Another announcement.

“Captain came on to give us the very sad news, that two passengers had died overnight, on the ship” Steve read from the journal entry.

“Your reaction?” I asked. “We’re devastated,” they responded.

Borders were closed. No docking in Uruguay or in Barbados or in Ft Lauderdale. Thirty-five days later Miami, Fl. let them disembark.

“We got flashing lights, police escort, we felt like lepers,” Steve recalled.

The couple returned home on a chartered flight to Columbus on April sixth and were greeted by people in hazmat suits and limousines to take them home.

“We got to the garage stripped off our clothes and felt decontaminated at that point.”

The cruise of a lifetime.

“We were stressed. We lost weight. We lost hair, but we didn’t lose our lives. We just feel blessed I think, umm hmm,” Steve and Rachel nodded in agreement.

Antibody tests showed they had COVID. They escaped once.

“Will, you ever get back on a cruise ship?” I asked. ”Yeah, he’s got one booked,” Rachel said with nervous laughter.