At least eight people from Northern Ireland trapped on a cruise ship for nearly a month while it was blocked from docking in several South American ports were due to fly out of the United States last night.
The group, including Limavady couple Heather and David Lynch, were among more than 1,000 passengers disembarking from the Coral Princess after it was allowed to dock in the Port of Miami in Florida on Saturday.
Two people died and a further 10, including five crew, tested positive for Covid-19 before docking.
Sick passengers and those showing symptoms of the virus were taken off the ship first and to area hospitals.
Other passengers, including approximately 400 UK citizens, were disembarked in stages. Mr Lynch said yesterday that at that point they had not been given a definite time for the flight but were told it would take off from Miami International Airport last night and would arrive early today in London. Those needing flights or other onward travel, including passengers from Northern Ireland and the Republic, were having them arranged by Holland America Line, a sister company of Princess Cruises, which operates Coral Princess. Both companies are owned by Carnival Corporation.
In a note to passengers, Nicolette Brent, HM Consul General for Florida, said: "We expect flights to land at London Heathrow early morning on Monday 6 April with the terminal still to be confirmed.
"Please note that in this fast moving situation plans and timings remain subject to change, so please continue to follow the cruise company instructions. There may be extended periods of waiting, and delays, so please be prepared - your patience is appreciated."
The Coral Princess, with 1,020 passengers and 878 crew, began its odyssey on March 5 and was due to dock in Buenos Aires two weeks later. The Argentinians allowed it to dock, let some passengers off to catch flights, but they returned to the ship after missing them. Over the next more than two weeks, the ship was barred from ports in Uruguay and Brazil before it headed towards Fort Lauderdale, which also stopped the vessel from docking on Saturday morning, on the orders of the US Coast Guard.
However, in an abrupt move the ship was allowed to head towards the Port of Miami, where it docked on Saturday morning.
David described it as "terrible news" when the captain announced the two passengers had died. Both were Americans, female and in the same travelling party.
"Heather and I are in good health so far. Princess Cruises have been terrific dealing with this nightmare, they are doing all they can for us," said David.
"I feel so sorry for the medical team onboard because they are overwhelmed."