ETexans onboard share stories of ‘survival mode,’ excellent staff
BY FAITH HARPER
Flint resident Amy Wiginton said she has been in survival mode onboard the Carnival Cruise ship Triumph since Sunday when a fire debilitated the liner and stranded its occupants at sea.
The Anderson County probation officer went on the cruise to celebrate her birthday with some friends and said she was having a wonderful time until she was awoken about 5:30 a.m. to the smell of smoke and an announcement that the engine was on fire.
Ms. Wiginton said passengers were instructed not to panic and to stay out of the stairwells before an announcement came about 6:30 a.m. that the fire had been extinguished.
She said another announcement came at 9:30 that anyone who needed to urinate needed to do so in their trash cans and pour it down the shower drain and feces was to be put into a red bag and placed in the hall for the ship's crew to pick up.
She said the interior of the ship went dark and sewage began to back up.
"We were like, 'This whole ship smells like a septic tank,'" she said. "We are going to get sick if we don't stay outside in the fresh air.
"I have never seen anything so disgusting in my life. It was an absolute nightmare."
Passengers took their bed sheets and dragged their mattresses outside to form small tent communities, Ms. Wiginton said.
"We all went into survival mode," she said. "You never thought you had to watch your back, but people were hoarding food, water, drinks and blankets. Lawn chairs were big items. ... It was ridiculous."
Ms. Wiginton said her friends joined with others to form a group of 20 they called "The Deck 12 Family." She said each person had a role, including looking for food, supplies, guarding their camp or looking for a working toilet.
The cruise line did have food, she said, but they preferred to eat nonperishables such as bread, cereal and any fruit with a peel for food poisoning concerns.
She said people had to wait for hours for food and to use a charging station set up out of the cash register at a bar. But, she happened to pack a power strip and usually moved ahead in the line quickly.
Someone that didn't have to evacuate their room allowed her to take shower and she said the "cold shower felt like heaven." And finding a flushable toilet was "like winning the lottery."
"One really good thing that came about (from this was) we didn't have technology -- we had to communicate," Ms. Wiginton said. "It's true -- birds of a feather flock together. We flocked to some people who are the same as us. ... We have made some life-long friends. You don't go through something like that with someone and not stay in touch."
Ms. Wiginton said she has been on four cruises but this was her first with Carnival. She said if she ever goes on a cruise again, she will be sure to get a balcony room and be sure to pack another power strip.
Tyler resident Martha Lindblom and her husband Ray intended for their three- day cruise to be a relaxing treat before tax season went into full swing.
The 66-year-old said she is a manager of a Tyler public accountant firm. She said she got on the ship Feb. 7 and expected to be back at work on Monday.
Mrs. Lindblom said she is a veteran of cruise vacations, estimating she has been on about 19 voyages, but she had never experienced anything like what happened on the Triumph.
"Neither one of us is real scared, mainly because of our faith," she said. "We just left it in His hands. You can't worry about it."
Mrs. Lindblom said the situation was uncomfortable but not unbearable.
"We had three Carnival ships drop off food for us and they had a helicopter from a supply ship (drop) food," she said. "We have not lacked for (anything). No one starved to death. ... It's been better than we thought."
She said their chief complaints were taking cold showers and wearing dirty clothes. She said luckily her Kindle kept a good charge.
Full dinners were served including chicken, steak and even lobster, Mrs. Lindblom said. The staff did the best they could under the circumstances, passing out cards and puzzles. The crew even had a Mardi Gras party and tried to make sure there was something going on such as dance lessons or music, she said.
"The main problem has been the smell without the commodes running all the time, and some of them haven't worked since the electricity went out," Mrs. Lindblom said. "They have had to (go to the bathroom) in a bag in and put it in the hallway. ... It's not running down the hallways and all that stuff. If it's running down the walls, we have not seen it yet or heard about it."
Mrs. Lindblom said she and her husband have a cruise set for May with the Norwegian Cruise Line and they have no intention to cancel it. As for Carnival, she said she would go on another cruise again because the staff had been so wonderful throughout the ordeal. Ms. Wiginton also commented on the exceptional staff and said they were constantly checking on everyone to make sure their needs were met.
In consideration of their trouble, the price of the trip was refunded and each will receive a free cruise and $500, Mrs. Lindblom said.
"They have really taken care us, made sure we were fed and things were cleaned up, and they (tried to) have a smile on their face," Mrs. Lindblom said. "They are stuck in the same situation."
After the ship docked in Mobile, Ala., they were set to take a bus to Galveston for their cars before they could make the journey home.