Carnival cruise ship Triumph limps into port after five days at sea

Locals experienced similar incident in Splendor

MOBILE, Ala. - Passengers who finally got to disembark from a disabled Carnival cruise ship in Alabama are checking into hotels or heading home by bus.

The ill-fated Carnival Triumph stumbled into port at Mobile, Alabama Thursday night, tethered to tugboats and carrying some 4,200 passengers who spent five numbing days at sea without power.

 “We had sewage coming in the bathroom.  The smell was horrific," passenger Ann Barlow told ABC News. "There was no air conditioning. ”

The heat and stench forced passengers to set up a  kind of shanty-town on the upper deck; a few lay down in formation to spell the word "help".

“Our toilets sort of exploded all over the place and we've been on the balcony ever since," said Tammy Hilley.

One sick passenger was taken off the ship in a medical evacuation; the other thousands had to wait and endure.

Passengers raucously cheered the docking after days of what they described as overflowing toilets, food shortages and foul odors.

It was supposed to be a fun trip with girlfriends for 28-year-old Maria Hernandez of Angleton, Texas. But Hernandez said instead, "It was horrible, just horrible."

It took less than four hours to get all the passengers off the crippled ship.

Some boarded about 100 buses for trips to hotels in New Orleans, about two hours away, or all the way to Texas.

Gordon Gilbreath and Chris DeSaulniers of San Diego experienced a similar ordeal more than two years ago aboard the Carnival cruise ship Splendor.

It was towed into San Diego in November, 2010 after an engine fire disabled all six diesel electric engines.

 “When this happened with the Triumph, it all came back," DeSaulniers told 10News.

The Splendor had the same problems: a complete black-out; no power, no heat, no a-c, no flushing.  Then a storm hit.  People were scared.

“A lot of flashbacks for weeks and months afterward; what we went through; a very scary experience, lot of anxiety," Gilbreath said.

Cell phones became of no use, either, because they couldn't re-charge the batteries.

 “The worst of it for me was the helpless feeling.  There was nothing we could do to make it any better,” DeSaulniers said.

They felt lost at sea till the Coast Guard came to the rescue.

Both say they’ve lost faith in Carnival; that the company had crossed the line with this latest incident.

KEY EVENTS: Triumph's ill-fated voyage:

-- Feb. 7, 2013 -- The Triumph departs Galveston for a four-day Caribbean cruise.
-- Feb. 10, 2013 -- A fire erupts in the ship's engine room, disabling the vessel's propulsion system and knocking out most of its power. It is set adrift 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula.
-- Feb. 11, 2013 -- Carnival officials say the ship has drifted so far north it will be towed to Mobile, Ala. instead of Progreso, Mexico. Tugboats arrive.
-- Feb. 12, 2013 -- National Transportation Safety Board announces it has opened an investigation into the engine-room fire.
-- Feb. 13, 2013 -- Carnival officials announce they have canceled a dozen more scheduled voyages for the Triumph.
-- Feb. 14, 2013 -- When the ship is within sight of Alabama, the tow gear of one of the tugboats breaks. A new tugboat is secured but once the towing begins, the towline breaks. The line is repaired and the Triumph resumes its journey to Mobile.