New Yorkers trapped on the Carnival Triumph cruise-turned-nightmare are returning home after the debilitated ship finally docked in Alabama, four days after a power outage crippled the vessel and wiped out basic services.
The ship lost power Sunday because of a fire in the engine room and had to be towed to land.
As NBC News described it, passengers set up tent cities on outdoor decks in the sweltering heat, hoping to catch a breeze or simply unwilling to endure the stench of sewage emanating from inside.
Retired NYPD officer Trina Briggs arrived back home to New York City Friday after the toxic ordeal, during which she made a bed out of life preservers and sheets and slept outside on the deck, even in the rain.
"The bathrooms were completely shut down. The smell was so wretched, it was horrible," said Briggs, who lives on Staten Island.
Briggs, who responded to the World Trade Center when it was attacked on Sept. 11, said being trapped on the ship was more frightening than the terror attack.
"In the water there was nowhere to go -- at least in 9/11 you could run down the street," she said.
Other displaced passengers were heading back to the tri-state area after staying in hotel rooms reserved by Carnival in New Orleans and Galveston, Texas.
When they filed off the vessel late Thursday, weary passengers kissed loved ones and the ground beneath them. They gobbled down fresh food, took hot showers and gave thanks for the simple pleasures of power and functional plumbing.
The last passenger disembarked just before 2 a.m.
As the ship neared home, some people aboard chanted, “Let me off, let me off!” They used bedsheets to make giant signs, visible from news helicopters hovering around the boat, that said, “SOS!” or “Sweet Home Alabama!”
“The ship’s afloat, so is the sewage,” another said.
The government is investigating the engine-room fire. Carnival, which has suspended its cruises through mid-April, will give $500 to each passenger from the Triumph, plus reimbursement for the cruise and a free future cruise.
The Triumph had 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew on board.