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Cruise passengers became comrades on trip home

Carnival Triumph passengers return

Patricia Wagner, right, hugs her sister Mercedes Perez de Colon,as their group is reunited after taking separate buses from Mobile, Ala., where the disabled Carnival ship Triumph docked, on Friday February 15, 2013 in Galveston, Texas. Hundreds of passengers opted to take an eight-hour bus ride to Galveston from Mobile. Galveston is the home port of the ill-fated ship, which lost power in an engine-room fire Sunday some 150 miles off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. (AP Photo/The Galveston County Daily News, Jennifer Reynolds) MANDATORY CREDIT

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From page A5 | February 16, 2013 | 14 Comments

MOBILE, Ala. — When their cruise ship lost power, passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph could have been selfish and looked out only for themselves and their loved ones.

Instead, they became comrades in a long, exhausting struggle to get home.

As ship conditions deteriorated after an engine fire, travelers formed Bible study groups, shared or traded precious supplies and even welcomed strangers into their private cabins. Long after they’ve returned to the everyday luxuries of hot showers and cold drinks, passengers said, they will remember the crew and the personal bonds formed during a cruel week at sea.

The tired tourists finally reached land Friday and gave a glimpse into the intensely uncomfortable journey they had endured.

Sandy Jackson, of Houston, was fortunate to have an upper-level room with a balcony and a breeze that kept the air in her cabin fresh. Rooms on the lower decks were too foul or stifling, so Jackson took in five people, including four strangers.

“We knew one, the others we’re very good friends with now,” Jackson said. “Everyone was very cordial in sharing supplies. What you had and they didn’t have, everyone shared as much as possible.”

Brandi Dorsett, of Sweeny, Texas, said people were antsy and irritable at times, and there was tension. But it never got out of hand.

“People were bartering. Can I have your cereal for this? Can I have your drink for that?” she said. “We had one lady, she was begging for cigarettes for diapers. There were no diapers on the boat. There was no formula on the boat.”

The ship left Galveston, Texas, on Feb. 7 for a four-day jaunt to Cozumel, Mexico. The fire paralyzed the ship early Sunday, leaving it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico until tugboats towed the massive 14-story vessel to Mobile. It arrived late Thursday to cheers and flashing cameras. Passengers had to wait several more hours to disembark.

“Sweet Home Alabama!” read one of the homemade signs passengers hung over the side.

Many of the more than 4,200 people aboard were bused to New Orleans to catch a flight home or to the ship’s home port in Galveston. And as if they hadn’t suffered enough, one of the buses broke down during the two-hour ride to New Orleans. Passengers on a different bus reported losing their luggage.

But that was nothing compared to life on the crippled cruise liner. To pass the time, Joseph Alvarez said about 45 people gathered in a public room on the lower deck for Bible study.

“It was awesome,” he said. “It lifted up our souls and gave us hope that we would get back.”

Because many passengers were sleeping on the outside deck, Dwayne Chapman of Lake Charles, La., used his pocket knife to cut decorative rope to make tents out of bed sheets. At first, other passengers told him they thought he was going to get in trouble, but later, everyone wanted to borrow his knife to do the same thing.

“I really think we’ve made some lifelong friends going through this ordeal,” Chapman’s wife, Kim, said.

When it was over, many passengers were just grateful for simple pleasures. After days of warm drinks, Cheryl McIntosh and her husband were glad to see coolers full of ice.

“The first thing we did was open up those Diet Cokes and we drank some,” McIntosh said.

Tugs pulled the ship away from the dock Friday, moving it down a waterway to a shipyard where it will be repaired. Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said the damage assessment was ongoing.

The cleanup seemed daunting. Passengers described water-logged carpet, sewage seeping through the walls, overflowing toilets and a stench so bad people choked when they tried to endure it.

But by most accounts, the crew did as much as they could, using disinfectant and picking up plastic bags of feces after toilets stopped working.

David Glocker, of Jacksonville, Fla., praised the crew’s efforts to help passengers and recognized the conditions for them were worse than for most passengers because their quarters were on the lowest part of the ship.

“The conditions down there were horrible. They all had to wear masks,” he said. “They worked their butts off trying to get us food.”

Dorsett praised a voice over the ship’s public address system that she knew as “Jen.”

“Jen was fabulous. I can remember her saying ‘Everything is brilliant!” Dorsett said. “One day, she was just talking and she said, ‘I know, folks, it just really sucks.’ So she was even letting go. She would try to keep that happy spirit, but yet sometimes you could hear tension in her.”

Six investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were in Mobile to look into the cause of the engine-room fire, which happened some 150 miles off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said the agency was working with the Coast Guard and the Bahamas Maritime Authority, which will serve as the primary investigative agency.

The Bahamian government was taking the lead because the Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel, and it was in international waters at the time of the fire, Holloway said.

Passengers described a horrifying scene after the fire. Some said they smelled smoke and received conflicting instructions about every 15 minutes over the PA system. Others ran for lifeboats.

No one was hurt in the fire, and just two people were taken off the ship for medical conditions as a precaution.

Connie Ede, of Houston, was on the cruise with her husband. During the fire, the two got their life jackets ready and put cellphones, passports, money and credit cards in their pockets.

“All in all, I wish it hadn’t happened, but it did, and we survived,” she said.

Carnival promised to give refunds, offer passengers another trip and cover their transportation costs home. Travelers were also to receive $500 in compensation.

But those gestures may not be enough. Less than 24 hours after the boat docked, the first lawsuit was filed against Carnival Corp. by passenger Cassie Terry, who said she feared for her life and worried about falling seriously ill from the raw sewage and spoiled food. Her complaint seeks unspecified damages.

Maritime attorneys say it’s difficult but not impossible to win a case unless the plaintiff can show actual injury or illness.

Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill apologized at a news conference and again on the PA system as people disembarked.

“I appreciate the patience of our guests and their ability to cope with the situation. … I know the conditions on board were very poor,” he said. “We pride ourselves on providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 14 comments

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  • G-ManFebruary 15, 2013 - 11:19 pm

    You'd think these babies lived thru the fire bombing of Dresden..I saw them coming off the ship..they looked fine,clean and happy..this ain't the Titanic..and why food water etc couldn't be airlifted to these brave suffering souls is a mystery to me...OMG..hardships on a cruise liner...hey CD!!..see the prayer groups..just another way to cope..there's also rope..

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JonesyFebruary 16, 2013 - 10:22 am

    Standing around in sh!t with a bunch of old drunk people doesn't sound like much of a cruise. More like a GOP Convention. Don't forget to pack your boots...

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • G-ManFebruary 16, 2013 - 11:35 am

    Or your wedding reception

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • George Jones & Tammy WynetteFebruary 16, 2013 - 12:40 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-joEdeHqnM

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • StR @ JonseyFebruary 16, 2013 - 11:56 am

    Does this mean that you will refuse to be my escort for the SaTurDay March 2nd, CA GOP Spring Convention Lucheon, featuring Keynote speaker ____ Blossom, Karl Rove?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JonesyFebruary 16, 2013 - 3:14 pm

    Karl Rove!...Break out the chest waders...

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Makes you wonderFebruary 16, 2013 - 12:18 pm

    In 2000 Rove was running John Ashcroft’s senate campaign in Missouri. Ashcroft lost to a dead man. Because his opponent, Mel Carnahan, died in a small plane crash just before the election. Karl Rove claims he had nothing to do with the freak accident....Mike Connell, died plane crash.....Paul Wellstone, died..palne crash. But remember the Dems at the top are really no better.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksFebruary 16, 2013 - 6:25 am

    G-Man, yeah it seems as if prayer worked for and comforted them. And guess what? Nobody was hurt due to their efforts. As I always say to that end...fair enough.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • G-ManFebruary 16, 2013 - 6:56 am

    Just a dig B-Man...please know I'm not a religious man..I just think that with an infinite universe it shows an amazing capacity for tunnel vision to discount anything..I recall this fictional short story where as we know all sound,all TV radio broadcasts etc go out into the air and they KEEP GOING...that's why we got the big ears open 24/7..just in case..anyway the article had this alien coming to Earth as Adolph Hitler!!...because the alien just saw all the film of crowds idolizing this guy in brown w/ a funny moustache..as an aside CD..the Cruise crowd DID get free booze...poor you though huh..no god, no drinking..what would you do on that ship CD..you can only play shuffleboard so long

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksFebruary 16, 2013 - 7:02 am

    G-Man, HA! HA! I was wondering what I'd do and since my better 3/4 is always with me, I'm certain I'd be looking after her. I like to think I'd take a positive role and help out, but we never really know? BTW, good morning to you too! It is blue sky, sun shining and 34 degrees here this morning. Hope you have a great day!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD...you're so square Baby I Don't CareFebruary 16, 2013 - 8:07 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0VdFi8p_wM

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Zepplin Your so square that you get roundFebruary 16, 2013 - 8:15 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vUwqIgICgY&NR=1&feature=endscreen

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Robert Plant & Elvis PresleyFebruary 16, 2013 - 8:20 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXoHuEaPMG8

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • I wanna B your Spastic Teddy Bear!February 16, 2013 - 8:25 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhdUucs8AlY

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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