The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 16, 2013

Cruise passengers return home, feds probe fire

— MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Passengers of the Carnival Triumph tried to put the memories of their nightmarish cruise behind them Friday, boarding buses and planes for home after five harrowing days aboard a vessel adrift at sea without power or working toilets.

Many of the roughly 3,000 passengers were bused to New Orleans to catch a flight home or to the ship's home port in Galveston, Texas. And as if they hadn't suffered enough, one of the buses broke down during the two-hour ride to New Orleans. Passengers on a different bus reported losing their luggage.

"I'm very frustrated that now our luggage is gone and missing," said Deborah Day of Plano, Texas, adding that she had made sure to check through every transfer point herself, only to lose it when she trusted Carnival to put it on a separate truck instead of the bus she was riding on.

But she had kind words for the crew aboard the disabled ship, adding, "Those people were incredible."

Other passengers were taking things more in stride as they got closer to home.

Georgia Jackson, 66, of Cedar Hill, Texas, said that while the cruise was not ideal, it was not all bad either.

"About the only thing that's been reported is the bad and Carnival has been treating us like VIPs since the boat docked," she said in Galveston, adding that the crew did the best they could with a terrible set of circumstances.

"The ship looked like vagabond city," Jackson said, "but by and large people got along great."

While some called the journey a horrible experience, others spoke of bonding with fellow passengers during the long, exhaustive struggle to get home.

As ship conditions deteriorated after an engine-room fire Sunday, travelers formed Bible study groups, shared or traded precious supplies and even welcomed strangers into their private cabins. Long after they've returned to the everyday luxuries of hot showers and cold drinks, passengers said, they will remember the crew and the personal bonds formed during a cruel week at sea.

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