The cruise ship Carnival Triumph cruise ship is towed in
this video frame grab from NBC News taken off the coast of
Alabama. REUTERS/NBC News/Handout
More than 4200 people trapped aboard the crippled cruise
ship Carnival Triumph, having endured days of overflowing
toilets, should return to land when tugboats haul the vessel
into Mobile, Alabama today.
The 893-foot (272 meter) vessel, notorious for reports of raw
sewage from overflowing toilets, has been without propulsion
and running on emergency generator power since Sunday, when
an engine room fire left it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.
Operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, the flagship brand of
global cruise ship giant Carnival Corp , the ship left
Galveston, Texas a week ago carrying 3,143 passengers and
1,086 crew. It was supposed to return there on Monday.
Carnival Corp spokesman Vance Gulliksen in Miami said the
Triumph was expected to arrive in Mobile later today.
"This is going to be a long day," Terry Thornton, a senior
Carnival Cruise Lines vice president, told reporters at the
port in Mobile.
He said the ship, which he described as "in excellent shape"
after additional provisions were laid in on Wednesday, was
near the sea buoy at the entrance to Mobile Bay late on
Thursday morning. Getting from the buoy into port normally
takes about three hours, Thornton said.
"There is no way we could actually speed up the process to
get the ship alongside sooner," he said. "We're making every
effort we can to get the ship alongside here in Mobile as
quickly as possible."
A Coast Guard cutter has been escorting the Triumph on its
long voyage into port since Monday, and a Coast Guard
helicopter ferried about 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg) of equipment
including a generator to the stricken ship late on Wednesday.
Earlier in the week, some passengers reported on the poor
conditions on the Triumph when they contacted relatives and
media before their cellphone batteries died.
They said people were getting sick and passengers had been
told to use plastic "biohazard" bags as makeshift toilets.
Carnival Cruise Lines President and Chief Executive Gerry
Cahill said in a statement late on Wednesday that the company
had decided to add further payment of $500 per person to help
compensate passengers for "very challenging circumstances"
aboard the ship.
"We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure,"
Mary Poret, who spoke to her 12-year-old daughter aboard the
Triumph on Monday, rejected Cahill's apology out of hand in
comments to CNN on Thursday, as she waited anxiously in
Mobile with a friend for the Triumph's arrival.
"Seeing urine and feces sloshing in the halls, sleeping on
the floor, nothing to eat, people fighting over food, $500?
What's the emotional cost? You can't put money on that,"
The troubles on the Carnival Triumph occurred a little more
than a year after 32 people were killed when the Costa
Concordia, a luxury cruise ship operated by Carnival Corp's
Costa Cruises brand, was grounded on rocks off the Tuscan
island of Giglio in Italy.
Carnival Corp Chairman and CEO Micky Arison faced criticism
in January last year for failing to travel to Italy and take
personal charge of the Costa Concordia crisis, which
unleashed numerous lawsuits against his company.
The cruise ship mogul has taken a low-key approach to the
Triumph situation as well, even as it grabbed a growing share
of the U.S. media spotlight. His only known public appearance
since Sunday was courtside on Tuesday at a game played by his
championship Miami Heat basketball team.
Carnival Corp shares were down $0.12 at $37.34 in early
afternoon trading on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.
The shares closed down 4 percent at $37.46 on Wednesday after
the company said voyage disruptions and repair costs related
to Carnival Triumph could shave up to 10 cents per share off
its second-half earnings.
Carnival said it had initially planned to tow the Triumph
into Progreso in Mexico, the closest port to its location
early on Sunday when the engine room fire occurred. But the
ship drifted about 90 nautical miles north, due to strong
currents, before the towing got under way, and that left it
stranded roughly midway between Progreso and Mobile.