Cruise passengers became comrades on exhaustive trip home

Passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph could have been selfish and looked out only for themselves and their loved ones after their cruise ship lost power. Instead, they became comrades in a long, exhausting struggle to get home.

As ship conditions deteriorated after an engine fire, travelers formed Bible study groups, shared or traded precious supplies and even welcomed strangers into their private cabins. Long after they've returned to the everyday luxuries of hot showers and cold drinks, passengers said, they will remember the crew and the personal bonds formed during a cruel week at sea.

The tired tourists finally reached land Friday and gave a glimpse into the intensely uncomfortable journey they had endured.

Sandy Jackson was fortunate to have an upper-level room with a balcony and a breeze that kept the air in her cabin fresh. Rooms on the lower decks were too foul or stifling, so Jackson took in five people, including four strangers.

"We knew one, the others we're very good friends with now,'' Jackson said. "Everyone was very cordial in sharing supplies. What you had and they didn't have, everyone shared as much as possible.''

Brandi Dorsett said people were antsy and irritable at times, and there was tension. But it never got out of hand. "People were bartering. Can I have your cereal for this? Can I have your drink for that?'' she said. "We had one lady, she was begging for cigarettes for diapers. There were no diapers on the boat. There was no formula on the boat.''

The ship left Galveston, Texas, on February 7 for a four-day jaunt to Cozumel, Mexico. The fire paralysed the ship early Sunday, leaving it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico until tugboats towed the massive 14-story vessel to Mobile. It arrived late Thursday to cheers and flashing cameras. Passengers had to wait several more hours to disembark.

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