- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Many horrid tales have been told and retold about the paralyzed Carnival cruise ship that left thousands adrift in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this month.

As stories of floating sewage and onion sandwiches abounded, one could only imagine a situation akin to “Lord of the Flies,” with people panicking and fighting over shelter and food.

Not so, one passenger told The Washington Times.

“It was like camping at sea,” said Kirk Draut, who was aboard the Carnival Triumph with his wife, Patty. “People were playing it up for the cameras. When we saw the first helicopters with cameras, people were running into their cabins to grab their bathrobes and life preservers.”

The Triumph left Galveston, Texas, on Feb. 7 for a four-day cruise to Mexico. An engine-room fire paralyzed the ship three days later, stranding more than 4,200 passengers and crew members until the ship was pulled to shore in Mobile, Ala., on Feb. 14.

Frustrated passengers regaled the nation with tales of food shortages, overflowing toilets and dank, sewage-filled hallways — an experience Mr. Draut said he and his wife certainly did not share.

SEE ALSO: Carnival hit with first lawsuit after ‘cruise from hell’

“We only had a small amount of water on our bathroom floor, we had running water — no hot water — and plenty of food,” Mr. Draut said. “The conditions on the ship were not as bad as you were led to believe.”

The passenger even uploaded photos to his Facebook and Flickr accounts of plates full of food, makeshift comedy shows and singalongs.

“The crew managed to restore enough power to have comedy shows, movie night, trivia, bingo and live music,” he said. “It was not ‘Mad Max’ at sea.”

Mr. Draut said he and his wife were able to attend airings of “The Avengers,” “Toy Story 3,” “Grown Ups” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” on a projector hooked up to a PA system in the ship’s lounge.

Mr. Draut posted photos of one meal — two cheeseburgers with all the trimmings and two hot dogs with relish. One breakfast included scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and toast with jam.

The ship’s crew even created a mobile-phone charging station on floor of the ship’s lobby.

SEE ALSO: Coast Guard: Fuel leak caused fire on Carnival Triumph

He posted photos of resupply ships, which delivered food and ice for the passengers and crew. The “onion sandwich” myth came about, he said, because some people were loading up their burgers with extra meat.

Mr. Draut, who holds a degree in journalism, said that on the last night before docking, he was waiting in line to charge his phone and overheard two girls talking with the media.

“I was eating chicken fajitas and shrimp cocktails. They’re sitting in deck chairs charging their phones and telling some TV station how god-awful it was,” he said. “It was not god-awful.”

He said that, in addition to a refund, a cruise credit equal to the amount they paid and $500 in compensation, the cruise line gave the passengers all their photos for free and wiped their bar tabs clear.

Once the ship docked, the Drauts boarded a bus to take them from Mobile to New Orleans — until the bus broke down.

“We just had to laugh at that point,” said Mr. Draut, who had to wait 45 minutes for another bus. “It’s not that I’m just a optimistic, ‘glass half-full’ person. It’s when life gives you the twists and turns that things start to get interesting.”

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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