The Main Stream

Feb 15, 2013 12:54 AM by Nathan O'Neal

Crippled cruise ship returns to port, Tucsonans on board, relatives relieved

TUCSON - A crippled Carnival cruise ship meekly returned to port in Alabama after drifting in the Gulf of Mexico for nearly a week.

An engine fire crippled the ship's water and plumbing, leaving those aboard in rough conditions. A trio of tug boats lugged the liner back to shore at about five miles per hour.

On board that ship was a group of Tucsonans, who tell News 4 Tucson that it has been a very long week. However, for their families watching everything unfold on television, it really was about the fear of the unknown, without any way to keep in touch with them.

For Drew and Debbie Champe, it was the week that would never end -- that's because their son David, a Tucson firefighter, was aboard that stranded cruise ship along with his girlfriend Cari Vasquez and her parents.

Debbie said she was elated to learn that the ship would finally be reaching port after a week of living on edge.

"Getting some text messages from Cari and then a phone call from David was just a huge relief," Debbie said as she watched news coverage anxiously with her husband.

"You worry about the other people, the other things, crazy things could happen," Debbie said, citing her motherly insticts.

News4 Tucson spoke with Cari Vasquez as the ship prepared to dock in Mobile, Alabama.

"Honestly, it hasn't been that bad. The crew has been working really, really hard," Vasquez told News 4 Tucson on the phone. "I mean, obviously our bathrooms in our room haven't been working but there have been public bathrooms available except for the first day."

This group of Tucsonans had been planning this cruise for a while, but Vasquez admits it makes for good stories to tell.

"Oh yeah, I definitely was trying to think of a crazier experience and I couldn't come up with one," Vasquez said, adding: "This was definitely the craziest."

Luckily, the entire ordeal didn't stop the young couple from making the most of their Valentine's Day.

"When Dave called me he said we have a bottle of wine, we're going to go celebrate," Drew said.

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