Wichita women make best of it aboard disabled cruise ship

Two Wichita women stranded aboard crippled cruise ship Carnival Triumph told family members Thursday that they’re tired but in decent spirits and looking forward to coming home.

The 5 p.m. phone call was the second time 15-year-old Hannah Henricks had spoken with her mother since Carnival Cruises Lines told her family Sunday that Greta Harper would be delayed coming home.

“She said they were sitting around playing cards. She didn’t sound angry or miserable. She sounded like she was trying to make the best of it,” said Hannah, a Maize High School student.

“All I could think about for the past week was I hope that she’s OK.”

Harper, owner of local salon Shear Madness, left Wichita for Galveston, Texas, on Feb. 6, eager to embark on her first cruise.

But an engine-room fire on Sunday left the 893-foot ship stranded in the Gulf of Mexico and its more than 4,200 passengers and crew members faced with food shortages and unsanitary surroundings while a tugboat towed it to port.

Harper told her daughter she ate meager meals of onion sandwiches, fruit, salad and chicken and slept on the ship’s deck to avoid the “really gross” conditions below.

“People were having to walk through urine in the hallway,” said Hannah, who cancelled about 15 salon appointments with her mother’s clients when she didn’t return Monday, as scheduled.

“She said it just smelled like sewage, and it was coming up from the shower drains.”

Ship ‘stinks’

Gretchen Roy’s husband, Bill, editor of the Wichita Business Journal, said he spoke to his wife by phone Thursday afternoon.

She told him the ship “stinks pretty bad," but some of the stories related by media over the past few days seem exaggerated, Bill Roy said.

“They’re not wading through fecal matter or anything like that, no raw sewage," he said. “They watched the ship’s band the past couple of nights. They played bingo. So they’re not sitting on their mattresses out on the deck, just sitting there crying.”

Gretchen Roy, a mother of two from west Wichita, is aboard the Carnival Triumph with seven classmates from Osborne High School. The women, who all turn 50 this year, planned the “Fifty and Fabulous" cruise to celebrate their birthdays.

Bill Roy said his wife was “in good spirits" but looking forward to coming home.

“It’s been bizarre," he said of the trip. “I’m sure she’ll remember it."

Both women told their families they planned to ride a bus to Galveston and drive home after the ship docked late Thursday in Mobile, Ala.

Gretchen Roy hopes to make it back to Wichita by late Friday, nearly a week after she was supposed to be home.

Hannah Henricks expects her mother, Greta Harper, on Saturday.

“She’ll probably be happy to sleep in her own bed,” Hannah said.

She added that her mother already was looking forward to the complimentary cruise Carnival plans to offer Triumph’s passengers.

“It’s not stopping her to go on another one,” Hannah said. “She said it was just a freak accident.”

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