By CATHY MOUNCE, Register Staff Writer
For Joe and Jackie Newman of Gainesville, Feb. 7 was to be the beginning of a special fifth anniversary cruise.
A last minute decision allowed them to narrowly avoid a nightmare trip on the ill-fated Carnival Triumph cruise ship.
Without any reason upon arrival in Galveston, the Newmans were first told that the Triumph itinerary had been changed from two islands to one. Then they were advised that it would be one day late in sailing.
On the day of departure, they were waiting on the dock and received further disturbing information from a Carnival worker.
“He told us that he wouldn’t go on that boat with the problems it had,” Newman said. “My wife was so adamant about not going that we decided to stay in Galveston instead.”
Call it intuition or a gut feeling but that decision enabled them to have an enjoyable time in Galveston and avoid the “Cruise from Hell,” Newman said.
“I am glad we didn’t go but not sure if we are going to get a full refund or not,” Nelson added. “I am not motivated by anger but extreme disappointment that I couldn’t give my wife the belated honeymoon I promised.”
On the return portion of the trip, the 14-story vessel was disabled by a fire that knocked out the propulsion system, the power, sewage, heating and air-conditioning systems. The 900 foot 14 year-old ship arrived at Mobile Ala. four days late Thursday evening to tugboat horns, cheers, tears, waving towels and passengers singing “Sweet Home Alabama.” The temporary home to over 4000 passengers and crew slid into port with the power of four tugboats.
Horror stories of backed up toilets, sewage coating walls and floors, no air conditioning and limited food were painful memories for passengers.
Upon arrival at Mobile, Carnival spokesman Vance Guliksen said that passengers had three options: take a bus straight to Galveston Texas to receive parked cars at the departure point, take a bus to New Orleans for a night’s stay or have family or friends pick them up in Mobile. Twenty charter flights would also leave New Orleans later Friday to take guests who stayed in hotels there to their final destinations. Full investigation of what happened is pending and passengers have been promised full refund and additional adjustments.
Elaine Roberts of Gainesville and her family were among the first to arrive in Galveston. In a statement to KHOU-TV she said, “Conditions on Triumph were a cesspool.”
Although the nightmare is over for the passengers, it may just be beginning for the beleaguered cruise line as it starts handling the paperwork and claims amidst a tide of angry customers.
Some passengers on a bus from Mobile to New Orleans couldn’t even get a break on dry land. The bus they were returning on broke down.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.