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Rexburg women relive vacation aboard stranded cruise ship

By By Jamie Ostroff, Reporter
Published On: Feb 18 2013 07:07:24 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 18 2013 07:15:17 PM CST

Rexburg women relive vacation aboard stranded cruise ship

REXBURG, Idaho -

Two women from eastern Idaho are getting plenty of rest, since they just got back from their vacation aboard the Carnival Triumph.

Triumph is the cruise ship that infamously spent much of last week powerless and stranded in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.
   
While Triumph passengers from around the country are telling horror stories of a nightmare at sea, the two women from Rexburg are singing praises for a top-notch vacation.

Charity Brown and Johnna McClellan flip fondly through vacation photos from their cruise onboard the ill-fated Carnival Triumph, but when an engine room fire forced the vessel to power down, stranding itself in the middle of the Gulf, that's when the women say the real fun began -- after the initial panic.

"We're like, "Oh my gosh! What's going on,'" McClellan recalled of the night of the fire.  "It smelled like electrical fire. It started smelling like sewage, too.  And it was pitch black."

McClellan and Brown, who will soon be sisters-in-law, were staying in an inside cabin.  They said the stench and pitch darkness forced them to join the massive sheet-tent city on deck.

"We went and carried our mattresses up a couple decks, and all of our bedding," Brown said.

"We kind of created our own little home there," McClellan added.

On deck, the women they say they made some of the best friends they'll ever have, which included crew members.

"We're like besties for life now," McClellan laughed.

Brown said several crew members would serenade them with their guitars at night, forming an impromptu band called "Lifeboat 11," which happened to be the closest lifeboat to where the women slept.

Food was scarce among passengers, but McClellan and Brown said it was even worse for the crew.

"They sacrificed them a lot," McClellan said of crew members.  "A lot of them were hungry because Carnival wasn't making them not take breaks.  They were choosing not to take breaks."

Carnival reimbursed fares for everyone on the trip, giving passengers an extra $500 plus discounts on future cruises.  Both women are glad to take the cruise line up on that offer.

"I would gladly go on the maiden voyage of the new Carnival Triumph when they get it fixed," Brown said.

McClellan will marry Brown's brother in May.  Their honeymoon will be on another Carnival cruise.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, a leak in a fuel oil return line started the engine room fire that shut down the Carnival Triumph.

Two lawsuits have been filed against Carnival since Triumph returned to land Thursday night.

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