Notre Dame High School freshman describes Carnival Triumph cruise, return

MOBILE, Ala. – When speaking with Hunter LeBlanc Friday during a phone interview from her hotel in Mobile, Ala., she sounded every bit like the 15-year-old girl that she is. Happy, giggling and obviously quite relieved, the Notre Dame High School freshman described the ordeal she had been through over the course of the past week, which began when she left with her friends - Jeanne-Claire Fleming, Christopher Fleming, Olivia Lyons and Emily Lucas- from Galveston, Texas last Friday on the Carnival Triumph for what was supposed to be a three-day trip to Cozumel, Mexico and back.

As most of America knows by now, however, things did not turn out as planned.

“When the fire first started, we were all sleeping and we ignored the first ‘beeps’ that came over the speaker system,” she said. “Then my friend, Jeanne-Claire, came into the room saying ‘something is wrong with the engine room.’ When we walked out of our room there was smoke all over. That was the only time I was really scared.”

Any fear Hunter had eventually subsided with the help of the Carnival Triumph crew.

“They were really great,” she said. “They never stopped smiling 24/7 and they checked on us every hour on the hour.”

According to Hunter’s mom, Michelle LeBlanc, the cruise line treated anxious family members and friends just as well.

“Carnival was amazing,” said Michelle LeBlanc. “They had a hotline to call and they answered any question I had. They made it personal. They knew we were in a panicked state and I never got a busy signal...in fact, I was only put on hold once and that was for about a minute.”

“They really kept morale up,” added Hunter LeBlanc.

However, the environment on the boat during the final five days of the cruise was not quite as hospitable.

“Oh, it was so disgusting,” she said. “We were lucky because we brought our mattresses out into the hallway and put them by the elevators and opened up the window. But the toilets backing up, the sewerage and the cardboard people were using to try to keep the water from coming through the doors....it was very gross.”

For a time before food was delivered to the ship, the cuisine onboard also left something to be desired.

“We had onion and cucumber sandwiches,” she said. “You have to eat what they’ve got. They also had bacon sandwiches but whatever was on that bread didn’t look like bacon. I didn’t eat any of those.”

Once supplies arrived, suffice it to say, the quality of the food improved tremendously.

“It was great because we got to eat lobster and turkey sandwiches

Hunter LeBlanc described what it felt like when she and her friends finally saw land.

“My heart dropped,” she said. “That’s when I knew I was finally going home.”

Due to the ship drifting off course, Carnival decided it would be best to tow it into Mobile. Even after Hunter LeBlanc and the 4,000 plus passenger and crew members saw land there were some problems. A cable from a tugboat that was pulling the ship snapped at one point delaying the ship’s return for a couple of hours. However, when asked about it Hunter LeBlanc sounded surprised.

“Oh my God, I didn’t even know that happened,” she said. “We had heard that it was all over the news back at home.”

When it came time for Hunter LeBlanc to finally get off the ship she said that she had mixed emotions. While she obviously couldn’t wait to get home, she said that she, Jeanne-Claire, Christopher, Olivia and Emily made plenty of friends over the course of the past week and that they realized they wouldn’t be see them for some time. However, that didn’t mean they wouldn’t be in contact with them ever again.

And if Hunter LeBlanc and her Notre Dame friends were close before the trip, their friendship grew much closer during the entire ordeal.

“There were so many people there our age and we made a lot of friends,” she said. “I got a lot of phone numbers and we will be keeping in touch. And as far as my friends from school...we definitely formed a bond.”

When Hunter LeBlanc finally got off of the ship she was welcomed by her family just as anyone would think.

“They hugged me so hard and wouldn’t let me go,” she said.

Michelle LeBlanc, who shares the same birthday as her daughter (July 1), said that she is quite proud of Hunter LeBlanc, who emerged from the ordeal feeling “very sunburned,” but with no other problems.

“When I asked her if she ever wanted to go on a cruise again she looked at me as though she was surprised I asked that,” said Michelle LeBlanc. “She said ‘Yes mom...we ate lobster’!”

Michelle and Hunter LeBlanc will be going on another cruise, this time together, this summer.

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