"It was a horrible experience," testified Michelle Key, 48, who went on the cruise with her mother, Fleda Key, 68. "I walked through water and feces and urine, no telling what else," she testified. "We would slip and slide through greasy, gross, slippery muck," she said, adding "it was very difficult" for her mother.
Fleda Key described having terrible diarrhea on numerous occasions and having difficulty finding any toilets that were not overflowing.
Fear of dying before reaching shore
"There was lots of urine and feces all the way up to the rim of every one," she said, explaining she "choked away the smell." Like many of the witnesses, she testified that she lived for days in total fear that they might not finish the voyage alive. "I was fearful, downright afraid and scared," said Fleda Key.
Her daughter, like many of those testifying, said the cruise ship company kept them in the dark, with no information about what was truly happening, and did not care for them properly.
"Carnival Cruise did not give one flip about the ... passengers on that ship," Michelle Key testified. "They did not do their best."
When asked by Graham what Carnival should have done, she responded, "If they knew something was wrong, they should never have left the dock."
Michelle Key may have been referring to the company's internal documents that became public through this lawsuit in December and obtained exclusively by CNN.
The documents revealed the fiasco on board the Carnival Triumph was a problem waiting to happen. Internal company documents show that the crew of the Triumph set sail in February with only four of six generators fully operational, knowing that the company had an ongoing generator fire hazard in ships across its fleet, including the Triumph.
A Triumph generator was overdue for maintenance
The first trouble with Triumph was in diesel generator No. 6 -- the one that wound up catching fire. Starting more than a year before the cruise, that generator was overdue for maintenance and often not in compliance with the safety laws of the sea, known as SOLAS, according to the ship's engineer.
Over and over again, Carnival's own maintenance reports stated the same thing: Diesel generator No. 6 was overdue for maintenance. The company says the fire that originated with the generator was not connected to the lack of maintenance. But, during that same period, Carnival learned about another, even more alarming safety problem in the engine room: fuel lines.
A dangerous pattern of leaks had emerged on other Carnival cruise ships, according to the company's documents. In fact, Carnival's Costa Allegra caught fire in the Indian Ocean in February 2012 because fuel leaked onto a hot spot and ignited. That fire left the ship without power for three days in tropical heat of nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
That would be eerily similar to what started the fire on board the Triumph one year later.
Carnival says it proactively began investigating after the Costa Allegra fire and found a big problem in a different type of fuel line. There had been nine incidents resulting in fuel leaks associated with flexible fuel lines in just two years.
On Jan. 2, Carnival issued a compliance order, giving ships two months to address the problem to "ensure a suitable spray shield ... is installed" for all diesel engines using the flexible fuel lines. "After that internal study, the company came out with a new policy to, again, shield all the flanges and the hoses," said Mark Jackson, Carnival Cruise Lines vice president of technical operations.
What went wrong on the 'poop' cruise?
But Carnival did not in fact shield the part of the one hose that wound up causing the fire on board the Triumph in February.
"That hose was beneath the deck plates, and it was believed the deck plates would provide that shield," Jackson said. "In this case, it (the fuel leak) found that gap in the hose ... in the bilge plates and caused the fire."
On Feb. 7 -- with a diesel generator still in need of overhaul and fuel line shields on some, but not all, of its flexible hoses -- Triumph set sail from Galveston, Texas. Three days later, off the coast of Mexico, a fire broke out in diesel generator No. 6 when fuel sprayed from a flexible fuel line, even though that fuel line was only 6 months old.
Speaking about the ship, Jackson said: "We were totally in compliance ... with all the rules and regulations. ... We had ... our regulating bodies on board the ship less than two weeks prior that had certified the ship to sail. Obviously, you learn things in a situation, in an incident such as the Triumph."
While Carnival Cruise Lines insists that what happened on the Triumph was just an accident, the company has dedicated $300 million in a fleetwide safety upgrade, focusing on detecting and preventing any potential fire hazards in its engine rooms.
Attorneys for both sides declined to speak about the case during the trial but their opening statements provide some clues about their respective strategies.
Asking for compensation of $1 million
In his opening statement, plaintiffs' attorney Frank Spagnoletti of Houston told the court, "There's documented evidence with regard to any number of plaintiffs that show that they were physically injured, and there is ample documented evidence that shows that all of the plaintiffs were injured mentally because of the way they were exposed to this."