"There's time when the ship is leaning pretty hard, and you're worried you'll flip," said passenger Donna Gutzman.
Bad luck before
The fire is at least the second problem for the ship since late January, when it had an issue with its propulsion system, according to a notice posted on the website of Carnival senior cruise director John Heald.
And it's not the first fire to disable one of the cruise line's ships.
In 2010, the Carnival cruise ship Splendor lost power after an engine room fire, leaving it drifting off the Pacific coast of Mexico. The USS Ronald Reagan ferried 60,000 pounds of supplies for the ship's passengers and crew as the ship was towed to San Diego.
For Laura Chavez, who was aboard the Splendor, news of the Triumph's debacle brought back unhappy memories. "That's exactly what we experienced," she told CNN. "It's very disappointing to hear that they're experiencing that again."
The Splendor's toilets also overflowed. "Oh, yeah, terrible, bad, bad, bad," she recalled. "We saw it coming through the seams, through the ceilings."
The 52-year-old flight attendant said she and her traveling companion took the cruise line's offer of a free trip, but news about the Triumph has soured them forever on Carnival. "I wouldn't want to go through that again," she said.
Food was in short supply then, too, she said. "At the very end, I was living on a box of Rice Krispies."
Another Splendor passenger said he was astounded that something so similar happened to the Triumph.
"For me, that was my first trip and my last trip" aboard Carnival, said Marquis Horace, a 38-year-old actor in Los Angeles. "The definition of insanity is you keep trying something and expect a different result. It's the same result: the ships keep breaking down. Why would I do that?"
A U.S. Coast Guard marine inspector told CNN that the Triumph passed inspection last year, earning a "certificate of compliance" on May 17.
Passengers will get a free flight home, a full refund for their trip and for most expenses on board, as well as a credit for another cruise, Carnival said.
Brent Nutt, whose wife, Bethany, is on the ship, said it's not worth it.
"First of all, we only paid $350 for her to go on this cruise. Her safety and her well-being are worth a whole lot more than $350," he said.
And the free stuff?
"I promise you, none of my family members that are on there will probably ever, ever take another cruise," he said.
The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board launched an investigation into the cause of the engine room fire. Because the Carnival Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel, the Bahamas Maritime Authority is the primary investigative agency.
McKerreghan drove from Texas with a friend, Mary Poret, whose 12-year-old daughter Rebekah is on board, with Poret's ex-husband.
Poret also received a frightening call from her daughter after the fire and feared they may never see each other again. "I will grab her, hold her in my arms and not want to let go," she said.
After this ill-fated cruise, the Triumph won't host vacationing passengers until at least mid-April. Carnival has canceled a dozen voyages scheduled between February 21 and April 13. That makes a total of 14 scratched trips. The cruise line already had eliminated voyages slated for February 11 and February 16.
In a statement, Carnival vowed that customers who paid for those 14 trips will receive a full refund of their cruise fare, non-refundable transportation costs, pre-paid shore excursions, gratuities, and government fees and taxes. In addition, Carnival said it would offer the inconvenienced travelers a 25% discount on a future three- to five-day Carnival cruise or a 15% discount on a six- to seven-day cruise, while protecting travel agent commissions.