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Carnival Triumph passengers express relief, disbelief upon returning home

Skift Take

The snippets that AP pulled from shocked and exhausted passengers do little to portray harsh reality of ship’s deterioration.

— Samantha Shankman

As passengers of the Carnival cruise ship Triumph returned to shore after five days at sea without power or working toilets, they had a wide range of reactions. Here is a sampling:

“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 Thursday night clad in bathrobes, she and her friend Brittany Ferguson immediately kissed the pavement at the Port of Mobile in Alabama.

“Mops and disinfectant spray. Where was that five days ago?” wrote passenger Kalin Hill in a text message to The Associated Press, after crews began cleaning the ship as it was being towed into port.

“I appreciate the patience of our guests and their ability to cope with the situation. And I’d like to reiterate the apology I made earlier. I know the conditions on board were very poor. I know it was very difficult. And I want to apologize again for subjecting our guests to that. We pride ourselves on providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case,” Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill said at a news conference late Thursday, before he apologized to passengers through a bullhorn.

“It was horrible, just horrible,” said Maria Hernandez, 28, of Angleton, Texas, tears welling in her eyes as she talked about waking to smoke in her lower-level room Sunday and the days of heat and stench to follow.

“You have to have a sense of humor about all this, you just have to,” Joan Jackson, 74, of Conroe, Texas, said as she got off a chartered bus at a New Orleans hotel donning a red “hat” she had made from a red human waste bag distributed by Carnival.

“The lower you got, the steamier and stinkier it got,” said Chris Rowland, 15, of Fort Worth, Texas, wearing a Carnival cruise robe as he waited with his family for a room at a hotel in New Orleans. His parents had surprised Chris with a Carnival cruise for his birthday Sunday. That morning, the family awoke to smoke and passengers grabbing life jackets.

“The tugboats made it real for us, that we were really going to go home,” Janie Esparza of Houston said as she got off the ship in Mobile. She said many passengers, unable to talk to their employers while at sea, feared they would lose their jobs.

“It was awesome. It lifted up our souls and gave us hope that we would get back,” Joseph Alvarez of San Antonio, who traveled with his wife Cecilia, said of a Bible study group that formed after the ship lost power.

“It was freezing out there in the ocean. It was raining and there were poor people who could not go down to their rooms. They were sleeping … out in the open. We went up there and brought them stuff so they could cover up,” said Deborah Knight, 56, of Cypress, Texas, describing conditions aboard the ship. As she checked into a Mobile hotel with her husband, she said, “I want a hot shower and a daggum Whataburger.”

Associated Press staffers Brendan Farrington, Jay Reeves and Melissa R. Nelson in Mobile, Stacey Plaisance in New Orleans and Ramit Masti in Houston contributed to this story.

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