I admit to being fascinated by the Carnival Cruise ship drama (Twitter hashtags—no kidding—#poopboat and #poopship) as we watched the disabled behemoth limp back to Mobile on Thursday with 4000 crew and passengers in a floating soup of raw sewage and onion sandwiches.
As low-information travelers, our family has been on no less than three Carnival cruises, so I know a little about the culture of those ships. It’s an odd mix of senior citizens, families with young children, and the people who purchase the unlimited liquor cards. The seniors play bingo, the children romp around Camp Carnival, and the fun folks with the unlimited liquor cards spend their nights grinding in the disco and their mornings with their heads hanging in the suction-operated toilets. The ship carries a group of people who would never under normal circumstances choose to spend time together crammed onto an opulent miniature city for a week, staged by a crew that works slavishly to serve the needs and the whims of the passengers 24-7.
Suddenly last week, thousands of people who packed their bags for fine dining, magic shows, and romps on the beach found themselves in survival mode. Hollywood couldn’t have written a better reality-show script: grandparents celebrating their 50th anniversary, recent college grads on their honeymoon, a homeschooling family from Waco, football buddies from New Orleans. Who would survive the Sludge Boat?
DRUDGE screamed terrifying headlines about the misery in the Gulf:
FLOATING PETRI DISH LIMPS TO PORT
SLEEPING WITH LIFE VESTS FEARING CAPSIZE
HOARD ON BOARD
PASSENGERS FIGHT OVER FOOD
The stories from the Carnival Triumph early Thursday made it sound like a third world county:
Conditions on board a cruise ship stranded in the Gulf of Mexico have deteriorated dramatically, reportedly leaving passengers fighting over food and the vessel caked in urine and raw sewage. Passengers on board the US cruise ship Carnival Triumph, which has been stranded since Sunday after an engine fire, are using mobile phones to convey tales of carpets soaked in urine and passengers sleeping in tents on deck.
Food supplies are said to be running low, with passengers forced to queue for hours for cold onion and cucumber sandwiches, and there are also reports of fights breaking out as groups of “savages” fight over the dwindling supplies.
Speaking to CNN, passenger Ann Barlow said: “It’s disgusting. It’s the worst thing ever”, while her husband Toby told the news channel there is “sewage running down the walls and floors”, with passengers asked to defecate in plastic bags and urinate in showers due to their being only five working toilets between 4,200 people.”
It seemed that every news outlet in the country sent reporters to meet the ill-fated cruise ship in Mobile, no doubt expecting to see horrific scenes of human carnage as medics wheeled feces-caked passengers off the ship. It was clear in the lead-up to the ship’s arrival in Mobile that they fully expected to be greeted by angry, disgruntled passengers looking for lawyers. The media prepared us all day for how bad this would be as they followed the ship into port.