HOUSTON -- The news of another stalled Carnival cruise ship has renewed interest in the fallout of the Carnival Triumph, towed ashore last month after an engine fire stranded its more than 4,000 passengers and crew in the Gulf of Mexico during a four-day Mexican cruise.
Some passengers leaving the Triumph complained of dire conditions: sewage running down walls, food shortages and improvised encampments on deck. Others praised the crew, saying conditions had been exaggerated and that they would be willing to set sail with Carnival again.
The Triumph incident was not a first for Carnival. In 2010, passengers on the Carnival Splendor had to make do when an engine fire left the ship adrift off the coast of San Diego. Yet in 2010 Carnival’s parent company reported an 11% increase in net income compared to the year before.
Travel agents have said that the Triumph fiasco did not lead travelers to abandon Carnival or cruises in huge numbers, but it's unclear what the impact of this second incident will be, combined with continued fallout from the Triumph, including lawsuits.
The same day the Triumph docked in Mobile, Ala., the first lawsuit was filed by a disgruntled female passenger from Texas. More followed, including a lawsuit filed by an Oklahoma couple on behalf of fellow passengers that claimed, "Carnival knew or should have known that the vessel Triumph was likely to experience mechanical and/or engine issues because of prior similar issues."
The suit complained that the couple, Matt and Melissa Crusan, and the rest of the Triumph passengers were “stranded at sea,” forced to sleep on deck, use buckets, bags, showers and sinks to relieve themselves and provided with "spoiled and rotting food" to eat.
"Due to the lack of working plumbing and sanitation systems on the vessel, sewage and/or putrid water filled with urine and feces leaked onto floors, walls, and ceilings. This sewage and/or human waste sloshed around the vessel as the vessel listed while drifting and/or while under tow," the suit said.
A Carnival spokeswoman at company headquarters in Miami told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that she could not comment on pending lawsuits.
In addition to taking legal action, some Triumph passengers have already published accounts of the voyage.
Two weeks after the ship returned, passenger Christina Peaden, 36, of Galveston, Texas, self-published an electronic book, “Triumph Over Calamity,” based on a journal she kept during what was meant to be a vacation for her family of five, their first cruise. In the book, she intersperses journal entries with quotations from Scripture.
There were dramatic moments, she said -- for instance, when a supply ship arrived with extra provisions.
"It was something you see in the movies, with lifeboats slamming against the ram, the windows busting out," she told Keye TV.
Peaden said she had to go to the bathroom in a bucket during the ordeal, but that "there was no waste on the floors. There was liquid -- it was water.”
Although there were long lines for food, often cold, Peaden said passengers still ate well, "Always fresh salad; fresh fruit. They had yogurt. For dinner we would have shrimp, lobster.”
Peaden told reporters that she was inspired to publish the book after reading critical accounts of the journey from other passengers in news reports and lawsuits. She wrote that the situation at sea was manageable, and that the crew coped well.
She told reporters she is planning to take another Carnival cruise next month.
Online reviews of the book from fellow passengers were mostly critical.
“Were you on the same ship?” wrote a passenger identified as Val. “I had raw sewage flooding my room. I had a friend whose cabin roof collapsed on him while he slept!”
Many other passengers pointed out that Peaden was staying in a coveted balcony room on an upper deck and argued her account failed to acknowledge hardships they faced.
“This person was on a different boat than I was,” a Texas passenger using the name ivyfly wrote. “I'm still having nightmares about my experience. This is an outrage!”