CNN sent Erin Burnett and Martin Savage to the scene to capture the human drama as it unfolded. They seemed surprised when the ship sidled up to the dock and, as the CEO of Carnival Cruise lines addressed reporters, a cheer arose from the crowd gathered on the shore and from the passengers hanging from the rails of the ship.
Suddenly, the narrative changed midstream, and though reporters tried valiantly to keep up the “traumatized victim” meme, passengers greeted them with story after story of ordinary Americans who basically said that conditions were awful, but they made the best of the situation.
In one exchange, Savage absurdly attempted to compare the plight of the stranded cruise ship passengers to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Passenger Rob Kenny politely corrected him: “Yeah, but let’s put that in perspective. Katrina was a major devastation. We’re in a freaking cruise ship.”
Like Kenny, many passengers recounted heartwarming stories of good that came out of their harrowing trip.
Passenger Joseph Alvarez said, “The worst was the fire. The best was having that quality time with my wife. We started a Bible group and it was a very uplifting spiritual time for our group.”
“It was awesome. It lifted up our souls and gave us hope that we would get back,” said Alvarez of San Antonio, describing the Bible study group that met in the evenings and was attended by around 45 passengers.
“It was 2 1/2 days of great fun and then it was bonding and family coming together and helping each other,” said Mercedes Perez de Colon, whose sister had been taken off the ship for dialysis earlier in the week. She was surrounded by her family in a heartwarming group hug.
Earlier in the day, Fox News anchor Greg Jarrett had spoken to another member of the same family, Brenda Colon. Jarrett asked Colon if Carnival was negligent for not having better contingency plans:
“I’m not really sure how all of that works. Here where we’re at, they’ve been doing a really great job. We have water. They’ve been able to restore power on some of the parts of the boat so we’ve been able to charge our phones.” She commended the staff, saying, “They’ve been able to put on comedy shows, play movies for people. The crew on board has been wonderful and that’s all I can speak to.”
Asked about the offer of a free cruise and $500, Colon said, “It’s better than nothing, that’s all I can say. It’s better than nothing.”
Joy Dyer, a young woman from Oklahoma City who had been living in the “tent city” on the deck because her room conditions had deteriorated, told Martin Savage and Erin Burnett, “The situation we were in was a terrible situation and there were a lot of terrible and frustrating things to deal with.” But she said the crew made all the difference.“What we were in awe of the entire time was the crew that was completely unselfish. They served us with smiles and served us in ways that are truly unthinkable. The things that they did for us, yet they did it with smiles. We built relationships with the crew. We came home intending to keep up those relationships. They did not have to serve us to the capacity that they did, but they chose to make the most of it and that encouraged all of us to make the most of it.” Dyer added that a sense of humor was also an important element, saying, “We found…laughter in spite of what we were dealing with and that helped us all to get through it.”
Joe Perkin, traveling with his friends on their fourth cruise together, told Martin Savage, “We made friends for life, which obviously has some value to it. For the most part people were very kind to each other and the crew was always smiling and very kind.”
Julianna Hair and her mother, Julie shared Bible verses that encouraged them during the ordeal. Speaking to Fox News as she walked off the ship, Julie clutched a Diet Coke and expressed her gratitude for her family, saying, “I’ve learned humility from this trip.” She said,
Sunday and Monday it was just a bunch of fear. You could just feel fear. But we had a good prayer meeting. She quotes verses. Julianna knows 290 verses. And we were in the middle of quoting and she busted out crying and I said, “Julianna, lets just keep on quoting,” so we read the next verse and the next verse said, “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you.” And after that we had a peace. The Lord gave us a peace that was like no other. And I’m thankful that He protected us.