John Bjornstad thought he was going on a perfect, 10-year anniversary cruise with his wife, Angela -- but three days out to sea, it turned into a nightmare.
The former Osceola, Wisconsin resident was one of the 3,500 passengers on board the Carnival Triumph that was stranded in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine fire crippled the ship's power system.
In a phone interview from his home in Kingwood, Texas, Bjornstad described how the ship's crew alerted passengers to the fire on Sunday morning, giving them instructions on how to get to the emergency gathering locations on the ocean liner.
"We were sitting there from 5:30 a.m. to pretty much twelve hours not knowing if the fire was still burning -- knowing that there was a fire, but not knowing if it was out or not," said Bjornstad.
For a while, it seemed like panic was going to set in.
"At first people were running around with their life jackets," he recalled.
Later, Bjornstad says people calmed down as they realized the ship was not in eminent danger.
"My first thought was: I thank God that we weren't sinking. We're going to make this. It ain't going to be pretty, but we're going to make it," he said.
According to Bjornstad, the worst part of the ordeal was the raw sewage that began overflowing from toilets and leaking into living compartments all over the ship.
"Sewage was leaking through the roofs and onto other floors and stuff like that, and then the other thing is that where we ate, there was a bunch of water and stuff on the floor," he recalled. "We were like, 'Is it sewage or water from the coffee machine?' You know, what's going on here?"
Bjornstad said the ship's crew was exceptionally professional and upbeat given the conditions, often going out of their way to make the best of a bad situation.
Carnival Cruise Lines has apologized to the passengers and offered a full refund in addition to passage on another cruise and $500 dollars. It's an offer Bjornstad intends to use.
"Stuff like this happens in every industry -- the airline industry, the car industry. People have accidents, but the experience before this happened was great," Bjornstad said.