(NBC) - The nightmare for more than 4,000 passengers and crew members on the disabled Carnival Triumph is finally over.
The ship was pulled to dock by tugboats in Mobile, Alabama overnight.
For more than three hours passengers poured out of the crippled ship, many still wearing their robes from the cruise ship - an unofficial uniform of sorts for thousands who will forever share a special bond.
"We're like family now, we've been through hell," said passenger Lisa Pratt.
They spent more than four days adrift at sea on a ship tossed by violent waves with no air conditioning, little food and mounting raw sewage - the result of only a few functioning restrooms on the vessel.
"It was like being locked on a porta-pottie that had caught on fire three days earlier," said Peter Cass.
A caravan of buses took passengers back to Texas or to hotels in New Orleans.
Some are still trying to come to terms with what they'd been through.
"When the electricity went out, the water went out and our room flooded, it just kind of went down hill, down hill, down hill. It got to be pretty bad," said Cheryl Espe.
But the smiles, the hugs and the excitement of being back on solid ground serve as clear indications now that the worst seems to be over.
Meanwhile, the work is now just beginning for federal investigators who will try to piece together how and why it all happened.