An Alaskan passenger aboard a Carnival cruise that turned into a week-long odyssey after a Gulf of Mexico engine fire says the trip has provoked a sea change in his opinion of the company.
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson airman Darren Sample, along with girlfriend Kathryn Lakoduk and his mother, were among more than 3,100 Carnival Triumph passengers when the ship left Galveston, Texas Feb. 7 on what was intended to be a four-day trip to Mexico. The Sunday power loss left the vessel adrift until it was taken in tow and finally returned to Mobile, Ala. Thursday night.
“All the power went out,” Sample said. “We lost -- you know, no running (water), none of the toilets or bathrooms were working for a number of hours before we got some functionality back.”
According to Sample, access to working bathrooms was one of the most acute problems passengers faced.
“When they did get a few public restrooms working, you know, they were just filthy,” Sample said. “I guess some of the crew tried to do the best they could to keep them clean, but there is only so much you can do with over 3,000 guests on a boat trying to share one bathroom.”
Sanitation conditions rapidly deteriorated shipwide, with the problems soon spreading to individual staterooms.
“Some people's rooms were actually overflowing with sewage, coming out of the shower drains and their actual toilets,” Sample said. “So some people could not even be in their rooms, because it was full of sewage water with feces and all types of nasty stuff.”
For some passengers, the problems became so severe they moved out of their rooms, either sleeping in the ship's public areas or braving intense heat on deck.
“The people whose rooms were highly affected with sewage water actually lived outside for about three to four days on the top deck,” Sample said. “They had all of their sheets tied up on the top deck trying to block the sunlight during the day.”
One of the trip's largest sources of frustration wasn’t its hardships but rather the way officials, including the Carnival Triumph's captain and cruise director, distributed information about them.
“It seems as if they were trying to keep us up to date, but it did seem like we were being given only information that they wanted us to have -- not the full story of what was going on,” Sample said. “And as far as them telling us later on in the cruise, ‘Oh, we're going to go here,’ ‘We're going to go to Mexico,’ ‘No, we're going to go to Alabama,’ and ‘We’ll be here at this time and we’re going to have this many tugboats,’ it seemed like with each hour what they told us before was invalid.”
Many people had praise for the ship’s rank-and-file crew, despite widespread annoyance with their superiors.
“The crew, they're hard workers -- so the lower-level guys, they were doing their job, doing what they could to try and keep it clean,” Sample said. “But there is only so much you can do with that type of sewage mess around, and with each passing hour it got worse; they were trying.”
While passengers were occasionally able to make cellphone calls when a Carnival vessel came alongside the ship to resupply it, Sample says passengers weren't in contact with their families for much of the trip.
“For most of the time we were just cut off totally until we got close to the port of Alabama yesterday, (when) people were legitimately able to send out good communication,” Sample said.
Sample says his mother suffered a rash during the trip, with him and Lakoduk also planning to receive medical checkups. Carnival gave him a full refund plus $500 cash, and has also offered him a complimentary cruise -- although he might not take the company up on it.
“I wasn't even that upset with Carnival, but I would say that by the time we were getting off the boat yesterday and last night, and the procedures that were going on -- I was pretty ticked off,” Sample said. “And I would definitely take a cruise again, but in all honesty I do not think I would go on another Carnival cruise.”
Channel 2’s Clinton Bennett contributed information to this story.
Contact Chris Klint