It was meant to be the trip of a lifetime for Taranaki couple Kieran and Colleen Best.
Nine days travelling around Italy, stopping at some of the country's best-known cities, followed by a seven-night Mediterranean cruise.
Instead it turned into a race against the clock as cruise ships became synonymous with the virus and Italy became the pandemic's epicentre.
When the couple were packing their bags at the end of February, Covid-19 had begun to take grip in Italy.
Italy's first two cases were confirmed on January 31. The same day the country suspended all flights to and from China and declared a state of emergency.
Despite this, the couple continued with their travel plans.
"We certainly paid attention and looked into it. But at that time, flights from here weren't being cancelled, and there wasn't really an indication of what was to come."
Had they chosen to cancel their trip themselves they would have lost thousands of dollars.
"We talked about it but at that point there was no indication from the travel company that things would change dramatically."
A couple of days before they flew from Auckland to Rome the first hint their trip might be impacted by Covid-19 came by email.
"The travel company said there were some changes to the original schedule because of Covid-19 related restrictions in parts of Italy."
A planned day in Milan would be changed to a trip to Pisa, they were told.
Kieran, who is well known in Stratford as the Stratford District Council compliance officer, says neither he nor Colleen are prone to panic, so carried on with their travel preparation, although they did add a few extras to their suitcase.
"I went to the pharmacy and bought some masks and tried to get hand sanitiser as well. They were out of that, but we had a bit at home so packed that too."
At Auckland airport there were no more people than usual wearing masks, says Kieran.
They made the same observation changing planes in Australia, and again when they arrived in Rome.
"Nowhere near the majority of people were wearing masks, there were some, but not enough to make it feel like you should be."
Their tour guide met them at the airport and gave them an update on Italy and Covid-19.
"She was really good, but we got the impression she was a bit annoyed with the government there, she felt they had been slow to respond to it and felt there was a lot of misinformation out in the towns and cities about the virus."
Towns and cities across Italy were clearly impacted by the virus, says Kieran.
As they travelled across Italy the places they visited were noticeably quiet.
"We went to the Vatican, to St Peters in Rome and everywhere we went, there was no hustle and bustle, the places were so quiet, sometimes we were the only group there."
Businesses in Italy were clearly suffering from the lack of tourists.
"The cafe staff and the restaurant workers, they would be standing outside almost begging us to come in. They had lost so much business."
Venice was the same he says.
"We weren't jostling for space, like people tell you happens there. Everything was easy to see, there were no crowds, no queues."
Although the crowds had disappeared, the country hadn't yet gone into a complete lockdown. Shops and cafes were open, so while marvelling at the architecture and history they had come to see, Covid-19 was wasn't always at the forefront of Kieran and Colleen's minds.
On boarding their cruise ship the MSC Grandiosa however, reminders of Covid-19 were everywhere, with the ship's crew making every effort to ensure the virus didn't stow away on board.
"There were temperature checks as we boarded, and they were done every time we went on or off the ship during the cruise. Staff were everywhere with sanitiser to spray our hands with and there were lots of hand-sanitiser stations around the ship as well. By the time we left to fly home our hands were certainly very soft!"
As Kieran and Colleen set sail, Covid-19 continued to spread across the globe, causing travel disruptions in numerous places.
"We were coming in to Malta, when we got word the Maltese authorities were not giving us permission to dock, so we had to head back out to sea."
Their cruise ship was then also refused entry to Marseille.
At the same time as the ship was being turned away from ports, Kieran and Colleen were also getting word their homebound travel was changing too.
"We were meant to fly back with Etihad Air via Australia, but by then Australia was refusing transit passengers, leaving us stuck."
Ttwo nights before their cruise was to finish the couple were given a legal document, entirely in Italian, to sign.
The form asked them to confirm that on leaving the ship they would be returning straight back to their home.
"My understanding was that a false declaration could lead to prison or a fine"
With their travel and flight details changing by the hour, Kieran says it ended up being a bit of a quick scramble to leave the ship and take a train to Paris.
"By then the travel company had been able to get us on flights from Paris to Auckland, via the Middle East, so we packed, and took all our luggage and headed to the train station."
Once they reached Paris, they were set to go by tour bus to their hotel.
Colleen and Kieran's original trip had not included Paris, and the couple say they made the most of the unexpected change to their travels.
"We persuaded the bus driver to take a scenic route, to show us Paris itself at night, so we saw the Eifell tower all lit up."
Before going to the airport the next day, they persuaded their taxi driver to take them through the city again, this time in daylight.
Despite the changes and extra costs as flights and transport options changed, Kieran and Colleen say it was still a fantastic trip, albeit one that was quite different to the one they booked.
"In fact, we saw places we had never expected to, Pisa for example, and Paris."
They have no regrets about going on the trip, but both say they are glad to be back safely in Stratford.
On landing in Auckland they were handed a leaflet outlining the requirements for travellers returning from Italy, and their details were taken.
Kieran says they have been called a couple of times to check they are well and are isolating as asked.
They say even having to self-isolate has come with a silver lining.
"Our dogs had missed us while we were away so they are enjoying having us home all the time now. Colleen has been catching up with her gardening, and I have been busy getting various tasks done such as the annual accounts for the New Zealand Institute of Animal Management which I am treasurer for. The same with the Taranaki Provincial Fire Brigade Gold Star Assocation. I don't think I have ever had the accounts so up to date before."