After 70 days stranded at sea due to COVID-19, Farmborough Heights dancer Soraya Zapata "cried like a baby" when she flew into Sydney last week.
It had been the Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts graduate's big dream to work on cruise ships and she'd been overjoyed to land a contract with Royal Caribbean in late 2019, yet the coronavirus pandemic soon turned the experience into a nightmare.
The 19-year-old - along with around 800 other crew members - was stranded on the Serenade of the Seas off the Barbados coast from March 17, when an 11-day cruise was cut short and passengers were told to disembark.
For much of the time, she and fellow crew were quarantined in their rooms - with daily health and temperature checks and room service.
Now quarantined in a Sydney hotel for the mandatory 14 days, it's a similar story - yet she says nothing beats being back on Australian soil.
"Flying into Sydney was surreal - I was crying like a little baby," she said.
"I tried to keep myself busy on board, and was constantly reassuring family and friends back home that all was okay. But some days were harder than others, with the uncertainty over when I'd be able to come home.
"So even now, looking out my hotel window and seeing Darling Harbour, is so amazing - it's crazy how much I've missed this country and how much I love it."
Soraya left Australia in December for two months training in Miami, ahead of embarking on her first cruise in February. It was her first professional dancing job and she was having the time of her life.
She performed in two shows - one with a focus on musicals including Hairspray and Chicago; another a step back in time to honour the music of singers including Michael Jackson and Elvis.
"It was definitely my dream to work on cruise ships and it didn't disappoint - it was an amazing job," she said. "You get to travel the world, do what you love, meet incredible people and get paid for it.
"After training in Miami I hopped aboard on January 31, looking forward to six months of performing and travelling but in reality I got 45 days of work in.
"By early March things were getting serious with coronavirus, and on the 17th guests disembarked. Royal Caribbean was great, quickly sanitising everything and putting other measures in place.
"Soon after we were quarantined in our rooms, but given room service and free wifi to keep in contact with our loved ones and get information and entertainment.
"After a few weeks we were allowed to move around a bit more with masks and social distancing."
Soraya got creative while stuck to her room - using the balcony to keep fit, and she never stopped dancing.
"I'd do a bit of jazz, some lyrical dancing barefoot to slow music, I even put on my tap shoes and practised that - which may have driven those in nearby rooms crazy," she said.
"I had some friends in cabins with balconies nearby and we'd wave and yell hello. We just all kept ourselves busy, and the company put on games and information and updates over the system, they handled it really well."
Soraya was moved to the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship for a short time before joining around 40 other Australian Royal Caribbean performers who flew home to Sydney via Barbados, London and Doha last week.
"There was social distancing in place on the plane - we had a row to ourselves - and police and other officials were there to do health checks and help us get to the hotel," she said. "I still get daily calls from a nurse to ensure I don't have any COVID symptoms."
Soraya would love to join the Royal Caribbean crew again, but for now is looking forward to uniting with her parents Raquel and Christian, and 16-year-old brother Gabriel.
"They were all very worried for me being so far from home, and am so glad I'm back in Australia," she said. "I can't wait to get back to Wollongong, and back to my family and friends who have been supporting me."
Serenade of the Seas has not been linked to a COVID-19 cluster. However in April, Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas was linked to a significant Australian COVID-19 cluster and at least two deaths, including a 75 year-old man who passed away in Wollongong Hospital on April 3.