(CNN) — As journeys home go, it was a particularly long and unusual one.
The students, aged between 14 and 17, were on a sail/study program around the Caribbean on the “Wylde Swan” two-mast topsail schooner. While they were scheduled to fly home from Cuba last month, restrictions due to the global pandemic put their return journey in major doubt.
Christophe Meijer, the director of Masterskip, the company which organized the program, told CNN: “We decided the best solution would be to sail back with the students to the Netherlands, rather than staying in the Caribbean, with all the question marks there.”
The group reached the Netherlands after sailing across the Atlantic on Sunday, April 26.
The teenagers, along with three teachers and 12 crew members, covered roughly 4,500 nautical miles (5,180 miles) on their epic trip, according to Meijer.
As none of them had packed for an ocean crossing, they had to buy warm clothes like sweaters and pants in the Caribbean before they departed from Saint Lucia on March 18.
A doctor monitored the health of everyone on the vessel and after two weeks of sailing it was determined that the vessel was free of coronavirus.
Although the students were able to contact their families via email, Meijer said the ship was its “own world” and was “a bubble, in a way.”
Halfway through their journey the group stopped to pick up supplies in the Azores in the mid-Atlantic. While they were not permitted to disembark, one student identified as 16-year-old Jona said in a video recorded on board that it was strange to see people wearing masks on the islands. “I had never seen the world like that in my life,” he added.
When the students arrived back in the Netherlands on Sunday morning, they finally left the ship one at a time in accordance with the country’s 1.5-meter social distancing policy.
Meijer said it was “strange” for them to see everyone standing so far apart, adding that although they knew about social distancing, it was still a “shock” for them to find the country looking so different to how they left it.
The students, who each came from a different high school, were taught a special curriculum alongside their usual studies.
“Wylde Swan” was built in the early 20th century as a herring fishing boat and was converted to a sailing boat between 2008 and 2010, according to Meijer.