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Cruise ship drama: How to survive on an 893-foot life raft

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The 893-foot vessel was entering the third day of a four-day cruise last Sunday when its power plant (and most of the plumbing) was knocked out by a fire en route from the Yucatan Peninsula to Galveston, Texas.

Passengers began reporting harsh conditions back to family on the mainland as the ship drifted, and warm weather and winds exacerbated the below-decks sewage problems. Some people reacted by "freaking out,"  passengers reported, while others consumed too much of the free alcohol served by the cruise line. Tensions reportedly rose among some passengers as the reality of their situation sunk in.

"A 102,000-ton boat the length of three football fields and containing 4,000 passengers, was reduced to Huck Finn’s raft," surmised Washington Post columnist Monica Hesse.

But as Americans were left to only imagine the worsening conditions on the ship, passengers were rewarded for their patience and forbearance. After a generator was delivered to the ship on Thursday, passengers were treated to hot food – including steak – for the first time in days. And as the ship finally entered Mobile, Alabamians lined the harbor and cheered while Mobile businesses and officials gave the tired tourists what one called "the royal treatment."

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