McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

February 17, 2013

Hartshorne woman aboard ill fated cruise ship

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — Family members of a Hartshorne woman who has been stranded on the disabled Carnival cruise ship the Triumph said they were able to keep in touch with her through sporadic phone calls and text messages.

Joanna Barnhill, who is the postmaster at the U.S. Postal Service office in Hartshorne, is among the 4,000 passengers who were stranded on the disabled ship, family members confirmed.

Plans as of near noon Thursday called for the Triumph to be towed to a terminal in Mobile, Ala. The passenger cruise ship has spent days stranded in the Gulf of Mexico following a reported engine fire Sunday which caused it to lose power.

Barnhill’s brother, Dennis James, is postmaster at the U.S. Postal Service office in Krebs.

“I talked to her Monday night,” he said. “They let her call briefly.”

“She was telling me they were stranded and they were supposed to be back Monday, then Wednesday.”

Now, as James learned, the revised plans called for the Triumph to arrive in Mobile on Thursday.

“She said they were getting low on food and having to stay above-board,” James said, referring to passengers who had to leave their stuffy,  dark cabins after the power failure.

The News-Capital also spoke with one of Barnhill’s daughters, Jessica Jacobi, who lives in Central High, near Lawton.

Jacobi said she had just heard from her mother shortly before speaking with the News-Capital early Thursday.

“She just sent me a text message,” Jacobi said. “It says she’s OK.”

While her mother’s been stranded, Jacobi said she and her sister, Mallory, have been anxiously waiting to hear from their mom.

In a previous message, her mother had talked about the conditions on board the ship, Jacobi said.

“They were sleeping on the top deck to stay cool,” Jacobi said. “They were eating sandwiches and fruit.”

When the passengers received a break from the sandwich and food diet, they had to wait in a long line, she said.

“They were waiting in line three hours for a hamburger,” Jacobi said.

Sanitary conditions were also bad, according to what Jacobi said her mother told her.

 Jacobi said the cruise line has been in touch with her while her mother’s been stranded.

“Carnival cruise usually calls me once a day to give an update,” she said.

At the post office in Hartshorne, clerks Kristi Kirkes and Michele Johnston had not heard from Barnhill until near noon Thursday. Kirkes said it apparently became easier to send a text from on board as the ship as the Triumph neared the terminal in Mobile.

“She said they were fine. The conditions were nasty and they would be in Houston on Friday,” Kirkes said.

Jacobi said plans called for her mother to be among passengers who were to be bused from Mobile to New Orleans, where they were to spend the night in a hotel before catching a flight from New Orleans to Houston on Friday.

Although the ship had sailed out of Galveston, Texas, her mother had been able to leave her car at a friend’s house in Houston, according to Jacobi.

“We figured she’s going to be ready for a clean sheet,” Jacobi said.

Another text from Barnhill to her daughter indicated she was trying to keep a sense of humor about her ordeal. To help compensate for the passengers’ discomfort, there have been reports they might receive refunds, a discount on future cruises, $500 in compensation and perhaps the offer of a free cruise, although that had not been confirmed.

However, the talk of a free cruise had apparently made its way to some of the passengers on the stranded ship. Jacobi said her mother had told her “It’s been an adventure, for sure. I’ll probably give away my free cruise.”

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.