After five days without power in the Gulf of Mexico, the more than 4,200 people aboard the Carnival Triumph returned home to the U.S., with many of them telling their horror stories for the first time.
Passengers began to disembark the damaged ship around 10:15 p.m. CT Thursday in Mobile, Ala. The last passenger disembarked the ship at 1 a.m. local time, according to Carnival's Twitter handle.
Passenger Brandi Dorsett was thankful to be home, especially for her mother, who was with her on the ship. Dorsett said she wasn't pleased with the doctor on staff.
"My mother is a diabetic, and they would not even come to the room because she cannot walk the stairs to help her with insulin. She hasn't had insulin in three days," Dorsett said.
The Carnival Triumph departed Galveston, Texas, last Thursday and lost power Sunday after a fire in the engine room disabled the vessel's propulsion system and knocked out most of its power.
After power went out, passengers texted ABC News that sewage was seeping down the walls from burst plumbing pipes, carpets were wet with urine, and food was in short supply. Reports surfaced of elderly passengers running out of critical heart medicine and others on board squabbling over scarce food.
"It's degrading. Demoralizing, and then they want to insult us by giving us $500," Veronica Arriaga said after disembarking the ship.
Passengers were already being given a full refund for the cruise, transportation expenses and vouchers for another cruise. Carnival Cruise Lines is now boosting that offer to include another $500 per person.
As the ship docked, passengers lined the decks of the Triumph, waving and whistling to those on shore. "Happy V-Day" read a homemade sign made for the Valentine's Day arrival, while another sent a starker message: "The ship's afloat, so is the sewage."
Some still aboard chanted, "Let me off, let me off!" and "Sweet Home Alabama."
Kendall Jenkins was one of many passengers who were photographed kissing the ground when they exited the ship. Jenkins, like many passengers, created makeshift beds out of lounge chairs on the ship's deck after the raw sewage smell became too much to contend with.
"We kind of camped out by our lifeboat. We would have nightmares about Titanic basically happening," passenger Kendall Jenkins told ABC News Radio.
"I am just so blessed to be back home," she added.
Approximately 100 buses were waiting to take passengers on the next stage of their journey. Passengers had the option to take a bus ride to New Orleans or Galveston, Texas, where the ill-fated ship's voyage began. From there, passengers will take flights home, which Carnival said it would pay for.
Inside the buses, Carnival handed out bags of food that included French fries, chicken nuggets, honey mustard barbecue sauce and apples.
Deborah Knight, 56, decided to stay in Mobile after the arduous journey was over rather than board a bus for a long ride. Her husband Seth drove in from Houston, and they checked in at a downtown Mobile hotel.
"I want a hot shower and a daggum Whataburger," said Knight.
She said she was afraid to eat the food on board and had gotten sick while on the ship.
For 24-year-old Brittany Ferguson of Texas, not knowing how long passengers had to endure their time aboard was the worst part.
"I'm feeling awesome just to see land and buildings," Ferguson said, who was in a white robe given to her on the cruise ship. "The scariest part was just not knowing when we'd get back," she told The Associated Press.
Carnival president and CEO Gerry Cahill praised the ship's crew and told reporters that he was headed on board to apologize directly to its passengers shortly before the Carnival Triumph arrived in Mobile.
"I know the conditions on board were very poor," Cahill said Thursday night. "I know it was very difficult, and I want to apologize again for subjecting our guests for that. ... Clearly, we failed in this particular case."
Luckily no one was hurt in the fire that triggered the power outage, but many passengers aboard the 900-foot colossus said they smelled smoke and were living in fear.
"You didn't know if the ship was going to explode, catch back on fire. You know, for a day or so, we didn't see any kind of sign of life. And so that's pretty scary when your out there on the water," Robyn Burgess said.
Carnival's original plan was to tow the damaged ship to Progreso, Mexico, because it was the closest port, but by the time tugboats arrived, the ship had drifted about 90 miles north due to strong currents, putting it nearly equidistant to Mobile, Ala.
Carnival added that it has canceled a dozen planned voyages for the Triumph and acknowledged that the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before an engine-room fire left it powerless in the Gulf of Mexico.
ABC News' Michael S. James, ABC News Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.Also Read