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Posted on Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Saline woman on final leg of sleepless journey from stalled Carnival cruise

By Amy Biolchini

A Saline woman who endured five days of deplorable conditions on the Carnival cruise ship Triumph is on the last leg of her journey home Friday.

Tired from a lack of sleep and weak from days without insulin for her diabetes, Gina Howe, 44, of Saline is set to return to Michigan at 4:30 p.m. Friday from her vacation that turned into anything but a vacation.


Gina Howe of Saline speaks to reporters Friday afternoon at the Detroit metro airport in Romulus after arriving home from a cruise that went awry when the ship's engine stalled, leaving passengers stranded for five days.

Joseph Tobianski |

Howe took the trip with her friend, Carrie Mason Burgess of Texas, to commemorate the life of a childhood friend who recently had died of cancer.

A fire in the ship's engine room Sunday stalled the Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico. Howe and Burgess were among the 4,200 people on the Triumph that waited days for the disabled cruise ship to return to port.

Howe slept on the deck of the cruise ship under makeshift tents with many of the other passengers to avoid the conditions in the ship's cabins. Inoperable toilets had spilled sewage in the hallways, and there was no air flow or lights in the rooms from inconsistently-working electricity.

Howe only packed enough insulin to last her the expected duration of the trip — Feb. 7 through Monday. The ship's staff told her there weren't any supplies available. She's eaten mostly fruit, vegetables and bread for the past five days.

Howe disembarked the Triumph at 12:45 a.m. Friday, several hours after the ship reached the emergency port of Mobile, Ala. Howe hasn't slept since she left the ship: By 2 a.m. she had booked a flight home, and boarded a bus to New Orleans.

In New Orleans she was able to shower at a hotel, but immediately went to the airport to board a flight to Charlotte, North Carolina. From there, she boarded a second plane to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Romulus.

Waiting for her Friday afternoon will be her sister Eden Davis of Pinckney and a hot cup of Starbucks, Davis said. Howe's family, including her two children, Layton Howe and Tanner Howe, will be among those greeting her at the airport.

From the airport, she'll go directly to the emergency room, Davis said.

Waiting in an area of the ship that still was damp with overflowed sewage for hours as the passengers prepared to disembark Thursday night, Howe said the stench made it difficult to breathe, Davis said.

At one point, Howe slipped on the wet floor — and at that point the cruise ship's staff put her in a wheel chair and immediately took her off the ship, Davis said.

Howe has since developed a rash on her foot and leg, which she believes came from walking the hallways of the ship and from her fall at the end of the trip, Davis said.

The trip was Howe's first cruise. She works part-time as an orthodontist in Brighton.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



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

People keep paying cruise lines thousands of dollars, enabling an industry that incorporates outside the U.S. to avoid tougher regulations, sets up numerous companiest o keep liability isolated, "leases" ships from separate entities, and hires workers that they can pay minimal wages to. People don't seem to care that their safety is at risk, the cruise line has very limited liability, and you can't easily get through the legal web they weave. Little is at the standards required by the U.S. This is well documented, yet 300,000 PEOPLE A DAY are on cruise ships across the world. If you're too lazy to take responsibility for your own safety, and you get on a cruise ship, beware.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 8:24 a.m.

Why wasn't she air lifted? She had a medical condition! I understand why they didn't transfer all the guests and crew to another ship but people with medical conditions needed to be taken care of. Insulin is not a rare drug and they should keep medical supplies aboard.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 1:09 p.m.

They did remove patients in need. If she hasn't had medication since Sunday, but doesn't need to go to an ER in New Orleans and can fly to North Carolina and then Detroit, clearly she isn't in medical distress.


Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 5:13 a.m.

Upper deck outside cabin with Balcony. Check. Those interior rooms look miserable to begin with. Yikes.

John Roos

Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 3:44 a.m.

Champagne problems.


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 10:40 p.m.

I can't understand why Carnival didn't send another one of their cruise ships to take these people off the "broken" one. It was a large group of people but surely there is some way they could have been taken off safely. I'm afraid Carnival may have made a very poor business decision.

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 11:57 p.m.

See above comments


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 9:18 p.m.

What a nightmare!


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 9:10 p.m.

I bet it smelled like a zoo on there....a zoo with zebras.


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 8:53 p.m.


Robert F. Magill, Jr.

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 8:52 p.m.

Why didn't the Carnival Cruise line immediately send another ship to take all the passengers off the disabled ship instead of letting them all stay on while tugboats slowly brought the ship to port over many days?


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 9:09 p.m.

Kyle is right. It was far more dangerous to move people over open seas.

Kyle Mattson

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 8:58 p.m.

Hi Robert, I was unable to find a link for you but per the reports from those close to the industry they did not do that for safety reasons. It seems logical, but when you consider that they would have had to move thousands of people across a small plank to a small tender ship in open waters where there are larger waves making it a risky endeavor. Although it may have been an uncomfortable few days it appears it was probably the best call to keep passengers safe.