Cruise ship nightmare drags on

An engine fire set a cruise ship adrift on Sunday, leaving passengers using improvised toilets and sleeping on deck

By Katie McDonough

Published February 12, 2013 8:50PM (EST)

    (Carnival Cruise Lines)
(Carnival Cruise Lines)

An engine fire has left a Carnival cruise ship drifting off the coast of Mexico. A total of 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew have been stranded on the Triumph since Sunday morning, enduring sweltering indoor temperatures, limited access to food and very few working toilets. A rescue attempt was recently derailed by strong currents that pushed the ship another 90 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, foiling plans to tow it to shore.

Another tow boat is expected to reach the stranded ship Thursday, but it's only Tuesday.

Passengers have been able to communicate with friends and family about the conditions on board, and it sounds like a serious (gross) nightmare.

"Conditions are getting worse by the hour," passenger Debra Rightmire texted to ABC News. "Cabin carpets are wet with urine and water. Toilets are overflowing inside cabins. We are having to sleep in the hallways."

But Carnival is in serious damage control mode, trying to minimize Internet chatter about foul conditions aboard the Triumph. “Currently, public and cabin toilets are operational in certain sections of the ship, power has been restored to a limited number of elevators and power in the Lido dining area is providing for hot coffee and limited food service,” Carnival said in a statement on its website.

But reports from multiple passengers suggest they are using, well, plastic bags in lieu of toilets.

While they wait for a second attempt to bring them ashore, this time to Alabama, those on board are expressing frustration -- but also gratitude for Carnival staff and fellow passengers. So save your "Lord of the Flies" comparisons, at least for the time being.

"People are being good -- crew is so unselfish and working so hard," Joy Dyer said in a text to the Guardian on Monday. "People starting to get more irritable, and others showing more kindness." Dyer did add that she was worried about how long the honeymoon period would last:

"I fear a couple of days from now when people start going crazy."


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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