VANCOUVER -- A Vancouver Island couple stranded on a cruise ship off the coast of Panama got a welcome dose of good news Sunday.

David and Norma Kirkham, of Metchosin, were among those trapped aboard the MS Zaandam in the Pacific Ocean, but on Sunday they and hundreds of others were transferred to the vessel's sister ship, the Rotterdam.

The Zaandam set sail from Buenos Aires on March 7, sailed around the tip of South America and was due to pass through the Panama Canal to end its voyage in Florida on April 7.

Instead, the ship was refused entry into the canal and at various ports over the last several days. More than 80 crew members and 50 passengers aboard the massive Holland America ship have reported respiratory symptoms, and four people aboard have died.

Now aboard the Rotterdam, David and Norma Kirkham are optimistic that both ships will be allowed to pass through the canal, but that would only be the first step of what is likely to be a long journey home.

"We had booked flights from Fort Lauderdale to Toronto to Vancouver and Victoria, where we live," David Kirkham said. "Those flights, we don't know. They probably don't exist anymore, and so we're appealing to the Prime Minister to ensure that if there are no regular flights, that flights will be organized by the government."

If the ship is allowed to dock in Florida, the couple is unsure whether they'd need to be quarantined there before travelling back to Canada.

If and when they manage to get back to Canada, they won't be landing in Victoria, because Canada has limited international flights to just four airports.

Once they get back to Canada, the couple will be legally obligated to spend 14 days in self-isolation, something they likely won't be able to do at home in Metchosin, unless they can get there from the airport entirely in a private vehicle.

For now, the Kirkham family is taking things day-by-day, hour-by-hour, trying to stay focused on their continued good health.

"We're all in the same boat here," David Kirkham said. "We all have families. We all have distresses. And we're all working together to get home safely."