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Posted on Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 5:40 p.m.

Deplorable conditions on stalled Carnival cruise sour Saline woman's trip

By Amy Biolchini


Carrie Mason Burgess of Texas, left, and Gina Howe of Saline, right, on board the Triumph in the first days of their trip.

Courtesy of Eden Davis

In the wake of her childhood friend’s death, a Saline woman hoped a four-day Caribbean tour on a Carnival cruise ship would help her find closure.

The trip turned into a nightmare for Gina Howe of Saline and her friend, Carrie Mason Burgess of Texas.

The duo left Galveston, Texas exactly a week ago on Carnival’s Triumph. Sunday, an engine fire stalled the ship in the Gulf of Mexico -- leaving about 4,000 people on board without working toilets or consistent electricity.

Howe and Burgess chose the cruise as a way to celebrate the life of their late friend, Laura Turner Babala, who recently died from cancer. The three grew up together in Ypsilanti and were close friends.

Howe works part time at an orthodontist’s office in Brighton. Her two children, Layton Howe and Tanner Howe, are enrolled in the Saline schools.

Howe’s sister, Eden Davis of Pinckney, spoke with her sister Thursday afternoon as the cruise ship was slowly towed toward shore. Howe had borrowed a phone from another passenger.

“My heart just hit the floor when she called,” Davis said. “She said ‘I’ll be fine, I’ll be just fine.’”


Carrie Mason Burgess of Texas, middle, and Gina Howe of Saline, right, took the Carnival cruise in memory of their late friend, Laura Turner Babala, left, who recently died from cancer.

Courtesy of Eden Davis

Reports of poor conditions on board the Triumph -- including sewage in the hallways -- are all true, Howe told Davis.

“They’re deplorable conditions,” Davis said.

Howe is a diabetic and only packed enough insulin to last through the expected end of the trip - Monday. When Howe asked the ship staff for insulin, she was told there wasn’t any, Davis said.

Howe has been provided with fruit, vegetables, bread and water since the incident Sunday. Thursday morning was the first serving of protein she’s had in four days, when the staff served up bacon and eggs, Davis said.

During a roll call on board the ship, Howe was the only passenger on the cruise that reported being from Michigan, Davis said.

Howe has heard conflicting instructions from officials on board the ship as to where she will go once the ship gets to land, Davis said.

The estimated arrival time of the ship to port in Mobile, Ala. keeps moving back as setbacks continue to plague the Triumph.

A broken tug cable had to be replaced Thursday afternoon. The Triumph is now expected to be docked in Mobile on Thursday between 10 p.m. and midnight.

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


Bertha Venation

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

Geez. This sounds worse than my Carnival Cruise during Spring Break... Glad they're home safe and sound.

Bryan Ellinger

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 5:08 p.m.

First world problem. Poor babies.

Tim Hornton

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

Rumor has it that passengers of the USS Indianapolis in 1945 possibly had it worse on their "Cruise".


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 4:07 p.m.

True, but the ill-fated guys on the Indianapolis didn't pay to have the expectation that their cruise was to be all fun and games. I can say if I paid to have a cruise, I would certainly expect to not have shortages of food/medicine/sanitation. Happy they got through their ordeal. Bringing up the Indianapolis makes me appreciate how little we really have to complain about.


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

There's something about Howe being a diabetic and then seeing her smile with that big sugary drink in her hand that just doesn't seem right....


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 3:02 p.m.

Please go away. What Ms. Howe chooses to consume is none of your business. If she wanted to down a bag of pixie sticks, it still wouldn't be your business. Now excuse me while I go get something from McDonald's, we wouldn't want you to run out of people to critique. Enjoy your wheatgrass.


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

Justcurious has obviously never tried a sugar free pink grapefruit drink . And unless you are her endocrinologist, you have no buisiness commenting on her meal plan choices.


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

Really? Now the thing that I don't find "right" is how people think they should have an opinion on someone's diabetes. Based solely upon a few words in an "article" and a photo. Do you people pack a month's worth of your meds every time you walk out the door for what is supposed to be a short trip? And why couldn't Carnival get supplies delivered to their monster floating cattle car?

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 1 p.m.

Cruise ships leave a trail of pollution, in the water and in the air. The trail of smog in the air can be seen for miles and lingers visibily for many hours. They don't burn diesel or kerosine. They burn bunker fuel - which is tar - and is the same as asphalt. So if this ship is not running, it's actually generating less pollution than normal.


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

It is a good time, cruises are a blast.

Judy Freedman

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

It is sad that so many people have no idea about this, and innocently think this is a good time.


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

I knew from commercials, you know the one where they would rather be on a ship drinking, than camping and encountering a bear & bobcat of some sort, that I would always rather be camping! This just solidifies our resolve to NEVER take a cruise!~


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 5:03 p.m.

Be careful about using unqualified universal words like "never" or "always". I recently got back from a Galapagos cruise on a boat with a maximum capacity of 20 "guests" (there were 17 on my trip). That's an entirely different kind of thing, with 3 or 4 hikes / snorkels per day and really just eating and sleeping on board, than these floating Club Meds with a few thousand passengers. While I have no interest in the kind of cruise that Carnival runs, I loved my Galapagos cruise.


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 5:52 a.m.

Deplorable conditions? How about the deplorable conditions these gigantic air-polluting floating garbage dumps produce as they shuttle their herds around our fragile oceans?

An Arborigine

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 2:33 a.m.

Divest your Carnival stock, quick!!!


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 12:13 a.m.

Nothing is perfect in life. Sit on the deck at night and look into the sky. Beautiful. You people were never in any danger.


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 6:52 p.m.

easy enough to say when one has land under one's feet, also toilets that flush..


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 12:17 a.m.



Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 12:11 a.m.

These cruise lines incorporate outside the U.S. so they can avoid taxes, pay slave labor rates, and cut every corner with regard to safety in order to entertain Americans who enjoy getting hammered in the middle of the ocean. I can't say I'm surprised this happened and I'm sure will happen again.


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 12:17 a.m.

Are you threatening me? Or offering me a drink?


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 12:13 a.m.

Have another drink on me and stop talking.


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 11:33 p.m.

For their trouble, I bet Carnival provided all of the passengers coupons for glasses of free rum punch for their next Carnival cruise.

John of Saline

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 11:23 p.m.

One would think such a ship would have a reasonably-stocked pharmacy.


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

Exactly! The Love Boat always had a ship's doctor! ;-)

Jay Thomas

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 11:21 p.m.

Not the first time for Carnival and certainly not the last.

Homeland Conspiracy

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 11:13 p.m.

Now the whole ship is a poop deck


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

Homeland, I'm at the downtown library and trying not to laugh too loud.....getting the hairy eyeball from the lady next to me...

Jessica Webster

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 11:41 p.m.

I'm getting weird looks from the other moms at swim practice after letting loose with a guffaw over that one. Well done.

Paula Gardner

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 11:25 p.m.

I hate to admit it, but same here.


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 11:22 p.m.

OK, that got me to laugh out loud.

An Arborigine

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

But I bet they're playing great cruise games and having fun sing-a-long's to pass the time in passengers' own filth. Carnival, just like the circus, without the animals.


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

"Howe is a diabetic and only packed enough insulin to last through the expected end of the trip - Monday." Wow. If I had a situation where I required medicine to live, I wouldn't be so cute with the dosage. These unfortunate incidents serve as a good example to all - "better safe than sorry."


Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 2:57 p.m.

@Judy - I'm pretty Sure GoNavy is getting negative votes on his comment because of the condescending tone used in it. Claiming that Ms. Howe is being "cute with the dosage" because she didn't foresee a cruise ship being stranded in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, is just going overboard.

Judy Freedman

Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 1:19 p.m.

I can't believe you are getting negative votes on this. Diabetics can die without insulin quite easily.