Late Thursday, Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill apologized on behalf of the company. "We pride ourselves in providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case," he told reporters before boarding the ship to apologize in person.
But for passenger Norma Reyes, it was too little too late.
"The hallways were toxic," said Reyes, who vowed never to go on another Carnival cruise. "Full of urine. It was horrible. If that ship caught on fire and they had not contained it, where would we be? Floating in the ocean or dead."
Others were more forgiving.
"They did a good job of managing expectations," Brett Klausman said. "The information that trickled out was probably well-thought-out to kind of keep people safe and calm."
Passengers Linda and Bill Byerly said their experience was different from that of passengers in the lower-level rooms. Their balcony room had ample fresh air.
Linda Byerly said she took dance classes offered by the crew and the couple spent much of their time "chilling."
"It was pretty slow," Bill Byerly agreed.
Carnival has offered to give each passenger $500, a free flight home, a full refund for the trip and for most expenses incurred on board, as well as credit for another cruise.
Travelers have few options for compensation in these cases, other than what the cruise line is already offering, according to travel expert Jason Clampet of Skift.com, a travel website.
"The passengers on the ship aren't going to have a great deal of recourse when they get home," he said. Travel "insurance really doesn't cover this sort of thing. Their trip wasn't interrupted and they aren't incurring extra expenses ... so they can't be compensated that way."
But the resulting PR could hurt Carnival, he said.
"I think people will think twice about taking a cruise," Clampet said.
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.
It's also 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 adrift off Mexico's Pacific coast. The ship was towed to San Diego.
Leonara Chavez and David Zambrano were on the Splendor when it lost power in 2010. They said watching coverage of the Triumph passengers' ordeal was "like looking in a mirror."
"It's like deja vu," Chavez said.
She said they took the free cruise offered by Carnival after the 2010 debacle. Despite walking the halls of the ship recounting things that had happened, she said they were determined to enjoy the trip.
But what happened aboard the Triumph, she said, has sealed their decision when it comes to cruising: They won't be going again.