Passengers Tell of Hellish Times on Disabled Cruise Ship : Travel: They describe raw sewage in hallways and cabins while vessel was adrift in rough seas after an engine room fire. Firm vows refunds, free flights home.

From Associated Press

Passengers from a cruise ship that was disabled by an engine room fire and left adrift in rough seas stepped ashore Wednesday complaining of “the ship from hell,” with sewage trickling down hallways and people getting seasick.

“It was horrible,” said David Rizzo of Clearwater. “I’ve never seen stuff like that in my life.”

Four tugboats guided the Carnival Cruise Lines ship Tropicale as it limped into port on one engine Wednesday with 1,700 passengers and crew members. The 660-foot vessel was hit by a fire over the weekend and spent two extra days at sea in the Gulf of Mexico as Tropical Storm Harvey churned up the waters.


Handmade signs displayed by passengers read, “Five hour fire no H2O in toilet” and “Help no water, no toilet, no AC.”

One passenger disembarked with a bottle of dark gray water, which he said came from his bathroom tap. Others carried videotapes of stopped-up toilets and other problems. Some described panic during the fire that disabled the engines.

“It’s been hell on this ship,” said Lake Alfred Mayor Larry Clark, who had taken his wife, Sarah, and 4-year-old grandson, Jacob, on the cruise. “It was not a ‘fun ship,’ as they advertise. It was the ship from hell.”

Passengers said they had to walk around raw sewage in the hallways and in their cabins. Water stopped flowing in cabin sinks, toilets and showers, though cold water was restored to sinks intermittently before the liner docked.

The cruise line promised all passengers a full refund, a free ticket for a future cruise and free flights home.

The ship left Tampa on Thursday on what was supposed to be a four-day cruise with stops at Key West and Cozumel, Mexico. But the fire disabled both of the ship’s engines Sunday.

Passengers got seasick as the tropical storm churned up 12-foot seas.

“Everyone was getting sick. They had no provisions at all for anybody that was sick,” Clark said.

Carnival spokesman Tim Gallagher said seasickness pills were distributed throughout the ship. One passenger with a heart condition was airlifted from the ship early Monday.

Gallagher said cabins had drinking water, air conditioning, working toilets and electricity. He said some toilets may have malfunctioned for up to two hours, but “the vast majority of the time every passenger on board had working toilets.”

Passengers said they got little direction from the crew during the engine room fire, and passenger Nick Dimitri of Tampa said elderly and disabled people were pushed aside.

“People started running by with their life jackets,” Rizzo said. “People were running around like maniacs.”

Two Coast Guard investigators were flown to the ship Tuesday. Coast Guard spokesman Luis Diaz said the ship was last inspected in October 1998, but Gallagher said it passed a quarterly inspection in July.

Carnival’s 2,600-passenger Ecstasy was disabled in July 1998 by a $15-million fire that took four hours to control. Meanwhile, the Tropicale will not make its next scheduled run for Saturday, officials said.