Three tugs were needed to pull the 100,000-ton cruise ship back to the U.S. from waters off Mexico, where fire broke out Sunday morning in the engine room. The cause of the blaze, extinguished by automatic systems, is still not known.
The ship lost propulsion and had to rely on emergency generator power, leaving passengers with a limited number of working bathrooms and no air conditioning. No one was hurt in the fire. Sister ships delivered additional food and supplies. The cruise line has canceled sailings through April 13 and promised to compensate passengers with a full refund, $500 in cash and a discount on a future cruise.
That may be meager comfort for frustrated passengers, who have complained to family members via email and text about foul odors, dark hallways and food shortages. Television images from CNN showed passengers with signs of Help and I love you hanging from their cabin rooms.
There were stories of meals consisting of cucumber and onion or peanut butter and onion sandwiches, but Minyard said his wife told him they had lobster and eggs, bacon and sausage Thursday morning. With landfall only a few hours away, the Triumph suffered another misfortune when the towline snapped, bringing the vessel to a dead stop. The line was quickly replaced, and the crawl to Mobile resumed.
Officials had said it would take passengers up to five hours to get off the ship, and then they faced an hours-long bus ride or other travel hassles to finally get back home.
As the vessel drew within cellphone range, passengers vented their anger. Renee Shanar, of Houston, was on board with her husband, who has heart trouble. She said they were told they will be among the first to disembark. I dont believe them, theyve been lying to us from the beginning, Shanar said.
Disgusted by the foul air and heat of the lower decks, many passengers hauled mattresses and bed sheets onto the top deck and slept there, even staying put in a soaking rain. As the ship approached the coast, a slew of Carnival workers arrived, removed the bedding and took it downstairs.
Today they cleaned the ship, theyre serving better food, covering up basically, but at least theyre making it more bearable, said Kalin Hill, of Houston, who boarded the Triumph as part of a bachelorette party.
The company disputed the accounts of passengers who described the ship as filthy, saying employees were doing everything to ensure people were comfortable. Carnival didnt immediately respond to questions about the illnesses reported by some passengers.
Once passengers arrived in Alabama, their stay was expected to be short. Carnival said they were being given the option of boarding buses directly to Galveston, Texas, to Houston a roughly seven-hour drive or taking a two-hour bus ride to New Orleans, where the company said it booked 1,500 hotel rooms. Those staying in New Orleans will be flown Friday to Houston. Carnival said it will cover all the transportation costs.
I cant imagine being on that ship this morning and then getting on a bus, said Kirk Hill, Kalin Hills father. If I hit land in Mobile, youd have a hard time getting me on a bus.
Thelbert Lanier was waiting at the Mobile port for his wife, who texted him early Thursday.
Room smells like an outhouse. Cold water only, toilets havent work in 3 1/2 days. Happy Valentines Day!!! I love u & wish I was there, she said in the text message, which was viewed by The Associated Press. Its 4:00 am. Cant sleep its cold & Im starting to get sick.