More than 100 Americans who were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship have finally gone home. 2 shared photos and details from their quarantine on a military base.

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More than 100 Americans who were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship have finally gone home. 2 shared photos and details from their quarantine on a military base.
Spencer Fehrenbacher gordon christoph diamond princess travis air force base quarantine

Spencer Fehrenbacher

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Fehrenbacher and Christoph on the porches of their quarantine apartments at Travis Air Force Base.

  • About 140 Americans evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship finished their US quarantine on Monday and headed home.
  • Two students shared photos from their experience of being quarantined at a military base in California.
  • During the quarantine, they played soccer, scoured laundry rooms for hand sanitizer, and got their final coronavirus test results.
  • One of them described the experience as "somewhere between a zombie movie and summer camp."
  • For the latest case total, death toll, and travel information, see Business Insider's live updates here.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

More than 100 Americans who were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship finished nearly a month of quarantine on Monday.

The ship hosted one of the largest outbreaks of the new coronavirus outside China. More than 700 people who were onboard have tested positive. Passengers were kept in their rooms on the ship for two weeks, then about 320 Americans evacuated by the US government had to complete another 14 days of isolation at military bases.

Two American graduate students, Spencer Fehrenbacher and Gordon Christoph, shared their experience and their photos from quarantine on California's Travis Air Force Base. They were released on Monday.

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"I can't lie, it's great," Christoph told Business Insider while he was still on the base. "In both quarantines they took care of us, they gave us good food. The weather's been pretty good."

Fehrenbacher said the quarantine on Travis Air Force Base was completely different from his experience on the cruise ship.

"It's night and day," he told Business Insider. "If anything this experience here, being properly quarantined by medical experts, has kind of highlighted the flaws of the quarantine that we were on on the Diamond Princess."

Here's what their quarantine at a US military base was like.

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Many evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship finished their second quarantine, at the Travis Air Force Base in California, on Monday.

Many evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship finished their second quarantine, at the Travis Air Force Base in California, on Monday.

About 140 people who had been quarantined there loaded onto buses that took them to San Francisco International Airport, NBC Bay Area reported. From there, the former passengers and crew members went their separate ways.

All the people released had previously tested negative for the virus and had shown no symptoms during their quarantine, the CDC said.

Christoph and Fehrenbacher, both graduate students who were quarantined together in their cabin on the cruise ship, said they much preferred their time at Travis Air Force Base.

Christoph and Fehrenbacher, both graduate students who were quarantined together in their cabin on the cruise ship, said they much preferred their time at Travis Air Force Base.

Fehrenbacher, 29, and Christoph, 25, went on the cruise as a break from their graduate studies at Tianjin Foreign Studies University in Tianjin, China. They traveled with two other friends who declined to be named in this story.

Fehrenbacher grew up in Washington, Virginia, and Colorado. Christoph is from the Chicago area.

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The US government evacuated 328 Americans from the Diamond Princess on two cargo planes on February 16.

The US government evacuated 328 Americans from the Diamond Princess on two cargo planes on February 16.

Christoph and Fehrenbacher didn't know it at the time, but a sealed box on the flight was holding people who had already tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Washington Post reported that CDC officials had argued against the decision to have sick and healthy people fly on the same plane. The sick people's tests had come back positive after they had already begun leaving the cruise ship and boarding their buses.

The CDC lost that argument on the tarmac, The Post reported, then insisted the agency be left out of the news release announcing that 14 infected Americans had shared a plane with more than 300 others.

The evacuated passengers arrived at Travis Air Force Base, where they would spend another 14 days under quarantine. The other plane went to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

The evacuated passengers arrived at Travis Air Force Base, where they would spend another 14 days under quarantine. The other plane went to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

"Every single person, first thing they said was 'welcome home,' 'welcome home, sir,'" Fehrenbacher said of his arrival.

"You hear 'welcome home' 100-plus times in a situation like that, it's very emotional. It's very heartwarming," he added. "It kind of makes it a little more clear how dramatic the situation that you've just gone through actually is."

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"I expected things to be very cut and dry, very cold," Fehrenbacher said of his time on the military base. "I expected the staff to be a step below drill sergeants."

"I expected things to be very cut and dry, very cold," Fehrenbacher said of his time on the military base. "I expected the staff to be a step below drill sergeants."

But, Fehrenbacher said the people who brought his food and checked his temperature were largely volunteers.

"If there's ever anything that you need, you have a number of phone numbers that you can call," he said.

Christoph and Fehrenbacher shared a small cabin on board the Diamond Princess, so they were happy to have their own apartments at Travis Air Force Base.

Christoph and Fehrenbacher shared a small cabin on board the Diamond Princess, so they were happy to have their own apartments at Travis Air Force Base.

The "literal cabin fever" made the two-week quarantine on the ship more difficult, Christoph said.

"It can get dull or just kind of stressful at times." he said. "We all had our moments of just frustration."

Having more space made the US quarantine a bit easier, he added.

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"The apartments here are huge. Everyone's got their own space," Christoph said. "It's very comfortable."

"The apartments here are huge. Everyone's got their own space," Christoph said. "It's very comfortable."

The first thing Fehrenbacher did when he got to his own apartment was shower.

"I used probably half a bar of soap trying to just feel clean again," he said. "I wanted nothing in the world more than just to be clean."

Upon arrival, Fehrenbacher requested sanitizing wipes and coffee. He said that volunteers brought the items to him shortly after.

Upon arrival, Fehrenbacher requested sanitizing wipes and coffee. He said that volunteers brought the items to him shortly after.

He couldn't quite relax yet, though — the evacuees were still waiting for the results of one more round of COVID-19 testing.

"The time that I felt like I was at the highest risk of exposure was when we were being evacuated," Fehrenbacher said. "I was still concerned that, OK, let's hope that I don't have this virus. Because every time I had to clear my lungs, I was worried that I had it."

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The morning that everyone got their final COVID-19 test results, Fehrenbacher said, CDC workers went apartment to apartment with a 50-gallon trash can, stacks of gowns and gloves, a big bottle of hand sanitizer, and manila envelopes.

The morning that everyone got their final COVID-19 test results, Fehrenbacher said, CDC workers went apartment to apartment with a 50-gallon trash can, stacks of gowns and gloves, a big bottle of hand sanitizer, and manila envelopes.

"They go into an apartment, they come out a couple minutes later, and they would kind of help one another take the gown off, throw it in the trash, take the gloves off, put hand sanitizer on, and then put new gloves on, put another gown on, and take the trash can and walk to the next apartment," he said.

They told Fehrenbacher his coronavirus test had come back negative. "I sat down on the ottoman behind me and I just felt an overwhelming feeling of wanting to burst into tears," he said.

They told Fehrenbacher his coronavirus test had come back negative. "I sat down on the ottoman behind me and I just felt an overwhelming feeling of wanting to burst into tears," he said.

They read him a script that said he still needed to monitor his symptoms and then moved on.

"It took a few minutes to process. My dad was the first person that I called," Fehrenbacher said.

Fehrenbacher and his father, Scott, had been talking daily since the beginning of the Diamond Princess quarantine. Scott Fehrenbacher told Business Insider that he noticed the psychological toll the ordeal took on his son.

"It's as much mental as it is physical," he said. "The number of times he's had to wait for the grim reaper to show up at his door."

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After that, everyone who tested negative was allowed to go outside and walk the lawns of the quarantine area as much as they wanted.

After that, everyone who tested negative was allowed to go outside and walk the lawns of the quarantine area as much as they wanted.

On the Diamond Princess, Christoph and Fehrenbacher had been confined to their room and its small balcony. Passengers with balcony-less rooms got a few minutes each day to walk around the ship's deck.

Christoph said he and a few other evacuees would kick a soccer ball around every afternoon, starting around 3:45 p.m.

Christoph said he and a few other evacuees would kick a soccer ball around every afternoon, starting around 3:45 p.m.

Other people would walk around the lawns, sunbathe, and do calisthenics, Fehrenbacher said.

"As long as you always keep the mask on and stay 6-plus feet away from each other, it should be fine," Christoph said. "I love to go out there and break a sweat. It helps me sleep at night."

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"[It's] somewhere between a zombie movie and summer camp," Fehrenbacher said. "I don't know if this is awesome or if this is terrifying."

"[It's] somewhere between a zombie movie and summer camp," Fehrenbacher said. "I don't know if this is awesome or if this is terrifying."

"We went on a late-night walk, which is quite the experience because the whole yard is lit by these giant floodlights," he said. "There's at least three or four cars and trucks with US Marshals sitting in them to keep watch around the perimeter."

He said he and Christoph sometimes went into the laundry rooms, which were often filled with extra supplies, to see what kind of loot they could find. Sometimes there were bottles of lotion or shampoo, cases of soda, or boxes of cookies.

"The best thing that I've gotten at this point was a bottle of hand sanitizer," Fehrenbacher said.

"The meals here are fantastic. A lot of mama's-cooking type of food," Fehrenbacher said.

"The meals here are fantastic. A lot of mama's-cooking type of food," Fehrenbacher said.

"Like lasagna with mashed potatoes, or breakfast — a lot of scrambled eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns," he added.

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The one downside: The military-base quarantine was alcohol-free.

The one downside: The military-base quarantine was alcohol-free.

The Diamond Princess offered passengers free alcohol, so Fehrenbacher Christoph said they ordered it regularly for the first few days.

"Being somebody who doesn't normally spend $42 on a bottle of wine, that was a really nice treat in the middle of a quarantine," Fehrenbacher said.

But the military base did not offer evacuees that luxury.

"I do miss having a cold beer every once in a while," Christoph said.

Fehrenbacher said authorities did not test the former cruise passengers for the coronavirus again before they left. Their last test results had come 12 days prior.

Fehrenbacher said authorities did not test the former cruise passengers for the coronavirus again before they left. Their last test results had come 12 days prior.

"We asked about it, but they wouldn't offer additional tests unless a person started to show symptoms," Fehrenbacher said.

Authorities estimate the virus's incubation period at 14 days, though a couple of studies have suggested it could be as long as 19 or 24 days.

The CDC did not respond to a request for comment.

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A few people — less than 10 — from the Diamond Princess ship did not leave Travis Air Force Base on Monday with the rest of the group. The CDC did not explain why, but Fehrenbacher thinks they had to start their quarantines over.

A few people — less than 10 — from the Diamond Princess ship did not leave Travis Air Force Base on Monday with the rest of the group. The CDC did not explain why, but Fehrenbacher thinks they had to start their quarantines over.

"I only know that anyone who was in close contact with someone who tested positive had to restart their 14-day quarantine," he said.

The CDC reports that 45 people who returned to the US from the Diamond Princess have tested positive for COVID-19.

"I'm kind of in a limbo stage right now, where I can't go back to China for the foreseeable future, and beyond that I have to find a place to stay," Christoph said.

"I'm kind of in a limbo stage right now, where I can't go back to China for the foreseeable future, and beyond that I have to find a place to stay," Christoph said.

"The last 20-some days quarantined on a ship and then here, I guess it's just kind of a free meal and a free bed," he added.

Fehrenbacher said he's excited to be with his family again — his parents live in Canada, and he plans to go stay with them. But he added that he's nervous about what the interaction with customs will be like. He's preparing for the chance that Canadian officials will ask him to complete another 14 days of isolation.

"If there's one thing I'm learning in this quarantine, it's that you just have to be OK with the absolute unexpected happening and just having to roll with the punches," he said.

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