Carnival Triumph Passenger Rian Tipton Takes PEOPLE Onboard

"I feel like I have been here for a month," the 29-year-old passenger tells PEOPLE

Photo: Courtesy Rian Tipton

Rian Tipton thought she would be in for a fun bachelorette getaway with nine of her girlfriends when she embarked upon the Carnival Triumph.

Instead, she was in for a nightmare.

The 29-year-old Chicago resident shared her experience with PEOPLE, along with photos taken by a fellow cruiser in her party. “I want to again apologize to our guests and their friends and families. The situation on board was difficult and we are very sorry for what has happened,” Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill said in a statement.

“We pride ourselves on providing our guests with a great vacation experience and clearly we failed in this case.” According to Carnival, all guests will receive a full refund of the cruise and transportation expenses, a future cruise credit, reimbursement of some ship purchases and further compensation of $500 per person.

Here, in Tipton’s own words, is what happened on the ship. She spoke with PEOPLE’s Shakthi Jothianandan as the Triumph finally approached land.

On Sunday morning, we figured out that some pretty big fire had occurred in the engine room. Some people said they could see smoke coming from multiple parts of the ship. The boat at that point was lifting and leaning to the right and the PA came back on and they let us know that everything was fine with that – no cause for alarm.

There was a whole day after the fire without an update.

So when the engine caught fire we lost power, we lost AC, we lost sink and shower and running water, our toilet system, kitchen, everything. I think before people found out the toilets weren’t working, they went to use the restroom. So everyone’s urine and feces started accumulating. And not just in the private cabins, in the public restrooms as well.

The crew announced that if we needed to pee we should use the sink or showers and if we needed to go number two – they were handing out red biohazard plastic bags for us to go in – that we should put in trash cans or outside our cabin doors so the stewards can dispose of them properly.

So that being said, things weren’t working and there are people who just don’t follow the rules, so they either go in their toilets or in the public restrooms. Toilets started to overflow and so were the trash cans! People were literally peeing and pooping in the trash cans.

We’ve been talking with the stewards and housekeeping and they have said that they have never seen anything like this before. The lower levels smell the worst. The smell is terrible; the doors are wet; we heard that sewage is leaking downstairs.

The worst that I’ve heard is people going into the public bathrooms and seeing feces on the wall. The staff cleaning the bathroom would say, ‘I don’t understand people.’

Some of my friends went down to the lower level and they were gagging and they were going to throw up, the smell was that bad. And I have no doubt that there have been people throwing up all over this boat. I have been sanitizing my hands every second I get.

Our room has no light and no ventilation so we are sleeping on deck 9 upstairs, which is the big open deck. We grabbed some lounge chairs and blankets and have been sleeping here for the last few days. The entire level – the entire deck – is full.

Elevators are not working, so the elderly and people who can’t climb, people who are in wheelchairs, are stuck.

As for food, I mean, we had a delicious cucumber and onion sandwich the other day. I think the generator has been able to keep one area cold so we had yogurt. We pretty much have bread and jam and peanut butter, and in the last couple of days they had three Carnival ships come and drop off food so we had chicken and whatever was on those ships.

They’ve had food 24/7, but the lines have been so long. Absurd. Two, two-and-a-half hours for food. People were afraid they’d run out so they’ve been hoarding and taking, like, 15 pieces of bread.

Some people are angry. They’re refusing to eat, they are yelling at everyone they can. They are not tolerant. At the other end of the spectrum are people like me and my girlfriends, who are like, ‘Well, what are we going to do right now?’ and we’re just making the best of it. I heard rumors of fights but I never saw anything. They opened the gift shop at one point and people were pushing and shoving and fighting to get in.

The other night the generator went out and the lights went out; it was completely dark. This lady came by and started grabbing food off of people’s tables. Two nights ago they opened the bar and they pretty much said they were handing out beer and wine. I’m on a bachelorette cruise so we were OK with it, but a lot of people were extremely unhappy with it. I absolutely think that people were drinking whatever they could get their hands on.

The crew on board has been incredible. We had two comedians last night on the top deck; we’ve had musicians playing in the casino; they’ve had trivia; they’ve used the generator to play movies in one of the rooms. We’ve been laying out and reading and talking. Just doing what we can.

We’ve had no cell service, have not been able to talk to loved ones or husbands or use social media. We feel so disconnected. Today is the first day that we’ve had cell service and I’ve already charged up three times today.

As we’re talking right now, we’re so, so, so close [to Mobile]. It’s going to be lengthy getting off, 4-6 hours. And then we have to take a 2½ hour shuttle to New Orleans to get to the hotel they’re putting us in.

The mood has lifted since we got closer. A majority of the people on the ship are from Houston and are having wives and girlfriends come here to meet them. Everyone seems a little bit happier. I think people have been extremely concerned with the tilt of the boat, we’ve been at a tilt the entire time.

I feel like I have been here for a month.

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