People wave and hang signs at the side of their balconies
on the cruise ship Carnival Triumph cruise ship in this
video frame grab from NBC News taken off the coast of
Alabama. REUTERS/NBC News
Reeking of rotting food and sewage from overflowing
toilets, a crippled cruise ship carrying more than 4,200 people
was limping into Mobile, Alabama, as passengers awaited the end
of a vacation voyage some described as hellish.
The Carnival Triumph was being towed into port by tugboats as
the drama played out live on US cable news stations, creating
another public relations nightmare for cruise giant Carnival.
Last year, its Costa Concordia luxury ship grounded off the
coast of Italy, with 32 people killed.
Passengers described an overpowering stench on board the ship
four days after an engine room fire knocked out power and
plumbing across most of the 272m vessel and left it adrift in
the Gulf of Mexico.
After the mishap, toilets overflowed, soaking many cabins and
interior passages in raw sewage.
"Let's just say that I had a pair of shoes that I will not be
bringing home with me," Julie Morgan told CNN.
"It is revolting," Morgan added, referring to the smell
aboard the ship. "It's a mixture of sewage and rotting food."
But Terry Thornton, a senior Carnival Cruise Lines vice
president, told reporters in Mobile that additional
provisions were laid in on Wednesday and the ship was now "in
Passenger Donna Gutzman said those aboard the ship were
treated to steak and lobster for lunch.
"Our basic needs are being met. For the most part, they are
making us happy," Gutzman told CNN.
A senior Carnival official said it could take up to five
hours to remove all the passengers from the ship, which has
only one functioning elevator.
Carnival Corp spokesman Vance Gulliksen said a tow line on
one of four tugboats helping the Triumph get into port
snapped on Thursday. But the tug was later reattached to the
Operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, the flagship brand of
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.
A Coast Guard cutter has been escorting the Triumph on its
long voyage into port since Monday, and a Coast Guard
helicopter ferried about 1360 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 cell phone batteries died. They said
people were getting sick and passengers had been told to use
plastic "biohazard" bags as makeshift toilets.
Carnival Cruise Lines Chief Executive Gerry Cahill said in a
statement the company had decided to add further payment of
$500 a 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 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,"
Carnival Chairman and CEO Micky Arison faced criticism in
January 2012 for failing to travel to Italy and take personal
charge of the Costa Concordia crisis after the luxury cruise
shop operated by Carnival's Costa Cruises brand grounded on
rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio. The tragedy 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
Miami Heat championship professional basketball team.
"I think they really are trying to do the right thing, but I
don't think they have been able to communicate it
effectively," said Marcia Horowitz, an executive who handles
crisis management at Rubenstein Associates, a New York-based
public relations firm.
"Most of all, you really need a face for Carnival," she
added. "You can do all the right things. But unless you
communicate it effectively, it will not see the light of
The Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel and the Bahamas
Maritime Authority will be the primary agency investigating
the cause of its engine room fire.
For all the passengers' grievances, they will likely find it
difficult to sue the cruise operator for any damages, legal
sources said. Over the years, the cruise industry has put in
place a legal structure that ring-fences operators from
Rules for seeking redress are spelled out in complex,
multi-page ticket contracts that have been the subject of
decades of court battles. Victims are often required to
proceed with any litigation in remote jurisdictions.