CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. – This time last year, Gay and Phil Courter were far from their home in Crystal River.

They were on a military base in Texas.

What You Need To Know

  • Gay and Phil Courter were on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship last year

  • The ship had some of the first cases of COVID-19 outside of China

  • A year later, Gay Courter has written a book and the couple is working on a documentary

A U.S. military plane had finally flown them and other Americans from Japan. That’s where they had been stranded for weeks aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which had hundreds of the first known coronavirus cases outside of China.

“It was all very new and very frightening,” Gay Courter said. “People were dying. How?”

In this Feb. 10, 2020, file photo, officials with protective suites prepare work around the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess in the Yokohama Port, near Tokyo Japan. Of the 3,711 on board, 712 of the people gradually fell ill while being quarantined in the Yokohama port. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP) 

The Courters spoke several times with Spectrum News last year while they were stuck in their stateroom. At the time, they were hoping to tell the world what was happening on the ship.

“Imagine waking up every morning, with the captain on the PA system, saying we have 20 more cases today,” Phil Courter said. “And you’d see ambulances coming for more people. And the next day would be 40 cases.”

Gay Courter is a best-selling author. Once she was safely home, she wrote about her experience in a book appropriately titled Quarantine, where she describes a situation in which few have been.

As the world first learned about COVID-19, the Courters had found themselves at the epicenter of one of the first outbreaks, just a few weeks before the rest of the world went into its own quarantine.

“At the time, we had that hard talk. Is this where we die? What plans should we make?” Gay recalled.

Gay Courter in her stateroom on board the Japanese cruise ship, the Diamond Princess

A year later, cruises have yet to set sail again. However, the Courters say they’d be willing to go on one again, as long as everyone was vaccinated and other conditions were met.

For now, they happy to be fully vaccinated and are catching up on lost time with their grandkids.

“This year taught us a lot about how much love each other, care for each other, what our real values are – which seem to be rather small, just to stay healthy and keep in touch with our loved ones,” Gay said.

In addition to the book, the two are working on a documentary also called Quarantine they hope to release soon.