"I'm the unsinkable Bernice Spreckman!" is how the indomitable pistol of infectious energy that is a Republican legislator from Yonkers greeted reporters on Thursday.
She's just returned to Yonkers from the "fun ship" cruise that was anything but.
The Carnival Splendor's engine room caught fire hours after cruising into the Pacific Ocean from Long Beach, CA, on November 8th. The ship promptly lost electric power and would have to be towed back to port over three days.
Bye-bye lights, lavish buffets and air conditioning. Hello salads and pop tarts, pitch-dark cabins and sharing of the few working toilets.
"It was a little bit scary -- and smelly," said Angela Mastromarco of Yonkers. Her husband Nicola had resisted for decades going on a cruise, pleading propensity for seasickness. This was their first voyage together. Yikes.
"I was so nervous about the sea that I wouldn't even sleep on a water bed on vacations, said Nicola Mastromarco. "This was just beyond my fears. But we made it through."
The Splendor was escorted by a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier that airlifted food and water and stayed close in case more drastic circumstances had befallen the stricken ship.
"We made the best of a bad situation and everybody came together," said Cathy Meehan, a diabetic who kept her insulin chilled on board by scavenging what little ice was available.
Many in the group are in the cast of an annual holiday song and dance show to be performed December 9th at the Polish Center in Yonkers. Rehearsals resumed Thursday with an added number that pays tribute to the tugboats which helped rescue them all from the ocean.
Focus on performing will fortuitously distract from an unlucky "vacation" that ended in Las Vegas where one senior said bad luck followed. "Most of us made donations at the slots when we weren't seeing shows," he said.
All of the dozen or so who met the media Thursday (from an area cruise group of 58) praised the ship's crew of 1,200 for stepping up in "sensational" fashion during three days at sea without power.
All but one said they'd cruise again and that this experience made them more, rather than less, likely to go again on a Carnival ship.
The cruise company gave full refunds to the Splendor's passengers and offered a free ticket to sail in the future.
"We did manage," reflected Margaret Asanti of Yonkers. "I keep saying that as you grow older it's not for wimps. You have to be tough."
As for the scary uncertain first hours of trouble at sea, when a stench of burning engine and unflushed sewage was in their nostrils, trip leader Spreckman waxed spiritual: "We prayed. When it's your time, it's your time -- and this was not our time to go."