After four days adrift aboard a vacation cruise that turned grim and unpleasant, Jayme Lamm saw the Alabama shoreline Thursday and breathed a sigh of relief.
A passenger on the crippled Carnival Triumph cruise liner being towed into port in Mobile, she said she and her friends have been sleeping outdoors on decks because of miserable and unsanitary conditions in their rooms.
Toilets were so overwhelmed some broke off the walls, she said.
"I think every person on the ship has had some kind of emotional breakdown at different times," said the Lamm, 31, of Houston. "When a voice came on the speaker saying you have you have to go No. 2 in a red bag, that was an emotional breakdown. When the rope snapped on the tug that was towing the ship, that was an emotional breakdown. Today has been hard because we've been able to see land and knowing we have 10 hours to go, that's hard."
Reached on her cellphone early Thursday evening, Lamm was in the company of about 70 other passengers gathered around one of the disabled ship's charging stations. As the ship neared the port at Mobile, Ala., five days after an engine-room fire knocked out most of its power and left the ship adrift in the Gulf of Mexico, Thursday marked the first time in days passengers regained contact with the wider world.
"Everybody has a different story of how difficult it has been," said the Lamm, a freelance writer who was traveling with a group of 10 girlfriends for a bachelorette party.
Her group had been out of their second-floor cabins since Sunday, when the ship began listing, causing water from the toilet to flood the floor. The ship lost power and drifted for the next 36 hours or so, she says.
Meanwhile, passengers were given red bags and instructed to use them for solid waste. Some passengers began hoarding food, eventually causing the cruise line to ration. Food lines were long because there was only one serving area, but "the ship has done a pretty good job of keeping us fed," she said.
She estimates 75% of the passengers slept outdoors on the decks from Sunday to Thursday, creating a floating shantytown from of deck chairs, bed sheets and bathrobes.
While some areas of the ship were passable, others were horrific due to sewage spread by full toilets that snapped off the walls, she said. Caution tape roped off some areas, and the first- and second-level decks were uninhabitable.
With the pool closed, the bar shuttered, theaters dark and other diversions missing, the staff asked passengers to recycle their used magazines and books. Kids played tag and solved math problems, she said.
"I have not heard one complaint about the staff,'' she said. "They were taking the red bags and throwing them away. This is not what they signed up for."
But mostly, as the days drifted on and the passengers anxiously awaited returning to dry land, it was boring.
"No offense, but I don't really want to remember this," Lamm said. "I just care about getting home."
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