NEW ORLEANS - On Friday afternoon, the disabled Carnival cruise ship Triumph was being moved from an Alabama dock, where thousands of weary passengers finally got to leave the ship that some said was a living hell.
They were stuck on the cruise ship at sea after an engine-room fire disabled the ship on Sunday. After days of no power and backed up toilets, the conditions were described as disgusting.
Many passengers came to New Orleans after exiting the ship, and their stories described the horrific voyage and the relief at being off the ship.
The buses began rolling into the Hilton Riverside Hotel from Mobile at about 1 a.m. Friday.
For many passengers, the relief at the end of the voyage was huge. A warm meal, a hotel room, a hot shower and a clean bed welcomed the 2,000 passengers that were bussed to New Orleans.
"We only had an hour and a half of sleep, but we're just glad to be going home, because it was hell on that ship," said Marsha Burris of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Each had stories of the pleasant cruise becoming a nightmare journey after fire broke out in the Triumph engine room. The ship began drifting in the Gulf of Mexico and lost power for even basic services.
"It was horrible. We had sewer in our bathroom of our room. We were in an inside cabin, we had no lights, no running water, we had no toilets that flushed in our cabin," said Charla Higginbotham of Palestine, Texas.
Passengers told stories of meals being rationed, the ship leaning at odd angles and the tireless courage of the crew. But the worst was the sewer system failure that led many to sleep on the deck.
"The smell was horrid. It was sewage. There was literally sewage everywhere, on the carpets in the rooms. It was everywhere, we had to walk over it just to use the bathroom," said Amy Wiginton, also of Palestine, Texas.
"I'll tell you what I remember - lettuce and onion and mayonnaise sandwiches on a hamburger bun," Higginbotham said.
The guests left almost as quickly as they arrived. Most were on buses by 11 a.m. Friday and the last bus was scheduled to leave the Hilton at 2 p.m.
Some passengers on those charter buses suffered another setback on their journey home. One of the buses broke down on its way to New Orleans. Another bus had to bring them to the Crescent City.