Carnival Cruise Alum Jay Herring On What It’s Like Aboard the Triumph

Jay Herring, who lived on the Triumph as a senior officer for Carnival, on what the passengers are facing.

I was a senior officer for Carnival Cruise Lines’ information services department, and during one of my contracts, I lived on the Triumph, the cruise ship stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. No one was hurt in Sunday’s engine fire on board, but the 3,143 passengers are in some fairly uncomfortable conditions.

Sewage coming out of the shower drains, no ventilation, adrift at sea without power—I have worked and lived through each of these scenarios while on board.

The Triumph is normally powered by six diesel electric generators, each the size of bus. We don’t have all the details yet, but because the ship is running on limited power, it can keep only a small percentage of the toilets working. It certainly cannot sail under its own power, as 80 percent of the electricity generated on board is used for propulsion.

We have reports of passengers and crew sleeping on the open decks. They’re out there because without ventilation, the interior gets hot in a matter of hours. I would guess that only a fraction of the lights in the corridors are working, so I’m sure flashlight apps are in full use.

The most fortunate piece of this news story is that there are no storms or hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico right now. If that were the case, we’d have a very different situation.

I was on the Triumph when it sailed through a hurricane, and we had waves crashing up over the bow of the ship that flooded multiple cabins and caused all kinds of damage. In any storm, the key to sailing is to point the ship directly into the waves, but a ship without power will take the waves on its side. Then the ship will rock back and forth, likely causing extensive interior damage, along with a huge risk for injury. Search YouTube for “cruise ship in rough seas” to see what I’m talking about.

The other concern is the reported sewage overflow. Besides being a disgusting inconvenience, it carries the risk of disease outbreak. I’m sure the crew are working double shifts not only to clean the sewage but to disinfect the entire ship. Every handrail, elevator button, and door handle becomes a pathway for spreading disease. It’s been a few months since we’ve heard of a Norovirus outbreak on ships. Let’s hope it stays that way.

One of the best amenities of a cruise is the food. But with limited cooking ability, passengers are likely waiting in huge lines just to get a few scraps of cold food.

Why not transfer them to one of the other ships in the area, then? Sea conditions in the middle of the gulf are unpredictable, and even calm waters can change quickly. Trying to tender the passengers to another ship would compromise their safety, and passenger safety is Carnival’s No. 1 concern.

So though they may be uncomfortable, passengers are safest if they remain on board for a few more days as they’re towed to Mobile, Ala.