Local resident Dean Myane had planned an all-girl vacation with her daughter-in-law, future daughter-in-law, the mother of her future daughter-in-law, and friends—17 in all. It was to be a four-day cruise with one stop in Cozumel until the unforeseen happened. The Carnival ship Triumph, with 4,000 passengers aboard, left Cozumel on Saturday evening, February 9, around five p.m. At approximately 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Dean and her daughter-in-law were roused from sleep by a loud announcement broadcast in code all over the ship. She remembers the word “ash” being part of it. Opening their cabin door, they saw that the hall was filled with smoke and the fire doors had closed, barring the way to anywhere but the stairs that led to their muster stations. They dressed quickly and got their passports but were then notified by a subsequent announcement that there had been a fire, that things were under control, and that there was no need to report to their muster station.
When asked what part of the following days on board was the worst, Dean said that the lack of communication with friends and family was worse than reported problems with sewage and food shortages. The male members of their family who were on a fishing trip at the coast thought they were all having a grand time and had no idea of the true situation.
“I could not praise the Carnival crew more—they did a superlative job under difficult conditions,” said Myane. In spite of having no power until a generator was brought in, the crew organized activities such as a Mardi Gras parade, bingo, and impromptu shows for the passengers. She expressed concern that the crew members, who are very poorly paid and depend on tips, did not get those tips at the end of the cruise in all the confusion of disembarking in Mobile, AL. She also fears that they may be out of work since the ship will be out of commission for some time.
In response to reports that there were food shortages and sewage everywhere, Dean said that it was uncomfortable and unpleasant but that she has been in worse situations in her travels to other countries. She said also that the one cafeteria which was able to continue serving food provided passengers with loaded plates, not necessarily cruise fare, but items such as canned peaches, chick peas, kidney beans, and bread. She joked that she actually had lobster twice on the final day as the ship was being pushed and pulled by tugboats into Mobile. There was bottled water, she explained, but crew members began pouring beverages into cups for passengers rather than giving them whole cans of Coke or other beverages. She was extremely glad for a flashlight she had brought, which was also an LED lantern and provided light in their cabin at night.
Dean stressed that many people actually risked their lives in support of the helpless ship, both Coast Guard boats and small boats that came from other cruise ships to bring supplies. One seriously ill passenger had to be evacuated from the ship to a Coast Guard vessel, and a helicopter bringing supplies had to deal with the movements of the listing ship in addition to all the cables and wires above the deck where it had to land. Within 24 hours of the fire there was a visible Coast Guard presence, Dean verified, and the cruiser circled the ship repeatedly since it was helpless and a target for pirates.
Dean emphasized that there were many acts of kindness and compassion among passengers as well as crew members and a calm display of religious faith. She did admit, however, that passengers grew restive as the ship pulled into Mobile, some asking why they couldn’t be first to get off. To aid in the disembarking, U. S. customs and immigrations officials boarded the ship to facilitate the necessary paperwork.
When asked her opinion of those passengers who have threatened to sue the cruise line, Dean said that none of her group would consider doing that. However, she admitted that their accommodations—having rooms with balconies—made the ordeal more bearable. Because one of the elderly members of their group needed special medical attention, they did receive priority in being able to leave the ship along with a private plane to take the ill passenger and the rest of their group directly home.
Dean’s positive attitude was very evident in her conversation with this reporter, but she did criticize the media waiting in Mobile. She said that reporters descended on passengers, spending much more time with those who were disgruntled than with those who had positive comments. All in all, she said, the kind and compassionate actions of the crew and passengers to one another have restored her faith in human nature.