EDMOND — After five days of drifting, listing and being slowly tugged ashore, an Edmond couple stuck on the now-infamous cruise ship Triumph said they're happy to be home.
By the time their feet hit the gangplank Thursday evening, Chris and Robin Carpenter were relieved to be on dry land. The nearly 10-hour bus trip from Mobile, Ala., to Galveston, Texas, was restful. During the car ride from Texas to Edmond they stopped for leisurely restroom breaks, hot food and ice-filled tea.
“It's those little things I realized we take for granted,” said Robin Carpenter, a kindergarten teacher at Cross Timbers Elementary School in Edmond.
Now, they're trying to put the five-day ordeal behind them. After a fire that crippled the ship Feb. 10, the more than 4,000 passengers and crew on board were at the mercy of the sea, without power to get to shore, keep toilets running or the luxuries usually found aboard a cruise liner.
Chris Carpenter, who does advertising for a telecommunications company, said it all started when they were awakened about 5:30 a.m. Feb. 10. They were sleeping soundly after a day in Cozumel, Mexico, when they heard orders to the crew being broadcast over the intercom.
Then, the couple started to smell smoke and burning plastic. They walked into the hallway to investigate.
“My wife saw a man in mechanic overalls carrying a life jacket,” Chris Carpenter said. “So we grabbed our life jackets, and then the power goes out ... that was probably the scariest moment of all.”
After that, the Carpenters said, the ship was mostly dark for the rest of the trip, except for some emergency lights.
Also distressing was when the ship started listing to one side. Then, the smell of sewage started to fill the lower-level rooms and the rest of the ship.
Because it was too hot, too dark and too smelly to stay in their cabins, Robin Carpenter secured a place on the deck where their friends and family could sit together, rest and pass the time. They played cards, talked and tried to have fun, listening to updates from the cruise director.
The crew did their best to keep everyone apprised and happy, Chris Carpenter said.
“Our steward was amazing,” he said. “I felt bad for him ... he stayed down there with the rooms he was responsible for and did everything he could.”
But it stank.
The hot tubs and pools were empty. The ship ran out of ice. And there were only cold showers — if you wanted to stand in space that was also doubling as a toilet. There was food, but passengers had to wait in long lines to get things such as sandwiches, cereal, hot dogs and hamburgers.
At one point during their five days on deck, the Carpenters saw some women reading a book by LifeChurch.tv pastor Craig Groeschel. They found out the women were from the Oklahoma City area.
“We all go to LifeChurch, so we took a group picture together,” Chris Carpenter said.
Nights on the deck were uncomfortable, Robin Carpenter said. Among their friends and family, one person usually was awake at night keeping watch.
“With 3,000 strangers around you it wasn't comfortable,” Robin Carpenter said. “I didn't want to go to sleep and have something happen. And it was so dark.”
All 3,143 passengers on board the ship have been offered $500, a refund on their trip, and future cruise credits along with other accommodations.
The Carpenters said they cruise often, and the first three days of the trip were perfect. But they'll think twice before boarding a Carnival ship again.
Robin Carpenter said the family had planned to take a cruise this summer with their three sons, ages 16, 14 and 10.
“It might be too soon,” she said.
Chris Carpenter said he'd joked with fellow passengers that the trip could have been worse. When they were leaving the ship, he started a conversation with an engineer who explained how hot the fire on board must have gotten.
“We might have come pretty close to disaster,” Chris Carpenter said.
That, he said, puts everything in perspective.