Saturday was our excursion into Cozumel, Mexico. We visited a Mayan Archaeological Dig site, followed by lunch at a restaurant at Playa Azure (a beautiful local beach).
We got back on board, enjoyed dinner, joined the dancing at the deck party later and ended our day with gratitude for another fun-filled, long day.
We were quite abruptly woken up at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday by the fire in Engine Room 6 and that was the beginning of what we call "our adventure". It took 8 hours for the engine room to cool enough for them to be able to open the doors to assess the damage. By 4:00 that afternoon, we knew there would be no way to restore power or start the engine. The entire ship ran on emergency lighting and rather primitive conditions, as in no flushing toilets or running water. By the next day they had restored enough power to have running water and the wonderful news that room toilets were flushing. Our room toilet did flush one time and one time only. The rest of the time was spent searching the ship for the one public restroom that worked (which was usually for a couple of hours before having to find another one). Through all of these chaotic and primitive conditions, I cannot stress enough how wonderful all of the crew members on this ship were. They endured the same conditions we did and yet managed to work to fill all of our needs with a smile on their face and an attitude of "how can I help you?". They were the real heroes in this entire ordeal. Here is a picture of the smoke billowing from the engine room taken from our cabin balcony.
Val and I went up to the Lido deck (deck 9) for fresh air to get away from the smell of smoke and oil burning and dragged a couple of deck chairs under an overhang from deck 10. This turned out to be prime real estate on the ship for the next 3 days and nights. We were protected by the sun from the overhang and had a great breeze from being on the open deck. We made great friends with a group of about 15 other people and that is where we lived day and night (other than going to our cabin to get changed). The great thing is that everyone looked out for and took care of everyone else. It is truly phenomenal when a crisis brings out the best in everyone and that is what happened with about 90% of the people on the ship. There is no way for me to explain the other 10% and unfortunately they are often in the forefront of feeding the news media who put their own twist on things. Yes it is true conditions were difficult, but I can tell you there was always water, soda, coffee (except for Sunday) and plenty of food available.
Here is a picture of our home for 3 days.
Val and I rotated taking turns waiting in lines for food. We really learned the art of patience, because we had to wait in lines for everything (a flushing toilet, coffee and food). They only thing we didn't really have to wait for is soda or water which were available at every bar. The food choices were a little different since for the first 2 days there was no source of heat for cooking. We had a lot of choices of fruits, salads, sandwiches and desserts. I spent 1 hour and 50 minutes on Monday waiting for a lunch of salads, sandwiches and some desserts, which I thought was quite a long time, but well worth it. My daughter, Val waited 2 hours and 45 minutes the next day for cheeseburgers (we had received a generator or something that made it possible for the kitchen to grill things). The grill was about 4 feet long by about 2 feet wide and was the only way for them to cook anything for 3,100 passengers which is why it took so long. The poor kitchen staff had to take turns grilling until they became too overheated (remember, no power=no air conditioning) and had to be relieved. They kept rotating the chefs to be able to keep the passengers fed. Val had no regrets waiting that long since it was the best damn burger we had ever had. That's what 2 days of cold food does to you.
We ate just fine for the first few days since we continued to feel food had been kept cold and we had received fresh supplies from other cruise ships. We had 3 instances of other Carnival cruise ships coming by to share supplies with us. The only way to try to connect with the outside world was when another cruise ship was close enough to get a signal from them. Here's a picture of everyone trying to catch a signal.
We were amazed at the ways people came up with solutions for tolerable living conditions; some built coverings on the open deck out of sheets to protect them from the sun, others moved mattresses from their cabins into hallways that had a breeze whether it was an open deck or the hallways by the elevators. Here's a few pictures of tent city, as we nicknamed it.
For those families who decided they did not want to be outside, here were some of the solutions. This is on the deck with the lifeboats which had a great breeze from outside. This was on deck 4, I think so they had to walk up to deck 9 for any of their meals.
Many people opted for the space by the elevators which was always relatively comfortable in temperature for whatever reason.
Val and I both opted to look for the best in any given situation which worked most of the time. We each had our own little moments of breaking down but only with each other and they were always short-lived. We tended to bring out the best in each other and those around us. After 3 days on deck, the weather turned on us after a little rain shower, the temperatures dropped and people had to clear the decks. We had already removed tent city, since helicopters had come close enough to drop supplies on our upper deck.
One thing I haven't mentioned is the ship was listing (tilting to one side or the other) since the fire. When it was listing so that your side of the ship was up you could use your shower since the water would drain down the shower drain. When your side of the ship was down, not only could you not use your shower or any water in the sink in your cabin, but some of the previous contents would flow back into your bathroom through the drain. The biggest problem I had by day 4 and 5 was the odors on the ship. The smell of urine and sewage was prevalent in many of the public restrooms and in all of the cabins depending which way the ship was listing. The other big problem for me was the odors coming from the kitchen where all the food was stored was simply nauseating. They did always supply us with food, but Val and I decided that fruit, veggies and bread were the safe choices for us. I tended to add one small piece of protein in one form or another every day. Many people loaded their plates with all kinds of sandwiches (including tunafish, crab salad, and many others slathered with mayonnaise). These sandwiches may have been perfectly safe, but we chose not to test that theory. The last day on the ship, lunch was steak and lobster tails and again we chose not to try them.
Here is a picture of my last meal on the ship which was Thursday evening (5 days after the fire) which consisted of fresh tomato wedges, asparagus pieces in a balsamic vinaigrette, fresh carrot slivers, fresh pineapple wedges and a small piece of grilled steak. I ate everything except for the steak (I probably ate about half of the steak). This is typical of what our meals were like the last couple of days (purely by choice).
One thing that both of us missed was drinking as much water as we are accustomed to. We both love our water and drink a ridiculous amount every day. We chose to limit our water consumption so that we would spend less time searching for working plumbing. We were both quite dehydrated once on land and have been seriously working at fixing that problem. Fortunately, that has an easy solution. The food is a little tricky however. I have been gradually increasing the amount of food I have been consuming and especially the proteins, in trying to get back to normal. I am hoping that tomorrow I can consume a normal amount and balance of food.
Carnival has done everything they can to recover from this and honestly the crew have been unbelievable in earning my respect. As I am sure has been announced, we have been given a full refund including all charges on our room cards, we will receive a voucher for a future cruise, and we will receive a $500 check for incidental travel expenses in trying to get home. I have been asked repeatedly if I would ever consider another cruise (especially since this happened to be my first) and the answer is positively yes, I will use the voucher for another cruise.
The only frustrating part of this entire process was the lack of tugboats to tow us to Alabama. We were told we would have 3 and the entire time we only had 2. One tugboat pulled us in front and the other guided our direction attached to the back. In addition to that, the tugboat that was pulling us worked hard enough to blow its engine just before we got to the sea channel. We have no idea what happened to the third tugboat. We might have made it to the channel a lot earlier than 10:00 p.m. with another tugboat earlier in the process (really an assumption on my part).
Carnival gave us several options to get home and we chose to spend the night in a hotel so we could have a hot meal, a hot shower, and a good night's sleep before being flown to Houston. With all the delays, we didn't get through the channel until 10:00 p.m. It was 11:45 before we got off the ship and on to a bus that left Mobile, Alabama at 12:30. We got to our room in the hotel in New Orleans about 3:00 a.m. and had to be up at 5:00 so we could shower (the best hot shower ever) and have breakfast before boarding the bus to shuttle us to the airport. We flew to the George Bush Airport in Houston where we were met by my husband, Gerry. Gerry had caught a 6:00 a.m. flight to Houston, was driven to Galveston by one of Jason's (Val's husband, my son-in-law) business associates in Houston. Val and I had left Jason's car at the hotel in Galveston where we stayed the night before we sailed. Gerry picked up the car and met us at the airport so that he could drive us both safely home. What a blessing that was since both Val and I had very little sleep the night before. It was great to have someone to share all of our stories with on the 5 hour drive back to the Dallas area.
Val and I are both just discovering how exhausted we were and how our food consumption has taken a toll. I personally find myself just wanting to curl up under a blanket and sleep with very little appetite and Val is having a little more trouble with not feeling well. She has a few more digestive problems and a slight sore throat, she's had a strep test and a flu test and both are negative, so we are hoping that rest and the right diet will help.
My food choices for today have been pretty normal, a fried egg for breakfast with a whole wheat toast with just a dab of butter and coffee. I had a tunafish sandwich on wheat bread for lunch and Stir Fried Sichuan Green Beans (which has a small amount of ground pork) over Rice. I chose this for dinner since it had just a slight amount of meat for protein, a considerable amount of vegetables (green beans), a nice hint of spice and it was served over simple white rice (the food staple for much of the world). I was so tired Gerry ended up cooking dinner for which I was extremely grateful.
Hopefully I will be up for cooking dinner tomorrow night and this blog will get back to its normal feel. Forgive me for ranting about this whole experience.