ENNIS — Since making landfall, Hurricane Harvey has disrupted the lives of countless individuals across the state. And, in the wake of the storm two Ennis Residents, Lorenzo and Matilda Williams, have been left stranded aboard a Carnival cruise ship.
Due to flooding, the boat, Valor, has been unable to make it back to the Port of Galveston.
“We got on the ship on Aug. 23, over a week ago. Our trip was supposed to be for five days. We had a wonderful trip until it was time to come back. That is when we got the news about Harvey, which was a tropical storm at the time,” Matilda said. “As we got closer to the port it turned into a hurricane. So they had to detour and take us back out to sea and were at sea for a couple of days. We didn’t get in because (the storm) was kind of roaming around.”
Matilda explained that the ship was directed to dock in New Orleans on Sunday where it stayed for a few days to take on food, fuel and other supplies.
She stated passengers were told if they chose to leave they would have to find their own way home and would not be allowed back on board.
After a few days, the ship then headed back out to Galveston. Harvey made landfall on Friday night, which caused the ship to reverse course back to New Orleans.
Matilda noted while out at sea the conditions were very choppy causing the ship to rock back and forth. During meals, food and dishes would move from one side to the other.
“We were out for three or four more days and then we came back to New Orleans. Now we are in New Orleans right now back for a second time,” Matilda stated. “This time they said that anybody that wanted to get off (could) get off, but they didn’t have any transportation for them.”
Matilda added that passengers don’t have a whole lot of information about the storm because they don’t have access to phones or the internet. Televisions on the ship, at times, show broadcasts from CNN but mostly show the cruise line’s programming. While in port she has been able to contact family members to let them know that they are safe.
During their second time in port, they also looked at other travel options to return home and into booking a flight through Southwest Airlines — though quickly found those prices had more than doubled.
“As we were trying to get airline tickets, normally it is $81. A few were able to get in on the very beginning, but we could not get internet service to stay on long enough. Then the more we tried the higher the tickets got and we could not afford any of that,” Matilda explained. “The next thing we thought we would take a bus and go north. We called the bus station and Greyhound said they were not doing any buses out of here.”
The Daily Light reached out to Southwest Airlines by phone and email, but messages went unreturned as of press time.
Matilda noted that the staff onboard the Valor has been great and very accommodating under the circumstances. She added that a lot of people have left the ship to find other ways of getting home.
“A lot of them have gotten off because they have to go back to work. Myself, as a part owner of a school in Ennis, my job security is ok. My husband has to go back to work and he has been calling in and using all of his vacation days,” Matilda said. “People are either using their vacation days trying to stretch it out or trying to get back the best way that they can. They are hoping that they don’t lose their jobs.”
Matilda serves as the director and principal of the New Way Leadership Academy in Ennis.
Unable to find transportation, the Williams' have elected to stay onboard and return to Galveston. They hope that when they return their vehicle will be safe and able to drive home. The ship was expected to leave New Orleans on Wednesday night.
“We drove down to Galveston and it is currently parked at the Hotel Galvez. We called them yesterday and as of yesterday they said the cars were ok,” Matilda stated. “They did say they did move them to the highest level at the hotel.”
Matilda asked for continued prayers for a safe trip home and for those who have been affected by the storm.
Christine de la Huerta, manager of corporate communications for Carnival, said due to extreme flooding conditions in Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey, the Port of Galveston is expected to remain closed until later this week.
“As a result, Carnival's three Galveston-based ships all deviated course to New Orleans and stopped there to allow guests to disembark if they wished to make independent arrangements to return home or travel to another location,” de la Huerta said. “If their schedule allowed, guests could elect to stay on board the ships. On Carnival Freedom, about half of our guests chose to remain on board and on Carnival Breeze and Carnival Valor; slightly more than half elected to remain on those ships.”
De la Huerta added that Carnival Valor and Carnival Freedom will depart New Orleans Wednesday afternoon and resume course to Galveston. Carnival Breeze will overnight in New Orleans today and will start making its way to Galveston on Thursday evening.
Assuming the Port of Galveston reopens later this week:
• Carnival Freedom will dock on Friday and disembark guests from its previous cruise. Embarkation for the Sept. 2 voyage will take place on Saturday as scheduled.
• Carnival Valor will also arrive in Galveston on Friday to disembark guests. The August 31 sailing of Carnival Valor has been canceled. A full refund will be provided to all guests who were scheduled on canceled voyages. The Sept. 4 sailing will operate as scheduled.
• Carnival Breeze is scheduled to arrive on Saturday evening to disembark guests from the previous cruise. Embarkation for the Sept. 3 sailing will take place on Sunday as scheduled.
Guests scheduled to depart on Carnival cruises from Galveston this weekend are asked to sign up for text alerts by texting the codes below to CRUISE (278473).