Denison Woman Survives Nightmare Cruise - - No One Gets You Closer

Denison Woman Survives Nightmare Cruise


DENISON, TX -- A four-day cruise turned into a weeklong ordeal for a local woman on board the stranded Carnival cruise ship, as she tried to make the best of her ruined vacation.

A group of 12, many of whom met through a Paris exercise class, boarded the ship in Galveston. Soon, the toilets were broken, they were eating unusual meals, and begging one person with a working cell phone to send a text message to family. Now they are glad the trip is finally over.

Passengers Jamie Hilliard of Denison and Kristina Courson of Paris were enjoying their cruise until the day they woke up to a cryptic message, calling personnel to an engine room.

"Then we heard another announcement that said something like, employees to the staging area," says Courson. "We were asking people what was wrong and they said, 'The ship's on fire.''

The fire, which sent smoke billowing out the top of the ship, was soon contained, but the electricity went out Sunday morning. With toilets broken, the crew handed out red plastic bags.

"If you had to tinkle you just did it in the shower, but if you had to do the other one, you put it in a bag and put it in the hallway," says Courson.

"We did run out of red bags though after the second day so they were passing out just regular trash bags," says Hilliard.

Even though the women say the cruise certainly did not go the way they expected, there was one thing that helped them endure.

"Kristina and I were very fortunate because we had a balcony and that turned out to be a luxury in the situation because we were able to go outside and sit and have fresh air," says Hilliard.

It worried them to sleep with the door open, but they wanted to let the air circulate to those in the inside rooms. They found a place to plug in their phones to generator power, but there was no signal.

"It was absolutely like being on a huge houseboat in the middle of the ocean and you were camping and you were eating interesting foods like onion sandwiches," says Courson.

They watched a tugboat working below, and finally made it to land Thursday night. "We spent the night in Mobile to have a meal and a hot shower, because we had only been having cold showers," says Courson.

Hilliard says this was her first cruise and she enjoyed visiting Cozumel and activities like the on-board casino, and she still wants to go on another cruise in the future. The cause of the fire under investigation.