Indiana natives back on land after Carnival cruise ordeal
Nearly 2,000 passengers from a disabled Carnival cruise ship are back on dry land.
That includes two women with Indiana ties who endured five days drifting at sea after an engine fire on the ship.
Jet Hilton spent what was supposed to be a girlfriends' getaway dealing with situations that no one expects on their vacation. She and 20 of her friends were stranded on the Carnival Triumph for five days without power, use of their cabins, or even working restrooms.
"They announced the first day that the toilets weren't working and they were going to drop off little red biohazard bags that you needed to use the restroom in and then once you were done, you had to put it out in the hallway for your steward," Hilton explained by phone Friday. "We were, like, 'Okay, this is gonna get real interesting!' We had a pipe break beside our room in the hallway and part of the hallway was flooded with sewage and then our room, you could walk in the carpet and it was so thick with the sewer water. It was splashing up on our calves, so we didn't wanna sleep there smelling, you know, of the waste. The whole ship really had a very bad smell and some areas, literally, if you walked in that area, it would burn your eyes it was so bad."
Hilton took pictures of fellow passengers sleeping under stairwells, on outdoor decks, and in dining and theater rooms. She described it as a "tent city".
"The first day there was one group that put their sheets up just to block the sun, because they were sleeping out there and then it just kind of spread all over the complete outside deck, the lido deck. It's pretty interesting to watch what people will do in these kind of circumstances," Hilton said.
She told Eyewitness News she felt the Carnival staff was amazing through it all. She also witnessed the best and the worst in human nature: the kindness of passengers helping older guests and those in need, but also guests who refused to give up their cell phone chargers for a disabled man.
"There was a man in a wheelchair that he needed to charge his battery because it was low and he couldn't move anywhere, barely," Hilton explained. "He was dependent on a lot of people, so he came rolling up to the group of people who were charging their phones and asked if he could just charge his wheelchair and there were two sides of people charging on either end of the hall and the first group he asked, they denied him. They wouldn't let him charge his wheelchair."
Still, Hilton says she tried to stay positive during her extended days at sea. Even with that last delay, when the tug rope broke, she says she knew she'd be safe soon.
"At that point, we knew we were so close and what's one more thing? We saw...land was in sight."
Hilton is back on land in New Orleans. She and her husband, who live in Houston, Texas, plan to enjoy the weekend in the Crescent City and watch the IU-Purdue game at their hotel.
Carnival gave her a refund on the cruise, $500 and a discounted cruise in the future. She's not sure yet whether she'll take them up on another trip.
Teen: "That was awful"
Eighteen-year-old Brianna Adkins of Noblesville was also aboard the disabled ship.
"It wasn't the worse thing I've ever gone through, but...," said Adkins.
But it will be a long time - if ever - before Adkins goes on another cruise.
"I definitely don't think I would ever want to do it again," she said.
She also spoke of the deplorable conditions aboard the Triumph.
"You had to, when you had to go to the bathroom, you had to go on top of other people's bathroom stuff, waste," she said. "It was long and hot. There's not good food and there was water on the side of the boat. The boat was leaning."
While Adkins says she won't be leaving port anytime soon, travel agents say this might just be the right time to book a cruise.
"I think we'll see the impact of it, you know, in the next two weeks if there's going to be, you know, some great deals," said Alex Kutin with Travel Leaders.
Kutin says there are already some great deals on cruises out there right now. If more are coming will depend on how well cruise lines book up in the coming weeks.
"If they see that they're not filling their ships, then they have a tendency, you know, to go ahead and to, you know, offer some additional discounts," Kutin said.
But that's not enough, Adkins says, to get her on a cruise anytime soon.
"I don't think its worth it. I would not ever want to go through that again. That was awful," she said.