Last week more than 4,000 cruise passengers became stranded while vacationing on Carnival’s Triumph for four long days after a fire broke out in the ship. They lived without electricity, working plumbing, and waited hours in line for food. One of those passengers was my friend, former co-worker and mother of three, Kendra Stroud. It’s every mom’s worst nightmare to leave their kids and husband to participate in a well deserved vacation such as a “girls cruise” and think they may not return.
I asked her a few questions I was wanting to know and here is her brave and candid story.
How are you feeling now that you are back from that awful experience?
I am feeling relieved to be home. I am blessed to have a supportive family and thank God for being with me every moment through this ordeal. I am exhausted, and my body wants to sleep all the time. My back aches from sleeping on a deck chair and I am nauseous from being off kilter for so long. I had a nightmare last night. I woke up thinking men were standing over me and I was certain I was back on the deck of that ship. I was frightened and awake for an hour. Hopefully, that will be a one time dream!
Do your kids know what happened?
Noah who is 7 understands the most. He wasn’t aware of the details while I was away, but has heard the horror stories upon my return and has declared he will never go on a cruise ship. My 2 year old daughter searched for me wondering if I was at work for days. They have all three given me extra love and kisses and I have held them every chance I get.
Could you communicate with them on the ship?
No, I did not get to speak to my kiddos until the final day. I was so desperate to communicate with them but I was only able to use the phone when another ship came by with supplies. The first time, my phone died before I could get through. It was excruciating and the first time I shed tears knowing how scared I would be in their position. When I finally got through, my husband was at work along with the subsequent times I got through. I was at the mercy of the other ships timelines and at the mercy of waiting for hours to charge my phone in the maybe 15 working plugs we could find on the ship.
Can you tell us a few things about what happened and what you experienced? Who were you with? Where did you sleep? Was there food? Tell us a little bit of what happened on the cruise and how/when you knew something was wrong?
Sunday morning we were awoken around 5:30 am with an announcement of Alpha, Alpha, Alpha on the PA system. I was with 3 other women on a “Girlfriends Cruise”. One of my friends had a panic attack immediately. People were leaving their rooms with life vests on. At some point we heard an announcement that there was an incident consisting of a fire in the electrical room but that it wasn’t necessary to go to the muster stations and that we should stay in our cabins. We were in an inside cabin and it was completely dark.
One of my friends and I decided to go for a run to get out of there. We neared a room with smoke coming out and either electricians or engineers trying to make their way into and out of the room, it was quite scary. They blocked that section off and we waited on the deck below. We ended up sleeping in lawn chairs on that deck. Fortunately, we were under a metal shelter. The whole night was surreal. We were told we were safe and that the crew was attempting to fix the ship. We later found out that they waited 8 hours to deploy tug boats, due to the repair attempts, and that it would take them 24 hours to reach us. Seemed like wasted time to a ship full of people who wanted to go home.
We were instructed on that first day that we would need to use the restroom in red plastic bags for solid waste and pee in the shower. Fortunately, we were across the hall from rooms with balconies. They were nice enough to leave their doors open to give us some light. After a few days, our room flooded with sewer water and we gagged upon entering. We could not go in the room for more than a couple of minutes at a time and the smell was like no other. We weren’t given a flashlight or any other source of light, so the light from the balcony rooms was what we had. The bathrooms were disgusting and the whole ship was growing to be very unsanitary. In the public restroom, I peed in a small trashcan and shared it with a stranger. Humiliating experiences but the best we could do at the time.
The food situation was outrageous. Every time the kitchen door would open a horrible smell would permeate through the area and people were slipping in waste water coming out of the doorway. The “clean” plates had food stuck in them and there was no running water. We had to wait over 2 hours for sandwiches and fruit that were hardly edible. People hoarded food and wasted huge amounts of it. There was plenty of warm soda available but no ice after the first couple of days. I wasn’t sure what was safe to eat and all of us were worried about people getting sick from the food that was available.
A few days after the incident the cruise director called open bar for beer and wine from 4-midnight. That poor judgment frightened me in an already unstable situation where people had little sleep, were stressed and unstable. A few moments later the entire ship went dark. No emergency lighting, no lights at all. I was terrified. I had to move to the middle of the ship afraid something was going to blow up. The lights came on and then went off again. I sunk down and began to sob. A woman came and prayed over me, and I tried desperately to get it under control. I was at peace with my salvation the whole time but I kept thinking, do my babies and my husband really know how much I love them?
Will you ever go on a cruise again?
At this point I cannot imagine (going on another cruise). I will definitely never go on another vacation without my family or very best friend. In those moments you need support. I would also never go again without a balcony room! Many of those cruisers where able to sleep in their beds and have daylight and fresh air. At this moment, I do not see a cruise in my future but I have learned to never say never!
Anything else you’d like to say?
The crew on board was amazing and worked tirelessly to help us. The communication was terrible, and the general public received messages before we did, sometimes 5 hours before us! It was amazing to me the lack of preparation for a disaster like this. I have a renewed commitment to showing my kids how much I love them and a peace in knowing God would never leave me. A group of us got together and prayed nightly and sang praise music. I know I was there for a reason and will never forget what we went through. I hope no other person has to experience the fear of death, but please don’t take it (life) for granted. Pray often, and hold on tight to your loved ones. Make sure they know you love them to the moon and back! I couldn’t wait to tell mine that over and over.
Thanks Kendra for your honesty and ability to articulate your awful experience. We are all thankful you are home safe and sound with your family!