Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Brendan Farrington and Jay Reeves / The Associated Press
MOBILE, Ala. — Passengers who finally escaped the disabled Carnival cruise ship Triumph were checking into hotels early Friday for a hot shower, food and sleep or boarding buses for a long haul home after five numbing days at sea on a ship left powerless by an engine-room fire.
Passengers from the disabled Carnival Triumph cruise ship arrive by bus at the Hilton Riverside Hotel in New Orleans on Friday.
Veronica Arriaga, of Angleton, Texas, a passenger from the disabled Carnival Triumph cruise ship, holds a sign referring to the red biohazard bags used as toilets, as she arrives at the Hilton Riverside Hotel in New Orleans on Friday.
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.
Less than four hours later, the last passenger had disembarked.
Some, like 56-year-old Deborah Knight of Houston, had no interest in boarding one of about 100 buses assembled to carry passengers to hotels in New Orleans or Texas. 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.
At the Mobile airport, a dozen passengers from the Triumph slept on couches for a few hours before catching flights Friday morning.
Buses arrived in the pre-dawn darkness at a Hilton in New Orleans to 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. One man gave the thumbs up.
An ambulance pulled up to a gate and pulled away, lights flashing.
Carnival had said it would take up to five hours for all the 3,000 passengers to be off. It took closer to four.
"All guests have now disembarked the Carnival Triumph," Carnival tweeted.
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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Weary passengers from the disabled Carnival Triumph cruise ship arrive by bus at the Hilton Riverside Hotel in New Orleans on Friday.