A fire on Sunday took out the ship’s propulsion system, leaving the Triumph unable to sail and without power or sewage, heating and air-conditioning systems. The ship had left Galveston last Thursday with 3,142 passengers and 1,086 crew members for what was supposed to be a four-day cruise to the Caribbean.
Instead, the 14-story, 900-foot ship was floating helplessly in the Gulf of Mexico about 150 miles off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula until tugs could reach it.
By Monday, it was clear that Ms. Alderete was in trouble. With a history of kidney disease, she needed dialysis. The rescue came in the early hours Tuesday morning when she walked through an open door in the lower portion of the ship and eased herself down a rope ladder, stepping into a Coast Guard skiff that was bobbing in choppy water. Her sister was supposed to accompany her, but the seas were too rough, Ms. Alderete said.
She was taken to a clinic in Cozumel, Mexico, for emergency dialysis and flew home on Wednesday.
Ms. Alderete was one of 30 members of her extended family celebrating the 60th birthday of the matriarch, Mercedes Colon.
Andres Colon, the 27-year-old son of Mercedes, who stayed home with his 18-month-old baby so his wife, Brenda, could go on the trip, was keeping up with family until all communication was cut. One of the last things he heard was from a cousin, whose pregnant wife was on board.
“He waited for about three hours just to get her half a hamburger,” he said.
Mr. Colon’s mother had wanted to have a big party for her 60th birthday, he said.
He has not heard from the family since Ms. Alderete came home on Wednesday.
She said her remaining family members were sleeping together in a hallway near a customer service office trying to get enough food to feed the group and using red plastic bags set into garbage cans as restrooms. They were setting the waste in the halls.
The crew was doing their best to clean up passengers’ waste and to keep clean the few toilets that were working. People had taken to urinating in showers, Ms. Alderete said.
By Tuesday, fruit, water and sandwiches were distributed, supplied by other Carnival ships that passed by and sent provisions. But reports from passengers who managed to catch a cellphone connection say that supplies are dwindling and lines to get what little food remains are long.
At first, people were allowed to take as much as they wanted, which led to discord on the ship, passengers said.
“A lot of people were complaining that people were hoarding their food,” Ms. Alderete said. “But it’s not because they were being greedy. It was because, like us, there were 30 of us and we all couldn’t walk up the stairs and wait to get the food. We sent people to try to bring things back to us.”
A 96-foot supply vessel, the Lana Rose, arrived near the ship at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. It brought an emergency generator and provisions, including food and water. Two Coast Guard helicopters helped swing the supplies onto the Triumph.
Still, with free liquor, little food and conditions so poor that passengers have been reported ill from the stress and the stench, anxiety is high among family members who were waiting to hear on Thursday how their loved ones have fared.
“It is just squalor and disgusting,” said Steven Peery of Sacramento, whose wife, Cindel Peña, was on the ship.