Passengers Tied Sheets Together to Escape Sinking Cruise Ship

PHOTO: Benji and Emily Smith, of Boston, were aboard the Costa Concordia cruise ship when it capsized off the coast of Tuscany, Friday, Jan. 13.PlayABC News
WATCH Cruise Ship Survivors Describe Confusion

An American couple who survived the wreckage of an Italian cruise ship said today they had to tie sheets and a rope together to climb down the side of the sinking ship in order to escape.

"It was every man for himself," Emily Lau, an American passenger on board the Costa Concordia, said today on "Good Morning America." "The main thing is no one knew how to help because they were never trained. That is the cruise ship's fault."

Lau, 27, and her husband, Benji Smith, 34, had angry words for the ship's captain who is being detained and questioned for allegedly abandoning his passengers while the luxury liner keeled over onto its side after smashing into rocks. Six people died and more than one dozen others remain missing.

"[To the captain] I'd say, 'What a coward you are,'" Lau said. "People who were left behind -- we were helping each other to get out of there and stay alive. And he who is responsible for all of us left."

Lau and Smith, both of Boston, were spending their honeymoon on the ship, 14 days after their wedding in Cambridge, Mass.

PHOTOS: Escaping the Costa Concordia Cruise Ship

The newlyweds were relaxing in their cabin when the ship -- sailing in the Mediterranean off the Italian coast with 4,234 passengers and crew -- began to tilt. They grabbed their lifejackets and moved to the fourth deck, where they knew the lifeboats were stored where they were met by what they described as untrained crew members and chaos.

"There was screaming, children crying and a lot of confusion," Smith recalled. "The official announcement from the loudspeaker didn't come on for 20 to 25 minutes."

"Even at that point, the announcement said there's been an electrical fault in the generators," he said. "Everyone knew this was nonsense, because the boat was leaning to the side, and since when does an electrical problem cause the boat to tilt?"

The chaos and fear was compounded by the lack of electricity, plunging the ship into darkness.

PHOTOS: Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Runs Aground

Smith and Lau were able to escape the sinking ship with a handful of other passengers by tying a rope and sheets into knots that they then used as a ladder to lower themselves them down to the bottom of the ship's hole, where they were eventually rescued by a lifeboat

"We have never had any drills," Lau said. "We were asked to go for a safety meeting, and it was nothing but a sales pitch for excursions."

Cruise passengers are required by law to attend a safety briefing within 24 hours of embarkation. Other passengers who joined the cruise at later locations had yet to attend any briefing at all, according to media reports.

'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.