NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - After five days spent bobbing in the middle of the ocean, North Charleston resident Ruth McGarrah says her motion sickness has only recently subsided. But her memories on board the Carnival Triumph remain vivid.
McGarrah was one of more than 4,000 passengers aboard the ship, which suffered a power loss during its voyage.
"We didn't have electricity, we didn't have power, we didn't have toilets," McGarrah says of the conditions aboard the ship.
McGarrah was vacationing with family members when the trip quickly turned sour. With no power in their rooms, McGarrah and her family removed the mattresses from their bedrooms and moved them to an upper deck.
"We were told finally, 'we're adrift. We have no power and we're waiting on the Coast Guard and tugboats'," she says.
A lack of power also meant little hot food and no running water.
"We've got to start using the restroom in a red bag and they wanted you to use the restroom in the shower," McGarrah says. "Sewage started backing up."
As the crew and passengers awaited a rescue, McGarrah says the heat contributed to a strong smell.
"The smell was just awful -- between the fire smell and the sewage smell and then rotting food smell," she says.
The ship was finally pulled ashore to Mobile, Alabama – five days after the fire. McGarrah's husband and two sons were waiting for her on land.
"It was emotional. It felt like it was a dream," she says. "We kept saying on the boat that it felt like a nightmare we couldn't wake up from, and then we got home and it felt like a dream -- like we really weren't home yet."
McGarrah says she has some lingering effects from her trip, including a heightened sensitivity to smells.
"We were on our way home and I got my son a Mexican blanket. It had the strong dye smell … and I was sick the rest of the way home," she says.
Carnival is refunding all tickets, as well as giving free tickets to a future cruise to all Triumph passengers. McGarrah says she doesn't know if she will ever cash in on them.