After Carnival cruise, Victoria family looks on bright side

Feb. 15, 2013 at 6:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 15, 2013 at 8:16 p.m.

Passengers decorated their bathrobes. The ship was warm at first, but a cool front came in, and passengers wrapped themselves in bathrobes to stay warm.

Passengers decorated their bathrobes. The ship was warm at first, but a cool front came in, and passengers wrapped themselves in bathrobes to stay warm.

After the Triumph docked Thursday night, all Bettye Pribyl wanted to do was get to a shower.

"You just wanted to scrub all over and wash your hair and just get clean," Pribyl, a Victoria resident, said.

Pribyl, her husband, David Pribyl, their daughter, Melissa McDavid, their son-in-law, Andrew McDavid, and their grandchildren, ages 2, 10 and 12, were all on the Carnival cruise ship when a fire in the engine room of the 893-foot vessel left them, some of a number of Crossroads residents, along with more than 4,200 passengers and crew stranded in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.

The experience on the boat was not what the family had been hoping for when they decided to take a cruise, Pribyl acknowledged with a wry laugh.

On the boat, they didn't have much light, so they rose with the sun and went to bed at sunset. If the doors were closed, the cabins became stifling, so the doors and windows to most of the rooms were kept open. The family played cards to pass the time and got used to picking up the food being served in rooms so dark they had to use light from their cell phones to figure out what the food was.

There wasn't any cellphone service on the ship, but people used their phones as flashlights to make their way around in the dark. Someone set up a cellphone charging station, plugging in every extension cord that could be found to allow people to charge their phones. It quickly became a gathering place where they huddled over their phones, watching them charge and trading stories about what was happening in other parts of the ship, Pribyl said.

"That was the last thing on earth we thought would happen. We had planned to have a great, relaxing cruise," she said.

Pribyl and the other passengers may have been surprised, but Port Lavaca resident John Herren was aboard the Triumph headed to Cozumel just before this trip. He was upset to learn what people were going through on the vessel, but he wasn't surprised.

When Herren and his wife arrived for the cruise, they were told that the vessel was having problems with its propulsion system and offered a refund if they wanted to cancel.

Herren and his wife decided to go on the cruise, but the ship was traveling below normal speed, and it never reached Cozumel, he said.

"We got back, and they unloaded us and loaded up the next group - the one that got stuck out there - and they knew they had problems and still went back out," Herren said. "I felt sorry for them. It shouldn't have happened. Something should have been done to that ship."

While waiting to be towed back to shore, Pribyl and her family tried to keep a sense of humor about everything, snapping photos of the food they were served and trying to laugh as they tried to avoid stepping in the raw sewage seeping into their cabin.

"It was very humbling. You really appreciate your flushing commodes and things when you don't have them," she said.

After the ship docked in Mobile, Ala., a patient of her son-in-law, a doctor from Killeen, showed up with hotel rooms, food and a minivan to get the family back to Galveston. A cluster of reporters gathered in Mobile slowed their leaving the area, and Pribyl spoke with reporters from CNN and "Rock Center with Brian Williams" before going to sleep Thursday night.

While the trip wasn't what she and her family envisioned, Pribyl noted they made some good friends with their fellow passengers and spent time together as a family that they'll never forget.

"The best part was being with my family and spending time with my grandchildren, playing lots of cards and just spending quality time with our family," she said.

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