Five weeks since the Ruby Princess sailed into Sydney harbour and sparked Australia's largest outbreak of COVID-19, the troubled ship has finally left Australian waters.
It sailed out of Port Kembla heads at sunset on Thursday under a water cannon salute, after three days of a major police operation to repatriate hundreds of crew.
A sign of the solidarity and goodwill that has built up between the Illawarra and the ship's crew in recent weeks, the cannons are a known maritime symbol of respect and honour.
Many residents turned up at Port Kembla and on Flagstaff Hill in Wollongong to farewell the vessel, waving as it sounded its horn for departure.
The Illawarra more broadly has shown great compassion and that has ensured that what will be remember will be the people on the ship, not the virus.Arthur Rorris
And on the back of the ship as it sailed out between Port Kembla heads, a sign read "thank you Illawarra".
But while love and thanks prevailed between the crew and residents of the city that hosted it for 19 days, the controversy surrounding the Ruby Princess is not going anywhere.
The ship is now responsible for more than one in 10 of Australia's cases of coronavirus, and 21 patients linked to the ship have died. In Canberra, it has been linked to a fifth of all cases.
And in Tasmania, Australia's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy has indicated more than half of the state's 205 cases could be linked to the ship.
With the government under fire for allowing 2700 passengers to disembark in Sydney Harbour while some were showing symptoms and awaiting tests for COVID-19, the ship was sent to Port Kembla in the early morning of April 5.
It took at least a week of lobbying from the union movement and local MPs before all crew were tested, with around 300 crew members testing positive in total over the month.
On Thursday, during the final hours of repatriation operations led by NSW Police, 11 more crew members who had tested positive to COVID-19 were taken off the ship for more testing and time in quarantine.
The day before, 21 people still sick with the virus were transported in ambulances to medical facilities in Sydney.
Police said a total of 542 crew members had been escorted from the ship to be repatriated to countries including Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Ireland, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States of America.
With about 500 crew on board - all who are well, according to Carnival Australia - the ship will now head to Manila, in the Philippines. A NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into the debacle is continuing.
'I'm scared': Concern for crew still aboard
As the Ruby Princess left Port Kembla on Thursday, the NSW Opposition said some crew members remained onboard against their wishes with no clear pathway to their home country.
Just hours before the ship's departure, Labor's health spokesman and Keira MP Ryan Park said he was concerned that the ship would set sail despite crew on board asking to disembark.
At 10.30am, Labor politicians received an email from a South African crew member, who said she was still "totally left in the dark".
"We were never mentioned in any of the onboard announcement for repatriation [and] despite being told not to call any on board numbers to check I have repeatedly tried to call the HR but no answer," she wrote to Labor leader Jodi McKay in an email seen by the Mercury.
"We have to stay on board and the company have not even told us where we are sailing to! Who knows when we will be able to reach home! Myself and family are worried and scared what will happen next."
A Carnival Australia spokesman told the media more crew could have disembarked but "they would have needed to stay in shoreside accommodation for a few days before joining a flight and authorities here wouldn't allow this".
"A small number have remained on board because at this stage there was no flight pathways to get them home due to factors such as closed borders to their home countries," the Carnival statement said
Mr Park said the ship leaving was a milestone in the "worst public health disaster this community, this state and this nation has ever faced".
"When this ship sets sail today, it will leave behind a trail of destruction as a direct result of the government's decision to allow thousands of people to disembark in the middle of a pandemic," he said.
"This has been without a doubt the worst public health disaster this community, this state and this nation has ever faced."
But South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris - one of the union leaders behind the push to test all crew and remove sick workers from the ship before it set sail - took a more positive perspective and said he was proud of the way the Illawarra had conducted itself during the Ruby Princess saga.
"I think this will be remembered as a significant chapter in the Illawarra's history," Mr Rorris said.
"We have been known as a union town for decades, that is part of who we are - and I think now people can see that that's not just about the union movement.
"The Illawarra more broadly has shown great compassion and that has ensured that what we will remember will be the people on the ship, not the virus."
"We were right about the dangers present, and it took us a whole week to convince the government to even test the crew - but the result has been that the anonymous crew on a cruise ship became part of our community in these 17 days."