GALVESTON -- Buses carrying passengers who were trapped on a disabled Carnival cruise ship for days rolled into Galveston from Mobile, Ala. early Friday.
The first group pulled in around 7:10 a.m. after an overnight drive.
The Roberts family, of Gainesville, was just one of many who were unloading as the sun came up.
“I’m ready to just get home,” said Elaine Roberts, who took the cruise with her two kids and husband. “It was like a cesspool. The stench and everything was just incredible. I think there’s a lot of people that are sick right now because of just being in that situation of not having toilets or water — I mean, we had bottled water in some areas, but the toilet situation was terrible.”
The Roberts said they still had a five-hour drive ahead of them to get home from Galveston.
Passengers who finally disembarked the disabled Carnival Triumph Thursday night were on the move early Friday, some checked into the comfort of hotels, others on buses or headed to charter flights home after five numbing days at sea on a ship paralyzed by an engine-room fire.
It took about four hours for all passengers to disembark.
The passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph cheered as they pulled in to port, but there has been little celebration since a fire damaged the ship's propulsion system on Sunday morning.
"Sweet Home Alabama!" read one of the homemade signs passengers affixed alongside the 14-story ship as many celebrated at deck rails lining several levels of the stricken ship Triumph. The ship's horn loudly blasted several times as four tugboats pulled the crippled ship to shore. Some gave a thumbs-up sign and flashes from cameras and cellphones lit the night.
About an hour after the ship pulled up at 9:15 p.m., a steady stream of passengers, some in wheelchairs and others pulling carry-on luggage, began making their way down the glass-enclosed gang plank. One man gave the thumbs up.
Jodie Barnett's in-laws, Bing and Loyce Barnett, 70 and 68 years old, were among those stuck at sea for days during a vacation on a cruise that offered more frustration than fun.
"I just feel like they're probably exhausted by now -- I can imagine how they're feeling," Jodie Barnett said. "So, I just want to give them the control back. They've been out of control all this time and we just want to give them the option to do like, 'Where do you want to go?' 'Where do you want to eat?' 'Here's your clothes,' I went to their house and got clothes and stuff for them."
Jodie said the elderly couple is struggling. They're managing as best they can, dealing with the tough conditions on board.
"She said, 'We're living like refugees, I just had a cucumber sandwich and the sewage is a horrible problem,' which everyone already knows," Jodie said.
She and her husband drove from Palestine, Texas, to Alabama to pick up their family. They spoke briefly Thursday night.
"My mother-in-law is emotional today, and everyone is just extremely exhausted, and it's just getting kind of worse," Jodie said.
They want to take them home -- on their schedule, not Carnival's.
"It's their 50th wedding anniversary, and actually, they won the cruise, and this is their very first cruise ever," Jodie said. "They were so excited! They haven't actually been on vacation in awhile, so I'm really disappointed for them."
After the ship arrived, the waiting wasn't quite over. The process to get the more than 3,000 passengers off the ship was supposed to take three-to-four hours.
As passengers got off the ship, buses started leaving the raucous terminal. Up to 100 have been reserved to carry passengers either on seven-hour ride to the Texas cities of Galveston or Houston or a two-hour trip to New Orleans. Some also can stay in Mobile. From there, passengers will make their way home with Carnival's help