Passengers cheer escape from 'horrible' cruise

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 15, 2013 at 8:14 am •  Published: February 15, 2013
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MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Passengers who finally escaped the disabled Carnival cruise ship Triumph were checked into hotels early Friday for a hot shower, food and sleep or riding buses back to Texas after five numbing days at sea on a ship left powerless by an engine-room fire.

The vacation ship carrying some 4,200 people docked late Thursday in Mobile after a painfully slow approach that took most of the day. Passengers raucously cheered after days of what they described as overflowing toilets, food shortages and foul odors.

"Sweet Home Alabama!" read one of the homemade signs passengers affixed alongside the 14-story ship as many celebrated at deck rails lining several levels of the stricken ship. The ship's horn loudly blasted several times as four tugboats pulled the crippled ship to shore at about 9:15 p.m. CST. Some gave a thumbs-up sign and flashes from cameras and cellphones lit the night.

"This is my first and last cruise. So if anyone wants my free cruise, look me up," said Kendall Jenkins, 24, of Houston, referring to compensation offered by Carnival Cruise Line. Bounding off the ship clad in bathrobes, she and her friend Brittany Ferguson immediately kissed the pavement at the Port of Mobile in Alabama.

It took about four hours for all passengers to disembark.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said Triumph guests had three options: board a bus straight to Galveston, Texas, to retrieve cars parked at the ship's departure port, take a bus to New Orleans to stay at a hotel before a charter flight home or have family or friends pick them up in Mobile.

Gulliksen said up to 20 charter flights would leave New Orleans later Friday to take guests who stayed in hotels there to their final destinations.

Some passengers, like Deborah Knight, 56, of Houston, had no interest in boarding a bus. Her husband Seth drove in from Houston and they checked into a downtown Mobile hotel.

"I want a hot shower and a daggum Whataburger," said Knight, who was wearing a bathrobe over her clothes as her bags were unloaded from her husband's pickup truck. She said she was afraid to eat the food on board and had gotten sick while on the ship.

Buses arrived in the pre-dawn darkness at a Hilton in New Orleans to a host of reporters and paramedics on the scene with wheelchairs to roll in passengers who were elderly or too fatigued to walk.

Many were tired and didn't want to talk. There were long lines to check into rooms. Some got emotional as they described the deplorable conditions of the ship.

"It was horrible, just horrible" said Maria Hernandez, 28, of Angleton, Texas, tears welling in her eyes as she talked about waking up to smoke in her lower-level room Sunday and the days of heat and stench to follow. She was on a "girls trip" with friends.

She said the group hauled mattresses to upper-level decks to escape the heat. As she pulled her luggage into the hotel, a flashlight around her neck, she managed a smile and even a giggle when asked to show her red "poo-poo bag" — distributed by the cruise line for collecting human waste.

This was only part of her journey to get home. Hernandez, like hundreds others, would get to enjoy a brief reprieve at the hotel before flying home later in the day.

"I just can't wait to be home," she said.

It wasn't long after the ship pulled into the Port of Mobile that passengers began streaming down the gang plank, some in wheelchairs and others pulling carry-on luggage. An ambulance pulled up to a gate and pulled away, lights flashing.

For 24-year-old Brittany Ferguson of Texas, not knowing how long passengers had to endure their time aboard was the worst part.



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