The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 15, 2013

Passengers slog home after 'horrible' Gulf cruise

— MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Passengers finally escaped the disabled Carnival cruise ship Triumph and were on the move Friday: some checked into hotels while others hopped on buses or jumped on charter flights home after five numbing days at sea on a cruise liner paralyzed by an engine-room fire.

The vacation ship carrying some 4,200 people docked late Thursday in Mobile to raucous cheers from passengers weary of 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 along deck rails lining several levels of the stricken ship. The ship's horn blasted several times as four tugboats helped it to shore at about 9:15 p.m. CST. Some gave a thumbs-up sign and flashes from cameras and cellphones lit the night.

"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 from the engine-room fire and the days of heat and stench that followed. She was on a "girls trip" with friends.

It took about four hours for all passengers to disembark.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said passengers had three options: take a bus straight to Galveston, Texas, to retrieve cars parked at the ship's departure port, take a bus to New Orleans to stay at a hotel before a charter flight home or have family or friends pick them up in Mobile.

As if the passengers hadn't endured enough, one of the buses broke down during the two-hour ride to New Orleans. Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said the passengers got on another bus and made it safely to New Orleans. Passengers aboard another bus also said their luggage was somehow lost.

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