Crippled Carnival Triumph cruise ship on its way to Alabama
GALVESTON, TX (KTRK) -- Tugboats are very slowly pulling the crippled cruise ship, Carnival Triumph, out in the Gulf of Mexico to Mobile, Alabama. But for the more than 4,000 people onboard, you can bet the cruise can't end soon enough, with some of them saying conditions are getting much worse.
The 100,000 ton cruise ship Triumph is being towed by those tugboats at a rate of about six miles per hour and expected in port Thursday afternoon.
"Every action we are taking is to get our guests home as quickly as possible and to make them as comfortable as they can be while they are on board," said Gerry Cahill, President and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines.
As soon as passengers make it back to shore Thursday night, they will be put up in hotels in either Mobile or New Orleans and then flown to Houston on Friday. Then passengers who parked their cars at the port will driven via charter busses from Houston to Galveston.
Carnival says it already has booked more than 1,500 hotel rooms and secured all the flights and ground transportation needed.
Cahill said meanwhile, staff aboard the ship is doing all it can to ease the reportedly deteriorating conditions on the ship.
"No one here from Carnival is happy about the conditions on board the ship and we obviously are very, very sorry about what's taken place," Cahill said. "There's no question that conditions on board the ship are very challenging."
We're hearing reports that conditions are worsening, and with spotty cell service, people here on land with loved ones on the ship are waiting for more word.
As the Triumph slowly is pulled back to land Tom Baird waits for another text from his wife, Mary, who is on the cruise ship.
"Have one from her. She's still concerned about the situation that she needs -- no power, sporadic cell, no towboats yet, Progreso by Wednesday, not much food. Finally got water," said Baird.
That text message came in Monday and since then, it appears the Triumph has not had cell phone service. We called multiple passengers on the Triumph repeatedly Tuesday, only to go straight to voicemail. Our texts have not been returned either.
A Carnival spokesman told Eyewitness News in an email that "there is running water in the cabins, albeit cold water, so guests are able to shower. Some toilets are operational in the public areas (there was a period last night that the toilets were down but technicians were able to get some of them back on line this morning). We are providing meals and refreshments and the grille in the poolside restaurant was open from 10 am to 10 pm last night and opened again at 7 am this morning."
But ABC News says conditions are deteriorating and that the floors are wet from burst pipes and urine, that the toilets have backed up and that lines for hot food are hours long, and that the ship served "cucumber and onion sandwiches" to people who settled for a sandwich.
Baird says so far, he's satisfied with the updates he's gotten from Carnival, but he can't wait for Mary to get home.
"It's time for her to be back home and getting things in shape again," said Baird.
On Tuesday afternoon, we heard from officials in Mobile, Alabama. The decision to go to Mobile instead of Progreso, Mexico was made Monday night after it was determined the ship had drifted so it was equal distances to to the two ports.
That move also makes it easier for passengers to get back to Galveston to get their vehicles and get home. In the meantime, Mobile is preparing to help those passengers.
"Our main goal as a city and as a terminal is the safety of the passengers. That is the number one goal. There is no alternative, ulterior motive here. It is the safety of those 3,100 passengers and the thousand crew members," said Shelia Gurganus, Alabama Cruise Terminal General Manager.
The situation has not only impacted the thousands of people on board and the thousands whose cruises were canceled this week, but the bottom line in Galveston as well.
Passengers learned yesterday they'll be spending another day stuck out in the Gulf. The Coast Guard was planning to tow the ship to Progreso, Mexico, but now they're bringing it to Mobile, Alabama, instead.
It will not be a comfortable extra day. Carnival cruise line says it has only been able to restore enough backup power for basic operations.
The Carnival Triumph has been floating aimlessly about 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula since a fire erupted in the aft engine room early Sunday, knocking out the ship's propulsion system.
In certain areas of the ship, Carnival says public and private toilets are working, as are some elevators. And while they're able to make hot coffee, there is limited hot food service.
"Conditions are getting worse by the hour," passenger Debra Rightmire told ABC News in a text message. "Cabin carpets are wet with urine and water. Toilets are overflowing inside cabins. We are having to sleep in the hallways. Onion and cucumber sandwich last night," she added.
Passenger Shelly Crosby told ABC News in a text message that many people are sleeping in tents set up on the ship's deck.
One of the tugboats arrived yesterday afternoon. The second of two tug boats arrived today to tug the ship to Mobile. They'll get there Thursday instead of tomorrow, which was the day they were told they'd reach Mexico.
The ship had drifted about 90 miles north due to strong currents, putting it nearly equal distance away from both Progreso and Mobile. Carnival says it was easier to head north to Mobile, rather than attempt to tow against the currents.
"There's no lights, no water," said passenger Donna Gutzman. "We can't flush. Some people were able to shower."
Passengers are receiving a full refund plus a credit for a future cruise.
A similar situation occurred on a Carnival cruise ship in November 2010. That vessel was also stranded for three days with 4,500 people aboard after a fire in the engine room. When the passengers disembarked in San Diego they described a nightmarish three days in the Pacific with limited food, power and bathroom access.
Concerned family and loved ones of guests and crew may call 888-290-5095 or 305-406-5534.
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