Pictures from aboard the Carnival Triumph which was without power and drifting for five days after a fire in the engine room. Sent Feb. 15, 2013 by passenger Faraz Ismail who lives in Milton, ON
Credits: PHOTO SUPPLIED
TORONTO – As the Toronto skyline came into view through the small window on the Canadair Regional Jet on Friday evening, Faraz Ismail looked down at the CN Tower and smiled.
"I never have been so happy to be home," said the fatigued Milton resident, breaking into a weary grin.
It's easy to see why Faraz and his parents were so overwhelmed at the prospect of stepping onto Canadian soil again, having spent much of the past week stranded with 4,000 other passengers on the crippled Carnival Triumph cruise ship.
Due to a fire in the Triumph's engine room last Sunday, a potentially dream vacation turned into the Cruise from Hell for passengers such as the Ismails, who had to deal with overflowing toilets, the rancid stench of human waste and limited electricity and food supplies.
The scariest moment, Faraz said, was having one's nostrils flare with the first whiff of smoke after being informed about the blaze on board. There actually were times where an entire power blackout hit, engulfing the ship and its stranded passengers in complete darkness.
For days, the vessel was stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. Strong winds caused the ship to sway, sending human waste seeping into the hallways. Many rooms understandably needed to be evacuated, resulting in shantytowns springing up all over the ship's sprawling decks, the Ismails said.
"It was really bad," Faraz said. "Almost everywhere you went you could smell sewage, if not see it.
"There were a lot of hysterical people. Some of them camped out besides the lifeboats and didn't move for four days. They were wearing life jackets the entire time."
During the horrifying ordeal, three other cruise ships arrived to deliver supplies to the Triumph. When those ships got close, passengers on the Triumph were able to get cellphone reception and quickly made calls to their loved ones on the mainland.
"It was incredible how many people were crying," said Faraz, whose family slept in deck chairs for a while until they were forced inside by rain.
The ship finally arrived in Mobile, Ala. on Thursday night, but even the journey back to the U.S. was not without its hiccups. At least three times the tow lines snapped between the tugboats and the ship, making the nightmare even longer.
Carnival is giving passengers a refund for the price of the cruise, a $500 "sorry about that" compensation and also offered discounts on future cruises.
Really? Are they serious? Does Carnival really think these poor people want to rush back onto a ship after spending the past week on a 893-foot floating toilet?
If the Ismails are any indication, there won't be many Triumph passengers lining up at the Carnival ticket wickets for a while.
"Another cruise? I think my parents and I agree we need to take a vacation from cruises for quite a while," Faraz said.
As the Ismails waited for their luggage at Pearson after their flight from Charlotte had landed, they stopped short of kissing the ground. But you got the feeling they would have liked to.
"It is fantastic to be back in Canada," Faraz said.
Back from the Cruise from Hell.