Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

February 15, 2013

Newton woman recalls problems aboard crippled cruise weeks before

Nicole Dominique
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — After following the news of the Carnival Triumph disaster all week, Bonnie Mellendorf of Newton remembers her own trip aboard the vessel just two weeks ago.

She and seven family members set sail on the Carnival cruise ship on Jan. 28 and were informed that very day the ship was experiencing technical problems with its propulsion system, the same problem that stranded the ship for four days in the Gulf of Mexico this week after an engine-room fire.

The planned itinerary had the ship setting sail from Galveston, Texas, on Jan. 28, followed by a fun day at sea and a day in Progreso, Mexico. Cozumel, Mexico, was scheduled next, followed by another day at sea and return to Texas on Feb. 2.

Because of the known problem, the Triumph had to travel below the maximum cruising speed, skipping Cozumel and instead spending two half-days in Progreso.

"They didn't tell us until we started out," Mellendorf said. "They were having that problem already (before our cruise), but we didn't know about that at all."

This was her first cruise, and it was a family affair - a relation from out-of-state was married in Progreso over the vacation.

While the changes were initially upsetting, the party stayed calm.

Mellendorf said her son, Joey, was excited to spend some extra time in Progreso, where the wedding took place. This meant they would have time to explore the Mayan pyramids of Chichen-Itza.

However, there were further costs for Mellendorf.

She and her party flew from St. Louis to Houston to board the ship, but had to change their flight on the return home because the ship docked later than scheduled.

"It was good otherwise," she said. "Good entertainment, and everything was working OK."

Mellendorf recalled having to use the elevators frequently, and wonders how the ship's most recent passengers fared with limited electricity.

"I wonder about the people, some of them are in wheelchairs. What do they do?" she said. "It's ridiculous to think what they've (been through).

"It should have been fixed. In Progreso, they said they had some parts (to work on the issue). They said they were going to do that. That's what I don't understand. They had a problem two weeks before (this) - why didn't it get fixed?"

Carnival announced Wednesday it has canceled Triumph's next 12 cruises through April 13.

It has reimbursed the stranded passengers for the current cruise along with transportation expenses, offered 100 percent credit toward a future cruise with the company, refunded onboard purchases outside of gambling, souvenirs and art, and added $500 per person on Wednesday.

"I really think they could have done much more for those people," Mellendorf said about the unplanned time at sea. "I can just picture what's going on. I feel sorry for them... We had so much food, but I guess when the electricity went out, probably all the food was ruined... They have helicopters. They could have brought food in on a helicopter."

Mellendorf wondered why they didn't cancel earlier cruises to care for the propulsion system.

"It kind of looks like greed, that instead of fixing it, they kept going," she said.

After her own trip, Mellendorf has decided she probably won't cruise again.

But the recent happenings haven't changed that "probably" to a "definitely," friends are trying to convince her to come on an Alaskan cruise.

Nicole Dominique can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or at nicole.dominique@effinghamdailynews.com.