Shortly after she and boarded the Carnival Triumph, Georgette Ford snapped a photo of her mixed drink and posted it to her Facebook page. The glass proclaimed Feb. 7 "Officially the Best Day Ever!"
Ford, her husband and some friends were among several Deer Park residents stranded in the Gulf of Mexico last week aboard the ill-fated cruise liner. Despite reports of horrid, unsanitary conditions and a class-action lawsuit against the cruise company, Ford said the experience was not nearly as bad as it has been portrayed.
"It was three days of a wonderful vacation and five days of a bad camping trip," she said. "It wasn't unbearable. There was always plenty to eat, we had enough to drink and we always knew what was going on. The cruise director did a fine job with everything that was going on."
The United States Coast Guard reported earlier this week that the engine room fire that disabled the ship on Feb. 10 was caused by a fuel leak. The disabled ship floated in the gulf until it was harnessed to tugboats and pulled to Alabama on Feb. 14.
Despite the fire, Ford said she and her traveling party never felt they were in danger.
"The first couple of hours, you're not really sure what's going on. We knew something happened and we were reassured that the ship wasn't sinking," she said.
The fire caused electrical outages and there reports of seeping sewage as some of the more than 3,000 passengers claimed they were forced to use the restroom in plastic bags and in showers. Some passengers also reported long lines for food where fights broke out among passengers.
"We didn't see any of that. There were long lines if you wanted a hot meal, but there were short lines for sandwiches and other foods. It wasn't like we were forced to wait in the long lines. If we wanted to eat, there was always something available," she said.
Supplies were sent via other ships to the Triumph so that passengers and crew had access to fresh water and food.
"If they dropped off hamburgers, then the hot meal was hamburgers," she said. Ford said the only time anyone in her party experienced a wait was when her husband surprised her with a steak and lobster dinner on Valentines Day.
"Steak and lobster while stranded on a cruise? How is that bad?" she asked.
As for the conditions, Ford said her party did not experience or witness what others claimed.
"It really wasn't horrible. I didn't see what the other people were complaining about," she said.
Ford said the cruise director assigned to her area constantly disinfected the bathrooms, sprayed hallways and made sure there was plenty of water. The director even slept in the hallway in case anyone in the area needed something.
"If anything, I'd say they went above and beyond and helped anyone they could make the best out of a bad situation," she said.
Ford said announcements on the ship's public address system kept passengers informed and the Carnival corporation called her parents to give daily updates on the condition of the ship and when and where it would be towed.
"They even called me earlier in the week to make sure I got home safely," she said.
Carnival Cruises also prepared a compensation package for the passengers of the Triumph.
The company will pay for all passengers' onward travel, fully reimburse everyone for the trip, give every passenger a free cruise and pay $500 each in compensation.
"Really, the only thing we had to pay for was things we purchased in the gift shop and if we gambled. Carnival comped everything else," she said. "When it's all said and done, we had three days of a good free cruise. The last few days weren't so great."