Author details first months of pandemic spent on cruise ship, in quarantine

A Citrus County author who was stuck on a cruise ship quarantine in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic has published a book about the experience.

Gay and Phil Courter were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in January, and by February, they were stuck inside their cabin off the coast of Japan because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

“We felt powerless, and we felt that we were sitting ducks with the disease that was coming at us,” said Gay Courter.

Gay and her husband flew from one quarantine abroad straight into another quarantine once they landed back in the United States.

“At that time, we felt like it was our civic duty to do this to keep COVID away from the United States because when we came back there were only 30 cases,” said Gay.

Gay and Phil Courter eating dinner in quarantine on the Diamond Princess

They made it back to their home in Crystal River in early March, just a couple of weeks before the pandemic shutdown.

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“We were very traumatized by it frankly. We had to have some therapy when we got home,” she said.

Gay put her experience down on paper and published a book Tuesday called “Quarantine! How I survived the Diamond Princess Coronavirus Crisis.”

“This is one I wanted to share with people, and I wanted them to know what it was like in the very, very earliest days of COVID,” Gay said.

From their room, the Courters spent days watching ambulances take away sick and dying people from the ship.

“The book really does give the history of coronavirus through our eyes. Luckily, we never became sick, but we went through what the whole world is going through on a micro-level on an emotional level,” said Gay.

While some may be put off by the experience, Gay said they won’t write off one of their favorite ways to travel. But she said they won’t be traveling anytime soon.

“When we have a good vaccine and the therapeutics like the president was able to take are available to more of us, then we can go safely on a cruise ship,” she said.

After going through the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Gay said people should not take risks and rush to return to pre-pandemic activities.

“Lots of people can’t wait to jump on a cruise ship. But I think we have to be a little more patient, a little more cautious, protect each other, and we will be able to cope with this,” said Gay.

The Courters said they felt like the first ones to go through quarantine but then never really escaped it once they returned home. They remain hopeful that the pandemic will improve as scientists continue developing vaccines and treatments.