By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Of all the travelers stepping through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Monday evening, none might be more thankful to finally be back in Minnesota than Amy Ellefson and Ron Hildeen.

“I’m vacationed out,” Hildeen said, with a smile on his face.

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That’s if you can even call the married couple’s 45 days away from home a vacation.

They were on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship last month, where hundreds of people contracted the Coronavirus, forcing them to be quarantined on board while docked in Japan’s Tokyo Bay.

They were eventually cleared to fly home with other Americans from the ship on a 747 jet turned cargo plane with no windows.

“It was terrible,” Hildeen said as he described how two of the portable toilets on board failed, leaving only two more for all passengers on a flight that lasted 10 hours. “The other (toilets), imagine your worst outhouse.”

Once on American soil, the couple was quarantined again at Travis Air Force Base in California as they awaited their test results for the virus.

“The scariest thing for us too was if one of us were negative and one of us were positive it would be very stressful for being separated,” said Ellefson.

Lucky for them, the results were negative. Hildeen joked that it was the only test he was glad to fail.

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“You’re waiting for someone to come and tell you passed it or didn’t pass it, there’s not gray line. Just yes or no. Were you positive or were you negative,” he said. “And then when the guys came to the door, they’re in full hazmat suits and they’re carrying the folder … The guy says, ‘How are you?’ And it’s like, ‘you tell me.'”

Both give credit to their immune systems for keeping them from getting the virus. They said at least 20 people who flew to the air base with them contracted the virus.

“We both had flu shots before, maybe helped maybe it didn’t. We also had pneumonia shots and this thing usually comes back at you with pneumonia,” said Hildeen.

They still had to bide their time on base for two weeks where fences line the property and board games kept them busy. Staff cooked their meals and handled their laundry.

“They took care of us. The CDC was wonderful. But it just went on and on and on and on. And then it was anticipation with how you’re going to get home and when you’re going to get home,” said Ellefson.

Now that they are home Ellefson is eager to get back into a normal routine. Hildeen simply wants to eat a cheeseburger.

The trip back to Eden Prairie would be the final leg of a memorable vacation, for reasons they never expected.

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The couple have a free voucher for another cruise which they say they plan to use, however they’ll wait until the Coronavirus concerns die down.

Jeff Wagner