Nothing but filth anywhere you looked. In pain and refused medical treatment. A birthday celebration for her daughter ruined.
That is how one Denton resident described her experiences this past week as a passenger on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship that was stranded at sea after an engine caught fire Feb. 10.
“I woke up around 5:30 a.m. in panic mode and told my daughter to immediately put on her life jacket — I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew it was something,” said 35-year-old Bettina Rodriguez.
When Rodriguez opened the door to her cabin, there it was — thick, bitter-smelling smoke all along their deck.
Bettina was on board with her daughter, Isabel, her brother, her father and some friends to celebrate her daughter’s 17th birthday.
“We had a great time during the cruise — ate well, slept well, had a nice day spent in Cozumel [the day before the fire] ... ,” Bettina Rodriquez began.
“That was all before we were going to head back ... then disaster struck.”
Rodriguez said being an employee of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was helpful as she called them for updates about what was going on.
“We really were left out of the loop — we had no electricity and weren’t being given much information,” Rodriguez said.
She described people tripping over one another everywhere. “The floors were as slick as Vaseline,” Rodriquez said.
Things soon became worse for Rodriquez when she slipped and fell Sunday. After waiting for medical attention that never showed, Rodriquez was helped by some fellow passengers and carried to the infirmary.
“Once I got to the infirmary, my underage daughter was told to sign some paperwork for me and I took it and asked what it was I was signing.”
Rodriquez said when she refused to sign the paperwork without an explanation, she was refused further treatment.
“I was given some ibuprofen and told to take it as needed,” Rodriquez said.
As the days they were stranded at sea increased, the pain Rodriquez suffered became more and more severe.
Without her fellow passengers collecting ibuprofen and other over-the-counter pain medications for her, Rodriquez said she didn’t know what she would have done.
“It was just nasty, the conditions we were in; all the stories you have heard, they are true. This wasn’t a fairy tale ... we were fed raw onion sandwiched between soggy bread and biohazard bags full of feces were lining the hallways.”
When the ship finally reached land in Mobile, Ala., late Thursday, they took a two-hour ride to New Orleans to spend the night in a hotel room before boarding a plane back home.
“While being bused, I called 911 and had an ambulance waiting for me since there wasn’t one for me already like I was told by the cruise line there would be,” Rodriquez said.
She said she didn’t get back to her room until 5:30 a.m. Friday morning, and she wasn’t able to sleep since she needed to be ready for her 8 a.m. flight.
“I found out I had a fractured pelvis and sprained ankle,” Rodriquez said.
All this time, her daughter had pushed her around in a wheelchair and helped with her crutches.
“It was not only hard for me, but for my daughter, as well.”
The family finally arrived home shortly after noon Friday.
“I am just thankful I am here telling my story. Some had it far worse than me and we didn’t sink and the whole ship didn’t go up in flames ... it really could have been worse, and I thank God for protecting us.”
With no time to fill her prescription in New Orleans, Rodriquez has already called her doctor here at home.
“I woke up this morning [Saturday] with my limbs totally numb. He has advised me to get an MRI and go to the emergency room tonight.”
According to a news release on Carnival’s website, an investigation has begun to determine the exact cause of the fire.
While Rodriquez said she doesn’t intend to ever go on another cruise again after her experience, Carnival gave all 3,141 guests on board a voucher to use for a trip in the future, a full refund on their cruise and will be sending each individual an additional $500 check in the mail for their trouble.
“I just want them to be held accountable — my husband was never called and told what was going on, even after he called and left messages,” Rodriquez said. “Things could have been handled much better than they were.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .