Passengers Tied Sheets Together to Escape Sinking Cruise Ship


'Treated Like Animals' Once On Shore

The couple and their fellow passengers were taken by lifeboat to the island of Giglio where, they say, the nightmare continued.

Smith and Lau described a scene of chaos upon reaching land, with passengers, all still in wet clothes and many suffering injuries, wandering around the island with no direction from the cruise line or crew members.

"Costa Cruise line is trying to make it sound like it's all his fault," Lua said, speaking of the ship's captain. "Yes, it's his fault, but it's not the end of the story."

"After we were rescued, we were treated like animals," she said.

Smith and Lau spent the night huddled with other passengers on the floor of an inn in Giglio before being put on a boat the next morning with no idea what their next destination would be.

They finally found themselves at a Courtyard Marriott hotel near the Rome airport around 2:30 p.m. Saturday, nearly 16 hours after the crash occurred.

"Someone from Costa finally came a few hours later, but said there was nothing they can do. There were no offers of help. There were no kind words," Lau said.

Costa Cruises is a British-American owned Italian cruise line, based in Genoa, Italy, and is a unit of Carnival Corp., the cruise ship behemoth that owns and operates the popular Carnival cruise line in America.

The company had issued a statement soon after the crash.

"Our immediate priority is to account for all passengers and crew, and to secure the vessel to ensure that there are no environmental impacts," the company said. "We have engaged the services of a top specialized salvage company to develop an action plan and help establish a protection perimeter around the ship."

Smith and Lau say they and the other 118 Americans estimated to be on board the ship were also disappointed by both the U.S. embassy and Italian officials, neither of whom would claim responsibility for the stranded passengers.

"The U.S. embassy told us they cannot possibly send anyone to us," Lau said. "The [Italian] police said Costa is owned by Carnival, so it is an American problem and they can't do anything about it."

The couple finally received a bit of good news more than 24 hours after the crash when the CEO of, the travel agency with which they booked the cruise, sent an email telling them he had booked two return flights for them to travel home to Boston later this week.

In the meantime, they are stranded in the hotel, an hour outside of Rome, with only the small amount of money their family and the travel company were able to wire to them.

"No one has been given even $50 petty cash to get home and that is unacceptable," Lau said of Costa's response.

They are also left to consider their legal options against the cruise line.

"We are very confused about what is going on legally because no one has been told what their legal rights are," Lau said.

"Right now we'd just really like to see some justice be done for the victims of this tragedy," she said. "Hopefully it will come through the legal system because we still believe in it."

ABC News' Kevin Dolak, Lama Hasan, Phoebe Natanson and Clark Bentson contributed to this report.

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