Valentine’s Day. The time of romance, cupid, hearts, flowers and candy. The day to show your significant other your true feelings. 

But Valentine’s Day reminds me of donuts. Donuts and “The Poop Cruise.” 

Ten years ago, I was stuck covering the Carnival Triumph on Valentine’s Day. That was the cruise ship adrift for days in the Gulf of Mexico. An engine fire left the ship with no power. No decent food. No hot showers. Major bathroom issues. 

What the media went through was nothing compared to what the passengers endured, but it was still memorable, and not in a good way. 

Feb. 12, 2013: As a network field producer, I got a call telling me to head to Mobile as the marooned Carnival ship would be towed there. I needed to be on site at 6 am the next day. At that point it looked like the ship would arrive on the 13th, so I’d be home in time to take my wife out for a nice Valentine’s Day dinner. 

Feb. 13, 2013: I arrive at the port of Mobile and connect with the morning crew. We’re told the Carnival ship is being towed and should arrive soon. So we set up with the rest of the media horde on one side of the port. And then we wait … and wait … and wait. 

Just like the passengers on the ship, media people need bathrooms. But was the port going to allow us to use the ones inside their building? Nope. They brought out a bunch of porta potties. After one trip to a disgusting porta potty, I joined other members of the media in heading across the street to various hotels and restaurants instead. 

News filters out … the ship will arrive soon! Maybe today! Great, I’ll be home for Valentine’s Day. 

Meanwhile, we need some solid information. Whoever is in charge at this point is unclear, but they start trotting people out for news conferences. A political official. Someone who knows about ship channels and tugboats. Everyone but who we really need: a Carnival big shot. 

A PR guy shows up and asks a stupid question: “How are you media people being treated?” 

“Why can’t we use the bathrooms in the port offices?” someone asks. The PR guy talks a while, then leaves. The porta potties remain. 

The sun sets and we’re told to be back at 3 a.m. 

Feb. 14, 2013: We return bleary-eyed at 3 a.m. to find a different network person in charge who asks, “What are you guys doing here? We don’t need you till about six.” Back across the bay to my hotel room. No sleep. 

Now the ship is getting close enough to Mobile to hit cell towers and we’re getting calls, emails, and photos of the bathroom situation from passengers. Every photo gets the same reaction: “Ewwww.” A bored reporter writes a parody song to the tune of "The Love Boat" theme. “The poop boat … soon you’ll be making another run.” 

And then the countdown begins. The ship will be here at noon. At two. Late this afternoon. Sun sets. The ship has become the Flying Dutchman. Back across the bay to my hotel. 

Feb. 15, 2013: I arrive at 6 a.m. and discover the ship docked late the previous night. All that’s left to do is help the crews pack their gear. While doing so, some guys emerge from the dock carrying large shopping bags. One heads in my direction and hands his to me. “Here you go.” 

“What’s this?” 

“Donuts. Left over.” 

I open the bag. Donuts. Lots of donuts. Seven dozen donuts. Then I notice other members of the media getting shopping bags. “What am I supposed to do with all these?” 

“Eat ’em.” 

As it turned out, someone assumed that people marooned on a cruise ship for days without a hot shower and had finally arrived on dry land would think, “Boy, I could sure use a donut right now.” 

I was now stuck with 84 donuts. I noticed a police car leaving the port. Hey, cops love donuts, right? I put up my hand to stop the car and hold up my shopping bag. The cop laughs and holds up his own shopping bag. 

Eventually someone gathered up all the donuts and took them to a homeless shelter. 

But wait, there’s more! 

Apparently, the poop cruise was such an irresistible story that Saturday Night Live decided to open its show that weekend with its own version. Six years later, the cruise line renamed the ship Carnival Sunrise. I’m amazed it took that long. 

And that’s why, 10 years later, every time I see a donut it reminds me of Valentine’s Day.

Randy Tatano is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to

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