Athens Review, Athens, Texas

February 21, 2013

Life is a Carnival

Passengers with Athens ties make the best of ordeal

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — If you can imagine a city with a population larger than Chandler floating in the ocean with no water, sewer or electricity, you have an idea of what the passengers on the Carnival Cruise-ship Triumph endured earlier this month.

Former Athens resident Kasey Hoke survived the ordeal aboard the Triumph. Meanwhile, Kyle Smith of the Morton Small Animal Clinic waited anxiously for word from mother and stepfather Lisa and Gary Cook, who were also among the 4,200 passengers.

“I’ve been trying to get my husband to go on a cruise for years, and he has never wanted to,” Hoke said. “He said go check it out, and if it’s great, I’ll go on one with you. That’s never going to happen now.”

Hoke gave a synopsis of the cause of the predicament.

“The excursion left Galveston on Thursday, Feb. 7, and spent Saturday in Cozumel. The first inkling that problems had happened was when we heard on the loud speaker there had been a fire in the engine room,” Hoke said, “I was frightened. My roommate and I sat up in bed and looked at each other not sure what to do.”

After a few minutes, the passengers were told to remain in their rooms. Hoke was able to sleep a couple of hours, then woke up without water or electricity, and with a sensation that the boat was leaning a little to one side.

“That’s when we knew something was terribly wrong,” Hoke said.

At first boat officials told the passengers the engine room was too hot to assess the damage.  Later, at about 5 p.m. on Sunday, they said the damage to the engine was too extensive to repair.

“At first, they told us they’d get us home by Tuesday,” Hoke said. “Then it went to Wednesday and to Thursday.  On Thursday, there was some fear we weren’t going to get to go into the channel because of a curfew.”

Hoke said even though she was without electrical-powered conveniences, she was thankful to get a little ocean breeze in her cabin.

“We were on the 10th floor,” Hoke said. “We were fortunate to have a balcony, and were able to get air through. The people who were really unfortunate were the ones in the interior cabins.”

Everyone tried to keep really positive the first couple of days, but by Thursday, people weren’t quite as patient. One of the worst parts of the ordeal was waiting three hours for food, said Hoke.

“I was offered the onion sandwich, but I didn’t take it. I don’t think I had anything that night,” Hoke said.

Smith first learned of the Triumph’s problems when he received an automated call Sunday morning.

“They said there had been a fire in the engine room, but everyone was OK,” Smith said.

Smith tried to make contact with his parents, but was unable to connect.

“They lost power on the ship, and didn’t have a way of getting their cell phones to work,” Smith said. “I couldn’t get a hold of them until Tuesday. My mom was able to get through on somebody else’s cell phone.”

That was the only time he was able to talk to her until the Triumph reached Mobile, Ala., on Thursday, Feb. 14.

Smith said the Cooks had been concerned for their safety when they first learned of the engine room fire.

“It was about an hour until they learned they were OK, just stuck in the middle of the ocean,” Smith said. “They were about 150 miles from the coast at that time.”

The Cooks also had a balcony room, and opened the door to allow ventilation to go through toward the interior of the ship.

“They made some new friends, and said people were helpful,” Smith said. “There was a lot of unique humor, but they don’t know what to laugh about.”

One example, Smith said, came at a time when one half of the boat could flush its toilets, but the other still had no water service.

 “My stepdad said apparently one half of the boat was across the International Flush Line, and the other side wasn’t.” Smith said.