Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Carnival Triumph

My experience on the Carnival Triumph.

I grew up with some amazing friends (Christine (Stewart) Tidwell, Brooke (Sowards) Thompson, Debbie (Quigg) Moyes, Heather  (Scott) Rameriz). We have known each other since we were babies and have been friends as long as we can remember. We graduated High School and went all different ways. We still kept in touch and tried to see each other when we could but we decided after 15 years that we needed a girls trip. It was hard to schedule/plan with kids, jobs, husbands, money etc. but we finally picked a date and a plan. Our decision was the great Carnival Cruise from Galveston Texas to Cozumel and back. It was a 3 day cruise which was prefect for all our busy schedules. It was out of Texas which was nice Brooke just moved there and we could check out her new place. It was inexpensive which was perfect for all of us.

We all arrived in Austin Texas Wednesday Feb 6th. We got to go see Brooke's cute house and hangout. The next day we got in the car to travel to Galveston Tx. We were pumped for this girls get away. I was especially pumped. I had been running around crazy for the past couple months with my 4 small kids and trying to build our house, it was for sure time for a little R & R.

We got to the boat and checked in. We found our little room that we would be squeezing 5 girls in. There was 2 normal beds, 2 bunk beds, and 1 ghetto cot that was pretty much a lawn chair with a thin mattress on top of it. Of course, we picked names out of the hat to see who got the cot. I was super stoked to get a normal bed ;).

But that (me having a good bed) didn't last long with Christine pregnant, Debbie with MS, and Heather with a bad back. At the end of the day it didn't matter we were super excited to be together again.

We unpacked and got settled in. We counted our life jackets and found that there was only 4 life jackets. We insisted that we get another one and the steward was kind of mean about it but we finally got it. We went up to our Muster Station to perform the safety drill with the rest of the boat.. and then we set sail.
This was my third cruise. First time being when I was about 14 years old to the Bahama's leaving from Florida and Second time when I was 21 to Encinitas  leaving from Long beach. Both were for family reunions and both were on Carnival. They were super fun so I was excited about this one. One of the best things about a cruise is the unlimited food right?? And what makes your dining experience even better is if you have a great waiter. Well I was telling the girls that my first cruise we had an amazing waiter named Donovan. He made the cruise great. The 2nd cruise from a completely different port our waiter was once again Donovan. What are the chances right.... 

Well the first night we sat down and read who our waiter was going to be...
you will NEVER believe this but my third cruise when I was almost 33 year old, out of once again a different port was our very own... DONOVAN! CRAZY!! Are you dying??? I was completely floored. Love this guy. Can't believe I got him again.
The next day we had such a fun time cruising, laying out, catching up, going down water slides.

 That night was the dress up night which was fun to get all fancy and enjoy some yummy food. It was also Christine's birthday which was fun to celebrate together.


It was a great night enjoying each others company, eating, and even busting some moves after. We got back to our cabin and found a frog sitting on our bed.. so fun. It was appropriate that we had Debbie take a picture with the frog since we named her Kermie in High School.

The next day we arrived in Cozumel. We took a little bus/taxi to a private beach and had the best time.
 We swam, dove off floating docks, and went snorkeling and there was a ton of fish to see..

 Relaxed on the beautiful white sand and lounge chairs.
 Hung out in Hammocks.... really!
 Explored the land... finding wild life and ancient ruins

 Got to watch a little sea lion show
 We decided that before the boat took off we should explore the island a little. So we took a taxi to little shops, got off the taxi and ate some yummy street tacos. We tried to walk to some more shops but they ended up being too far.

We had a great day on Cozumel but we had to eventually get back on the boat.

 That night was another fun one with dancing and eating (gotta love the midnight buffet). We finally got to bed around 1:30 am.. which was about 4 hours past my bedtime ;)

And then it happened... ALPHA TEAM ALPHA TEAM engine number 6 over the PA. I woke up completely confused. Looked at the clock it was 5:30 in the morning. what in the world? Again ALPHA TEAM ALPHA TEAM engine number 6. This could not be good. Then the announcement "please do not use stairwell 50" and I jumped out of bed! THERE IS A FIRE!! Immediately the words from our emergency drill came to my mind "the worst thing that could happen on a boat is a fire". AHHH this is the worst thing that could happen to our boat. So we all got dressed, grabbed our valuables, and grabbed our life jackets.. 1,2,3,4 where was our 5th life jacket!!! We freaked out someone took it. Just then a Steward ran down the hallways knocking on our doors yelling GRAB YOUR LIFE JACKETS!! We opened the door to see smoke everywhere. We immediately ran to our Muster Station H and lifeboat 20 and yelled to another worker to give us a life jacket. He was very hesitant and after some screaming he gave us one. We then lined up, first in line by our life boat ready to jump in. Our hearts pumping, tears in our eyes, "what in the world was happening right now?"

After some minutes passed by and we realized that we and a couple other people were the only ones up at the muster station? Where was everyone? Oh that is right we just left Cozumel and it is 5:30 in the morning, they are all passed out from partying the day before. So being LDS girls.. what was the next step we did in the emergency? We ran up 9 flights of stairs to grab as much food as we possibly could (fruit, dry cereal, bread, whatever we could stuff in our bags we brought down. So there we were with our life jackets, pillows, and food just waiting to find out what was going on.

We quickly make some friends with the only other people on the muster station. Brittany & Kendall and a family Scott, Shelley and Kristen who were also super smart and ran to the muster station at 5:30 in the morning too ;)

As we were waiting for the news we found men carrying up yummy food and stopped them to see if we could have some. Nothing like scarfing down cake at 7 am when you are scared to death about what is going to happen to you.

 We tried to keep our minds off of the terrible situation by playing games, eating, and talking to our new friends.
Every time we heard the PA ding our hearts sank. What was going to be the news now? Every time it was more bad news from Jen our British cruise director.
such as...
1) I am sorry folks but we are not going to have any toilets available so please if you could ever so kindly poo in the red bags and pee in the shower we would really appreciate it.
2) I am so sorry once again bad news.. as most of you know there has been a fire on the boat at Engine #6 it is too hot to go in and see the damage so we have to sit here and wait until it cools off which is going to be a LONG time.
3) Once again folks not good news... we were able after 7 hours to go into the engine room and it looks like there is nothing that we can do to fix it. We will now be sending for tow boats to tow us back to safety
4) Looks like we have some Brilliant news folk the coast guard will be arriving shortly to protect us from the pirates.
5) Well it looks like the tow boats go about 5 miles an hour so they will be getting to us in about 24 hours. So in the mean time we will be floating in the Gulf of Mexico.
6) Once again folks... some more bad news we will not be generating power for the remainder of our time here on this cruise ship.

Immediately, with the no power  and toilet situation we knew we would not be able to sleep in our cabin any more. We ran down stairs and grabbed out mattresses up to our Muster Station and set up camp. It was a perfect spot, right by our life boat, covered but not enclosed. We could have not asked for a better spot to set up camp.

And now it was the waiting game..
That night a cruise ship came to drop off food and supplies to our ship... and most importantly we were able (if you were lucky) to grab some cell reception from their boat.

I ran frantically around the boat trying to get cell reception. Then it happened a miracle in my eyes. I was able to get a phone call out. Tad on the other line, tears came for the pure joy of hearing his voice. I cant even think to know what to say  but that I love him and the kids. It was a true comfort and a blessing to hear him.

It was one eventful day and we were truly exhausted... we went back to our cabin to get ready for bed (in the pitch dark).

This really was a picture i took of what it was like in our cabin
Then we went up to our station where we fell asleep with the ocean waves to sooth us.

Life as I knew it would never be the same.

The next day we woke up to good news that they got running water and some of the toilets worked. A little bit later we had the good news that the tow boats had arrived (well one in the day time and one later that evening)

With the running water and the tow boats, towing us back to land. I tried to make my life as normal as possible.

I would eat (which would take about 2 hrs per meal because of the lines) so that took up a lot of our days.

 Workout (running the track), take a shower and try to get ready for the day (i think I did pretty good for the situation i was in).

 I read my dad's book (which was really great! I was glad I finally got a chance to read it).

I  laid out on the completely slanted deck.

  I watched the movies that the cruise would show

played the games the cruise would try to entertain us with.

One of my favorite activities was to go around and see how other people were spending their time and their living situations.

The majority of the people had to make their camp on the deck of the ship which is nice because you are close to the food but I could not imagine sleeping around 3000 people and being exposed to the elements the whole time.

others found shelter in the halls on the ship or in the dining rooms or lounge rooms.

And others found the muster station ( like us). Some people even got creative and made living rooms and dining rooms ;)

It was fun to see how people spent their time.
Some loved to write on the ship aka decorate their living space.

 Some people stayed close to there stuff and just relaxed.

And ALL went to the top of the boat anytime there was another cruise ship nearby in hopes that we could get another call out.

And of course when the helicopter came to drop off more food we were all there to experience it!

Everyday we would watch how the boat would get worse and worse in condition. The floors would be soaking in who knows what... well we really know but we would never want to think about it (sewage).

And everyday we would appreciate the finer things in life like... goldfish and oranges. I was so excited to find this on my bed one day from Debbie (thanks for thinking of me)
 But most importantly I was able to spend my time thinking about life. I never have felt so much gratitude. I had time to write my thoughts while I was on the boat and here are some of my writings.

" As we continue to live life in a floating boat I find out what is important. To some it is food and comfort. To others it is to be heard, some is sleep, and to most of us it is safety. As I continue to sleep out on the muster station, stomp through floors wet with sewage, eat dry cereal and fruit, pee in sinks, and have my stomach drop every time I hear a ding ding for an announcement that will probably tell me that I getting home yet another day later then expected, I have found peace. My heart is full as I think of my life that Heavenly Father has given me and the experiences that he lets me LIVE through to learn what is most important. My  Heavenly Father loves me. He comforts me in times of sadness and gives me strength when needed. He is well aware of the situations that I am put in. Although times can be tough he pours tender mercies my way. Here are some of those tender mercies i have received on this boat... Running water, great friends old and new, comfortable place to sleep, food which continues to come, kind people that are respectful, freedom to choose activities throughout the day, an able body to go up and down stairs all day, a loving family and friends that pray for me, finding clothes that don't smell to wear, nice weather, random power that works throughout the ship, communication with the coast guards. Miami headquarters that update our families. The list really could go on. With all the many  blessings we have received the most important is life. That we are blessed to be able to continue to thrive.  I have found that we are some of the blessed. I have an amazing family at home. I am blessed to be able to cook for them and clean for them. I am so blessed to serve all day and to be thinking of others constantly.. it is a life of joy and satisfaction. I am blessed to have friends and family with unconditional love. I am continually blessed and feel so humbled by all the love that my Heavenly Father has for me. I am grateful for this trip to bring back purpose and perspective."

With the many days or self reflection I was thrilled when the day finally came that we were getting off the boat.

We enjoyed our last meals together

We said goodbye to our dear friends that we met along the way.
Scott, Shelley, and Kristen
Cant forget my dear friend Donovan.

And then it came... WE SAW LAND!! and it was beautiful.

The news channels were all out trying to get the story first. 

We were able to talk to our loved ones...which was HUGE!!

We took our last pictures on the Carnival Cruise..

this is how we spent valentines day!

Sunset never looked better!

We packed up our stuff from our room and kissed it goodbye (not really kissed.. that is nasty)

Waited in line to unload the boat..

We felt like this lady! WE had survived..... red bags to poo in, over flowing toilets, flooded rooms, and all!

All we had to say now was REST IN PEE  (RIP) carnival triumph! smell you later... well hopefully not!

We did it we stepped onto ground. It was a total of 8.5 days out on sea and 6 of them being stranded out on sea.

I was so excited to see this.... a running toliet!

Debbie wanted to make sure she told her story so we waited while she talked to the news..
We got to New Orleans and had a wonderful room to stay in. we were thrilled to see clean things!
The cruise line had set up a flights for us to go home... so we departed our separate ways and flew home to join our families.

As I sat on my flight I was able to read the paper and see how we much we were written up in the news..

And then I saw it... home!
I got home and was able to see my sweet family once again. They made me the cutest welcome home banners. I love them more then ever could imagine.

It is strange to say but I wonder who I would be today without this trip. It was a trip that brought my life so much purpose and perspective. Would I appreciate life and all the many details in life that make it amazing? What about those I love, would have as much gratitude for them in my life and appreciate all they do for me and what I can do for them. Would I feel the same way I do today? I will never know... because I did survived the Carnival Triumph.
RIP Carnival Triumph

Thanks to my Friends for having a girls trip of a life time... couldn't imagine  better people to be stranded out to sea with! Love you girls forever.