Unforgettable vacation: Local couple home from cruise gone awryJACKSON — Marilyn Dahlin had been a guest aboard a Carnival cruise ship on three separate occasions, but none of them could compare to the cruise she, her husband, daughter and son-in-law and three granddaughters experienced last week aboard the Carnival Triumph.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
JACKSON — Marilyn Dahlin had been a guest aboard a Carnival cruise ship on three separate occasions, but none of them could compare to the cruise she, her husband, daughter and son-in-law and three granddaughters experienced last week aboard the Carnival Triumph.
Now back at home in rural Jackson, Marilyn and her husband, Don, are telling and retelling their experiences aboard the ship, stranded at sea for five days without electricity, a problematic septic system, 3,140 passengers and another 1,086 crew members. The two had received tickets for a cruise to Mexico as a Christmas gift from their children and had plans of touring tropical islands, seeing sandy beaches, playing Bingo aboard the ship and just spending some quality family time together.
Marilyn had been on this same trip a year ago — a girls’ trip that included her daughter, daughter-in-law and a granddaughter, as well as several other women they knew — and this time around, they’d asked some of the guys to go with them.
“There were about 30 of us that all kind of knew each other,” she said. “We were quite a group. It was fun until the lights went out.”
The Dahlins left Texas on their cruise on Feb. 7. Two days later, on that Saturday, the ship docked at Cozumel and the family rented a Jeep for the six-hour layover. They visited the markets and toured the island before returning to the ship, and that night, Marilyn said she dined on lobster and shrimp.
Little did she know that for the next several days, their food would consist of sandwiches and snack food.
A fire broke out in the ship’s engine room Sunday morning, disabling the power supply. There were no lights, no working elevators and no working kitchen equipment to prepare food.
“We were down on the bottom floor,” Marilyn said, adding that they had a window in their room to see outside, and watched as other cruise ships came by to drop supplies.
“On Sunday they shifted supplies to us,” Marilyn said. A track was set up between the ships right below the Dahlins’ window, and they could see jugs of water and other supplies being transferred onto the Triumph.
The Dahlins spent Sunday night in their room, but on Monday, the heat started to build in the lower cabin areas.
That night, the family moved up to the top deck of the ship, carrying with them sheets and blankets. A granddaughter even carried a mattress up top so Marilyn, at 77, and Don, at 80, didn’t have to sleep on the deck floor.
“It was windy and cool,” she said.
Then, with concerns about rain and cooler weather ahead, the family moved to the fourth deck, putting makeshift beds among the lifeboats stored there.
“We carried the mattresses from our room, and we couldn’t use the elevators,” Marilyn said. “We were walking a lot of stairs.
“From our floor to the main deck, we walked up (eight flights),” she added.
The Dahlins continued to use their own room for cool-water showers, although they weren’t able to use shavers or curling irons.
“Luckily, one of the last things I did before the trip was my granddaughter gave me a permanent right before we left, so I could wash my hair and it would look half-way decent,” Marilyn shared.
As the ship continued to drift off course and the lack of electricity took its toll, toilets aboard the cruise liner started to act up. Red plastic bags were issued to everyone on board to use for waste collection.
“You were supposed to tie them up and put them in the hall, and the stewards had to take them,” Marilyn said. “I don’t know where they went.”
After a couple of days, Marilyn said their cabin room developed wet carpet on the floor. She didn’t know if it was sewage or waste water from the showers, but they collected all of their belongings and suitcases and carried them up to a higher floor.
Throughout the five-day ordeal, Marilyn said the ship’s crew did a “fantastic job” taking care of passengers.
“We had clean bedding, we had towels, and you had to be a little conservative with your towels,” she said. “The crew that took care of us, they did everything in their power to keep us comfortable with what they had to work with.”
By the time tugboats pulled the Triumph into Mobile, Ala., on the evening of Valentine’s Day, everyone was ready to escape what Marilyn could only say was one of the worst experiences she’s ever had on a cruise ship.
As some of the first people off the ship after it docked, Marilyn and her husband were able to get a ride back to Houston, Texas, with a parent of one of the girls in their group. They made the eight-hour journey and welcomed an opportunity to take a hot shower and get cleaned up.
Unfortunately, their unforgettable week wasn’t quite over.
On Friday morning, Don and his son-in-law left to pick up the Dahlin vehicle from the lot where it was parked when Marilyn started feeling ill.
She reached Don and the guys came back to the house, picked her up and took her to a clinic. She ended up in the emergency room, undergoing a series of tests before learning she’d suffered a light heart attack.
“My blood pressure is still kind of wacky,” Marilyn said. “It could have been from dehydration, stress. I really felt good when I got off the ship — I felt fine.”
Marilyn was admitted to the hospital, underwent an angiogram and doctors altered and added to her prescription medications. She was cleared on Monday to make the trip back home to Jackson County, and the couple arrived home Wednesday night.
While they may not be planning another cruise for a while, Marilyn said they do hope to use the vouchers they received for a future cruise.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.