Galilee Webb, a case manager at South Texas Children’s Home in Mineral, said she woke up on Sunday morning to an announcement over the PA system saying “there has been a problem in the engine room.”
Passengers were asked to remain calm and told they would be updated shortly.
The PA came on again a few hours later with a similar message to the first; there had been a fire in the engine room and ship officers were waiting for the engine to cool so they could assess the damage.
To her and her siblings (who work at Camp Zephyr in Mathis), the announcement seemed normal enough; except for the fact that, when the voice came over the PA system, you could hear chaos in the background, including a loud beeping sound (like a warning signal) and yelling people.
A few hours later, Webb said the cruise ship lost power. The massive ship was lit by emergency lighting after that.
No power also meant no air conditioner, hot water or flushing commodes.
Biobags were handed out in case people needed to defecate.
“The thing is, we just kept thinking, ‘OK, it will just be Tuesday,’” Webb said.
Tuesday came and went, and Webb, her siblings and about 4,000 other people were still stuck on the boat.
“It was a humbling experience for everyone,” she said.
She said some of the first-class passengers were upset that they were stuck on the boat, but, no matter what their socioeconomic status, they couldn’t get off the boat.
She said they were fed daily, but with no power they were limited to lots of fruits, salads and sandwiches.
“There was plenty of food,” she said. “We always had water and soda too but no ice.”
As other cruise ships would pass by, they would give their ship food.
All along the way, the PA announcements would come on every few hours to ease the restless and provide an update.
Once the engines did finally cool and it was determined that they were not fixable, a plan B was hatched and announced over the PA.
The Triumph would be towed to the nearest port via tugboat. But, then, tugboats move very slowly, so it would still be a waiting game.
Originally, the boat was going to be towed to Progreso, Mexico, but, by the time the tugboats finally arrived, the Triumph had drifted more than 90 miles.
Webb said she was told the new closest port would be in Mobile, Ala., which she said was much more comforting than Mexico.
As the days passed by, she said that passengers began to move mattresses and sheets to the decks.
Without air conditioning, it was getting pretty hot and stuffy below decks, and the smell was getting worse.
She said she and her siblings chose to sleep in their room, but they were lucky because the room across the hall had a balcony and the people left their door open, so the Webbs’ had a breeze blowing through their room.
As the boat drew closer to Mobile, cell phones started to work. It was when she got to where phones worked and they were getting communications back that she realized what a big deal the stranded cruise ship was to everyone in the U.S.
The first call was to her mom. Mrs. Webb was the emergency contact for all three siblings, so she was sure her mother was worried sick when she got the call from the cruise company about the stranded boat.
Also, another generator was flown to the boat and, for the first time in days, they were served a semi-hot meal: hamburgers.
The Coast Guard and customs and immigrations personnel also boarded the ship when it started getting close to shore so that everyone could go through that process before the boat docked, rather than waiting even longer once they reached port.
When they finally did get to port, Webb wasn’t able to just hop off the boat; there was yet more waiting, and it was another few hours before her feet touched solid ground again.
Once she was on land, she still faced the problem that she was in Mobile and her car was in Galveston.
The company gave the passengers several choices in getting back to Galveston. The Webbs chose the overnight charter bus and eventually arrived back in Galveston on Saturday.
So, her four-day trip turned into eight days at sea and an eight-hour bus ride back to Galveston.
Webb said that, throughout the whole experience, the staff stayed as calm and did everything they possibly could to accommodate the people.
“They were being really nice,” she said, “always trying to help us as much as they could.”
All and all, the trip wasn’t horrible. The siblings did make it to Cozumel and were able to enjoy the excursions.
“We are thankful it (the Triumph) broke on the way back and not on the way there,” Webb said.
As far as compensation goes, Webb said she was refunded the total cost of the cruise and given an additional $500. While she won’t be going on another cruise any time in the near future, she is not saying no to the possibility sometime in the future either.