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Posted on Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 6:50 p.m.

Saline woman home from stranded Carnival cruise ship: 'I'm not going camping in the ocean anymore'

By Kyle Feldscher


Gina Howe of Saline, right, talks to family and friends at Detroit Metro Airport on Friday. Howe was on the cruise ship Triumph where the engine stalled, leaving passengers stranded for five days.

Joseph Tobianski |

Gina Howe stood in the baggage claim of Detroit Metro Airport Friday afternoon, surrounded by her family members and occasionally tearing up when speaking about her experiences on the cruise ship Triumph.

But, the reason she made it through being stranded with 4,200 other people on Carnival’s stalled ship shone through.

“I’m not going camping in the ocean anymore,” she said with a smile and sleep-deprived eyes. “You know why? You can go to the bathroom in the woods. You can’t in the ocean.”

Howe, 44, of Saline, and her family all laughed. At the end of such a terrible experience, she was somehow finding the humor in all of it.

Only she knows if the jokes about the filth on board the Triumph will actually make up for living through it.

Howe boarded the ship with her friend, Carrie Mason Burgess of Texas, on Feb. 7 for a cruise that was set to last until Monday. She said everything was great until Sunday morning when a fire in the ship’s engine room brought everything to a halt.

Within days, she said it was impossible to stay in her cabin for three minutes. Her jeweled flip-flops were ruined by the sewage in the ship’s hallways. Piles of urine-soaked tissues piled up next to inoperable toilets.

“That boat was a junk case, it was horrible. It was disgusting,” she said. “There were piles and piles of poop in buckets. In tubs, everywhere, down the halls.”

The piles of human waste scattered throughout the boat would have been enough to put anyone’s health in jeopardy. However, Howe had an extra element of danger: She’s a diabetic and was running out of insulin.

Howe said she packed extra insulin, but went to a nurse on the ship to see if extra supplies would be available. She said the nurse told her to come to the infirmary and see a doctor when she needed some more.

But when the time came, a doctor told Howe there was no such supply of insulin. At that point, she turned elsewhere.

“I have a lot of faith in God. I knew everybody was praying and God had me,” she said, choking up.

She survived by eating mostly fruit, vegetables and bread for the past five days. On the last night, the passengers were served steak and lobster and the crew cleaned up the boat. She called that “a fraud.”


Gina Howe of Saline stands in her room on the Triumph Monday, a day after the ship's engines caught fire and stalled. She put towels on the floor so she wouldn't step in sewage that had spilled from the toilets.

by Gina Howe

Most of the time, Howe and Burgess spent their time lying on deck. They slept under the stars to escape the heat and stench coming from below deck and commiserated with the other passengers.

For the most part, there was no trouble with fellow passengers, she said. There were a few people she felt she should stay away from on board, but there weren’t any major problems.

The only night she was worried about passenger behavior was the second night after the ship was stalled.

“They gave them beer and wine that second night we were stuck at sea,” she said. “And, it was willy nilly. People were carrying bottles of beer. I was very unsettled with that, it was not comfortable.”

Since departing the Triumph in Mobile, Ala. at 12:45 a.m. Friday, Howe’s taken a bus to New Orleans and a flight to Charlotte before arriving back home. At the airport, she still had't received insulin, let alone any real sleep, since she got off the ship.

It’s unlikely she’ll get a chance to really rest for a few more hours. Howe’s next stop after the airport was the emergency room — a rash developed on her leg after she slipped and fell in the hallways of the boat during departure. She rolled up her pant leg Friday afternoon, revealing a red blotch covering most of her ankle and lower leg.

“I don’t know what it is, it doesn’t hurt,” she said.

Howe said her two main plans when she got back home were to drink some Starbucks — she squealed in delight when she was handed a large cup from the coffee chain — and to go to bed.

Howe and Burgess went on the cruise to honor a childhood friend who recently died. Family members who spoke to said it was the second one of Howe’s close childhood friends to die recently, and it stands to reason the nature of Howe’s trip might have put a damper on her spirit.

After all, she went on a cruise in remembrance of a friend and the thing stalled out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Surely she’d feel like the ideals behind the trip were a little tainted?

“Absolutely not. She wanted us there more, she wanted to keep the party going,” Howe said, laughing, “which is what we always did.”

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


Tom Todd

Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 4:13 a.m.

I would not take an all expense paid cruise.

Nicholas Urfe

Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 11:04 p.m.

There is sweet irony that this cruise ship actually polluted less than it normally does. Those ships burn asphalt to operate - the same asphalt that is used to make roads. It is a rare thing when there isn't a trail of choking smog visible for miles behind a cruise ship.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

No cruises for me. Ever. Are you listening, Carnival?


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 6:35 p.m.

@whoknows13, I rest my case.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 8:53 p.m.

I went on a cruise with Carnival recently. Will never, ever do it again.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 3:02 p.m.

The real problem is these cruise ships have become too large. Packing in 4200 passengers each week is far too excessive. Too many things can go wrong including food preps, leving and boarding for each port of call and then mechanical maintenance. It takes a very large staff to make sure things run moothly during each cruise. A bigger concern is the very short time to turn these large vessels over or prep for the next cruise. Usually, it is no more than 12 hours. Smaller sailing vessels are the way to go. I have been on those where there are no more than 175 people. You are no more than 15 or 20 feet above the water on the top deck. They are not any more expensive than these floating hotels. I am glad all aboard the Carnival Triumph dod not suffer any more than they had to.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

It's hard to comprehend being in the situation these passengers were. However, this particular passenger appears very happy when the spotlight is not on her but the faucet goes full open when it is. It appears a fair amount of the distress is "media related" either the news or the lawyers. Sad.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

Well said. She does play the victim role quite well. Any diabetic who takes their disease seriously knows carrying extra insulin always is mandatory. The A2 News has printed she brought enough insulin for the duration of the ship and she brought extra insulin. One would imagine there's a pharmacy on a cruise ship, though I'm not familiar. Needless to say, the responsibility lies on the traveler.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 8:37 a.m.

Send them your medical bills! I can't believe in this day and age that they didn't carry insulin! It's not a rare drug! I hope the rash is a simple fix. I think I'll pass on going on a cruise ship. I've too many food restrictions to make it plausible anyways. Feel better!


Sun, Feb 17, 2013 : 2:01 a.m.

When a diabetic gets that type of injury, immediate medical attention is called for. It's good that she went to the ER. I hope that injury/infection can be treated successfully and quickly.

music to my ear

Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

I think the rash was from filthy conditions.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

A Medical drop of non-narcotic prescriptions would have been feasible and reasonable.

Kitty O'Brien

Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 5:32 a.m.

Don't understand why smelly poop bags could not be collected from the hallways and removed from the ship each day by Carnival. It's not like they were lost at sea. And why weren't lifeboats used to evacuate some if not all passengers.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 7 p.m.

@MRunner73 - transfering people between ships at sea is dangerous. When you're close to land, they'll transfer people to tenders to take them to land and back to the ship. But farther out at sea, this is much more dangerous.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

Lifeboats; not several hundreds of miles from any coastline or major coastline. Those are only for a major catastophy where the ship is sinking and needs to be abandonded. What should have happened was for Carnival to send another ship so as to transfer the Triumph passengers, via life boats to the new vessel. That could have been accomplished in a day or or two to send the new vessel, 12 hours to transfer all of them aboard and then sail the transfer ship back to home port. It would have cost Carnival too much money to do that or they didn't have a spare vessel. Now they are stuck with no less than 14 weeks to repair the Triumph.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

Gilligan little buddy, you just don't understand.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

I think the life boats are used when the ship is sinking, not stinking.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

Why not just throw the bags overboard into the ocean? I mean, where to you think the fish are relieving themselves?


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 4:37 a.m.

In naval architecture,the Poop Deck forms the roof of the cabin in the rear, or "aft" of the ship. Carnival Triumph has advanced the art of naval architecture by causing every deck in the vessel to be a Poop Deck.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 4:31 a.m.

Doesn't sound like enough insulin was packed. I was aghast to hear her jeweled flip-flops were ruined.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 4:27 a.m.

Welcome to the real world! Fill your tub and float on a rubber duckie! Safer...


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 3:45 a.m.

Whether you go on a cruise, drive to work or do anything in life you should always expect that something could happen. This was an accident and that is all. If you are so worried about something happening on a cruise then stay at home or go camping where someone could fall into a camp fire or a tornado rips through the camp site. Myself would have enjoyed sitting on deck at night and enjoying the beautiful stars.

Milton Shift

Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 4:48 a.m.

Yes, the beautiful stars, and the sly brown submarines slinking across the deck.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 2:41 a.m.

Terrible experience for all concerned. Glad she made it back safely. Unfortunately, the fine print on the cruise tickets doesn't allow for class action lawsuits.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Who really cares what is printed on the ticket. Carnival totally failed their part of the deal of providing a safe cruise vacation, that should negate the fine print. But hey, I'm not a lawyer. Carnival is noted for poorly maintained ships, they are the Walmart of cruising. Perhaps this might change their tune if enough suits are brought about.

music to my ear

Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 2:32 a.m.

I am glad you made it home safe, and can get your health on track, when we pay good money to be entertained and that does not happen it makes for a bum vacation and on the news they said you and another friend were on a mission I hope you were able to do that for you and your friend. and heck yes I would sue them they didnt have their stuff together. I heard the ships crew was great. but I bet they wont get a extra penny for what they also had to endure. go get a lawyer people who were on the cruise are already on it. good luck.

music to my ear

Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 7:17 p.m.

ps.s. I heard recently that they can sue.

music to my ear

Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 3:38 p.m.

and yes I understand they cannot sue so wasted post.have a good day.

music to my ear

Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

I would sue for the fact that in this day in age they would be able to at least have a back up plan to store $hit no pun . it is easy for you to judge you didnt have to go three days not even able to sleep in your own cabin you payed good money to do.or breath. I did not either but that was the #one complaint how many times has that happen and they still dont have a back up plan to store $ not about the money, as much as the accountability . this is 2013 not 1929 you have your opinion I have mine


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 3:16 a.m.

What would you sue for? They were fully reimbursed for all cruise costs. They got a voucher for a free cruise. They got 500.00 each in cash. People are just sue-happy thinking they will win some windfall, when all they does inflict more hardship. It's sad when emergencies happen. You don't have to be malicious on top of that.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 2:49 a.m.

That particular ship is registered outside the U.S. You lose a lot of personal rights when you read the fine print of these cruises. Being in International waters probably doesn't help with chances to be heard in a U.S. courtroom.

Terry Star21

Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 1:48 a.m.

Christopher Columbus is laughing somewhere......

music to my ear

Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 2:24 a.m.

no he is not, he is sailing the ocean blue you know that.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 1:43 a.m.

Whoever voted John of Saline and me down must want to go cruising on that pig sty of a ship.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

Oh, so sorry, I will try to be perfect like you Jake C & YouAreNotAlwaysRight.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 5:24 p.m.

yeah, i don't understand why anyone would vote your comments down!


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 4:49 p.m.

Yeah just pretty gramatically incorrect also, Joe. Proofreading is a pretty good technique you learn in elementary school. By the way, going on a cruise is NOT camping in the least. Camping involves being outdoors, in nature, without a hotel room, bar, restaurants, and amenities. That is absolutely ridiculous.

Jake C

Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 3:57 p.m.

Maybe it's because you wrote "Hope Gina or anybody else on that was on that ship is going to use Carnival again." Did you mean to write "NOT USE" Carnival again? Just kind of a confusing post, that's all.

John of Saline

Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 1 a.m.

Cleaning up the ship will be interesting. I'll bet Carnival will make sure the cleaning crew doesn't have cameras!


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 12:31 a.m.

Welcome home Gina. You would think in this era of high tech advances that Carnival Cruise Line or any cruise line would have a better back-up plan than this. Hope Gina or anybody else on that was on that ship is going to use Carnival again.