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Cruise Ship Nightmare

A Carnival cruise ship sat disabled in the ocean for five days after an engine fire.

The filthy ship finally arrived in Alabama three days overdue.

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MOBILE, Alabama-

One person was missing Wednesday afternoon after high winds in Mobile, Alabama, caused the disabled cruise ship Carnival Triumph to break loose from its dock, officials said.

There were conflicting reports as to where the missing man was working.

An official with the city’s fire department said the missing man and another person were in a guard shack that was blown into Mobile River. One man has been recovered from the water.

However, the U.S. Coast Guard said the missing person was involved in repair work on the Triumph. The call to the Coast Guard came in at 1:45 p.m. CT.

Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva said all of the company’s crew members and contractors on the ship have been accounted for. The company said it understood two workers on an adjacent pier had been knocked into the water.

Wind gusts reached between 40 and 50 miles per hour Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service in Mobile, though a Carnival statement said the winds exceeded 70 mph.

The Triumph has been at BAE Shipyard in the Port of Mobile since an engine fire in February left the cruise ship crippled and adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with more than 4,200 people aboard. For four days, tugboats guided the disabled ship into the port as passengers complained about miserable conditions on board.

On Wednesday, it drifted across the shipyard after breaking free. Tugboats kept it from drifting farther down river, the Coast Guard said.

CNN affiliate WKRG reported the cruise ship had a hole on the right side of the stern.

Carnival said in late March the ship would be out of service until June 3. In addition to repairs, workers will increase the number of systems and services that the Triumph and other Carnival ships can run on backup power.

Wednesday’s incident was the latest in several headline-making issues for one of the world’s leading cruise lines. Four of the company’s 23 ships have had problems in recent months.

The cruise line has offered affected passengers refunds and discounts on future cruises.

It faces a class-action lawsuit in the face of the Triumph’s last cruise when passengers reported that food was scarce, cruise goers sweltered in the heat with no air conditioning, toilets overflowed and human waste ran down the walls in some parts of the ship.

The problems have also prompted one U.S. lawmaker to propose a “Cruise Ship Passenger Bill of Rights.”

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, said he was asking the cruise industry to voluntarily sign on to a list of guidelines, including the right to backup power if generators fail and the right to disembark a docked ship “if basic provisions cannot adequately be provided on board.”

He also called on the International Maritime Organization to investigate whether cruise lines are following existing guidelines, and whether existing standards are being enforced by countries where cruise ships that serve U.S. passengers are based.

“Cruise ships, in large part operating outside the bounds of United States enforcement, have become the Wild West of the travel industry, and it’s time to rein them in before anyone else gets hurt,” Schumer said in a statement. “This bill of rights, based on work we’ve done with the airline industry, will ensure that passengers aren’t forced to live in third world conditions or put their lives at risk when they go on vacation.”

By Steve Almasy

CNN’s Chandler Friedman and Rene Marsh contributed to this story.

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OAKLAND-

The wait is over!

A Galt woman is finally back in California after disembarking from the ill-fated Carnival cruise ship ‘Triumph.’

Julie Pringle was gleefully tackled by her 9-year-old son Ricky as soon as she was off the escalator at Oakland International Airport.

Pringle, her mom and two friends were taking her sister on a surprise 40th birthday cruise.

Their ship?

The ‘Triumph’ that initially sailed strong, but eventually limped into an Alabama dock, suffered an engine room fire that cut propulsion and power  on board.

Julie’s husband, Chuck, says now that his bride is home he intends to give her the vacation she didn’t get.

Conditions Aboard the Carnival Cruise Ship Triumph

Photo provided by passenger Debbie Moyes of the conditions aboard the carnival cruise ship Triumph.

(CNN)-

“A floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell.” That was how a Texas woman described the Triumph in a lawsuit filed Friday against Carnival Cruise Lines.

In the nine-page complaint, Cassie Terry, of Lake Jackson, south of Houston, seeks unspecified damages for what she says she endured on a vacation cruise aboard the Triumph to Mexico.

The cruise departed Galveston on February 7. Three days later, when the ship was 150 miles off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, “an engine room fire knocked out its primary power source, crippling its water and plumbing systems and leaving it adrift,” the complaint says.

For the following nearly five days, Terry, 25, “was forced to endure deplorable, unsafe and unsanitary conditions, including but not limited to, sweltering temperatures, lack of power and air conditioning, lack of hot or running water, and lack of working toilets,” it says.

During the tow back to the United States, “the vessel listed sharply several times, causing human waste to spill out of non-functioning toilets, flood across the Vessel’s floors and halls, and drip down the Vessel’s walls,” it says.

“Plaintiff was forced to endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled Vessel, and wade through human feces in order to reach food lines where the wait was counted in hours, only to receive rations of spoiled food. Plaintiff was forced to subsist for days in a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell.”

According to the complaint, “Defendant knew the vessel was not seaworthy, either at the time it contracted with Plaintiff, or at the point of departure, but did not advise Plainttiff the Vessel had and was experiencing problems with its propulsion and/or engine room fire suppression equipment.”

As a result of relying on Carnival’s representations, “Plaintiff has been injured in mind and body,” it says.

Lawyer Brent Allison, a partner in Gilman & Allison of Pearland, Texas, said Terry “was feeling nauseated and running a fever.”

Asked what his client was seeking, he said, “It’s too early to put any type of number” on it.

“We have not yet seen the suit and are not in a position to comment,” Carnival said in a statement.

Carnival has said it would give each passenger $500, a free flight home, a full refund for their trip and for most expenses on board, as well as a credit for another cruise.

The towed Triumph arrived in Mobile, Alabama, late Thursday.

By Tom Watkins

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Conditions aboard the powerless cruise line Carnival Triumph.

Conditions aboard the powerless cruise line Carnival Triumph.
Courtesy: CNN

MOBILE, Alabama (CNN)-

The crew aboard Carnival Triumph didn’t hesitate when a fire broke out and power was lost, an emergency that turned the cruise liner into a bobbing Porta-Potty.

From blackjack dealers to chefs to dishwashers, the disparate crew, from about 60 countries, did “things I wouldn’t do,” one passenger said.

The scene that unfolded aboard the Triumph has been well-documented: Wewage spilled into rooms and halls, steak and lobster rotted when freezers went out, and swimming pool decks turned into a tent city.

“I just wanted to vomit, like every second probably,” said 12-year-old passenger Allie Taylor.

But most passengers said the one thing that kept their sanity was the professionalism of the crew.

Built in 1999, the Triumph spans three football fields, weighs 102,000 tons and covers 13 decks, complete with four swimming pools, seven whirlpools, a giant casino and a relaxing spa. Passengers could dine at an array of restaurants, from the South Beach Club to the Paris Dining Room. They could lap up drinks in many of the ship’s bars, including the Big Easy.

On such a massive ship, the jobs of the 1,086-member crew vary widely. But when emergency calls, their duties shift to make the best of a bad situation. At least two passengers were evacuated, including one for dialysis treatment.

The ship had reached its destination of Cozumel, Mexico, and was en route back home when a fire broke out in the engine room early Sunday, and then power was lost. Every time the boat tilted with the wind, toilets overflowed and spilled into halls, seeping through walls to floors below.

Without functioning toilets, passengers were given red biohazard bags to use — and it became the crew’s duty to pick up the used ones.

Some passengers shared the bags; others lined baskets with them and turned them into makeshift outhouses.

“At first, nobody wants to use it. But, I mean, after a while, you have no choice,” said Darryl Malone, a student at Texas A&M who was vacationing. “It got so bad, I was walking through the ship, and this little girl was like, ‘I need a red bag; I need a red bag.’ “

The crew tried to keep passengers calm as they slept on decks and waited in food lines, sometimes for as long as four hours. At times, the only food was stale vegetables.

The crew figured out one way to appease guests: “Free beer and wine for everybody,” said chilled-out passenger Ed Buck.

The crew worked around the clock to try to make the situation somewhat bearable. They constantly checked on passengers, often with smiles on their faces.

“The people onboard the ship, the crew, has been amazing,” said Trey Love, who was celebrating his 40th birthday on Triumph.

“They did the dirtiest work,” said Dee Tucker, “doing things I wouldn’t do.”

“We’ve had our breaking moments. We’ve had our panic attacks. But it is what it is,” Bethany Nutt said while the boat was still being tugged toward shore.

Once the ship docked late Thursday and passengers disembarked, the crew members were shuttled to hotels in Mobile. Carnival employees work on a contract basis, often on the same ship, for months at a time.

The Triumph workers will receive full and normal compensation and be sent to other ships or offered vacation if they had some scheduled soon, said Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen.

Crew member Sachin Sharma of India said workers had no problems with being thrust into the icky job of handling the red bags filled with human waste.

“It’s very simple,” he said, “because we are used to it. That’s why we make the best effort for them. … It’s a part of the job.”

He will enjoy three days off.

Then, it’s off to the next ship.

By Wayne Drash and Victor Blackwell

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GALT-

Three days after his wife was supposed to be home, worried husband Chuck Pringle couldn’t believe what was on his television.

He was watching the defeated Carnival ship ‘Triumph’ finally finding a little victory – docking in Alabama.

“I got a tear in my eye and a smile on my face,” said Pringle from his Galt home.

On Feb. 6, his wife, Julie, flew to Texas to surprise her sister, Kerry, with a cruise for her 40th birthday.

The plan? To set sail the next day.

They and the other ladies in their party had no idea what surprise  they were really in for – an engine room fire cutting  propulsion and power to ship toilets and air conditioning followed by trouble with towboats.

“Crazy thoughts. Crazy thoughts,” said Pringle, recalling reports from the ship surfaced of frantic food lines and raw sewage running down hallways where passengers were sleeping.

“She shared that a lot of the reports they’ve  been giving we’re grossly exaggerated. She said the longest they had to wait to get a meal was 40 minutes,” said Pringle.

Nine-year-old Ricky has cruised with his parents before and loved it.

Brief calls with his mom when the ‘Triumph’ got cell service from a passing ship kept his greatest fear, of his mom not coming back, at bay.

While FOX40 visited the Pringles, Chuck got a text from Julie about disembarking.

“‘They’re at the dock going down at ‘O’ deck, waiting for the announcement. Yeah!’” said Pringle, reading the message.

Now that getting home for mom just means getting across the United States, the Pringles are happy.

“Really, really happy,” said Ricky.

Julie Pringle is  expected to catch a flight out of New Orleans, arriving in California Saturday morning at the latest.

carnival-shipMOBILE, Ala.-

Almost five days after their ship was disabled by an engine fire, the more than 4,200 people on board the Carnival cruise ship Triumph began disembarking late Thursday, about an hour after docking at the Port of Mobile.

Crews were busy tying the ship to the dock at the Alabama Cruise Terminal as cheering passengers hung over balcony rails or waited in lines to exit the vessel.

It’s almost over for the 4,227 passengers and crew stuck on a filthy, disabled cruise ship that limped into port three days after it was due.

Once the ship ties up at the dock, it will take four to five hours to get everyone off, said Terry Thornton, a Carnival vice president, said.

Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill told reporters he was going on to the ship to personally apologize to passengers.

“We pride ourselves in providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case,” he said.

As the ship approached Mobile, passengers were thrilled.

“I just had a crab sandwich with lobster for lunch because they are finishing off all the food,” said Ed Buck, who was staying on an upper floor. “Life is good. People are very excited right now. We’re getting back. You know, I think the media’s made a lot of — made it sound real bad. It’s not quite as bad as everybody says.”

Most people didn’t agree with Buck, who said he has cruised 13 times and will do so again.

“I don’t know how much more we could have took,” passenger Larry Poret said via cell phone. Poret was aboard with his 12-year-old daughter, Rebekah, who said the ordeal has been “really, really difficult.”

Crews were working to clean up the ship as it neared the dock.

“It’s gotten a lot better,” passenger Slyvester Davis said, adding that things improved once officials from the U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board announced they were coming aboard. “It’s sort of frustrating because it doesn’t look now the way it looked and the way we’ve been living.”

Many passengers lauded the work of the crew, saying they had worked long shifts to make sure their guests were as comfortable as possible.

“The crew has worked nonstop,” passenger Julie Morgan said. “They have been, from daylight to dark. I think one shift didn’t even — once they got a break … it was too hot on their deck to go to sleep.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, Coast Guard members and a Carnival team boarded the ship before it arrived in port to help speed efforts to get passengers off as quickly as possible, he said.

Some families gathered at the Alabama Cruise Terminal, far from where the ship was originally supposed to dock in Galveston, Texas. Marissa Jenks said her family reported they had a hot meal Thursday morning and crew members were trying to clean up the ship as it neared port.

Adam Buck, a spokesman for the city of Mobile, said about 75 people were waiting for their loved ones. Family members who spoke to CNN said they had come from Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas. Some had come in as early as Wednesday but the bulk of people arrived Thursday afternoon, with each hour bringing a few more cars.

Most of the anxious families couldn’t bear the thought of their relatives being on a bus for hours and had gotten hotel rooms in Mobile where the homecoming would include a long shower and a meal.

Larry Poret confirmed reports of dire conditions aboard the ship, saying urine and feces streamed in the halls and down walls after toilet facilities failed, soaking the mattress of a friend of his who was sleeping in a hallway.

Emergency power failures caused section doors to slam shut, panicking some passengers who had no idea what was happening.

“We definitely are not adequately informed,” Poret said.

The Carnival Triumph, originally carrying 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members, was on its way home Sunday when a fire off the coast of Mexico left the vessel listing to the side and drifting in Gulf of Mexico currents. Since then, two passengers have been taken off the ship because of medical situations, including one woman who the Coast Guard said had a possible stroke.

Boredom and stress

Poret said toilets on the ship worked on and off, but were too inconsistent to trust.

He said waste tipped out of some commodes and sloshed across floors as the ship listed to the side.

“It runs down the walls from one floor to the next. It’s running out of somebody’s bathroom out into the hallway all the way across,” he said.

Long lines for food and frequent delays were constantly aggravating, he said.

“Here we are looking for hope that, hey it’s 6 o’clock, it’s going to get better,” he said. “And 6 o’clock comes and goes and all of a sudden an announcement at 8, ‘Hey, we’re running behind schedule.’ Well, no joke.”

The incident aboard the ship scared Poret’s daughter and a friend taking the cruise with her, Poret said.

“As soon as you get them calmed down, the electric goes out and doors start slamming shut,” he said.

During less stressful times, passengers passed the hours playing cards, walking the deck and going to see what was happening on other areas of the ship, Poret said.

Passengers set up charging stations to help their fellow passengers juice up cell phones and other devices, he said.

The final trip home

Carnival promises an army of about 200 employees will take care of its passengers once they clear customs.

Passengers can board buses to Galveston, where the cruise originated, or Houston, or spend the night in a hotel in New Orleans.

Carnival said it has reserved and arranged approximately 100 motor coaches, more than 1,500 New Orleans hotel rooms, multiple charter flights from New Orleans to Houston on Friday and transportation from Houston to the Port of Galveston so that guests may retrieve their cars if they drove to the port.

Carnival officials had initially planned to tow the ship to a Mexican port, but after Gulf currents pushed it farther north before tugboats could take control, and considering that 900 of the passengers do not have passports, the company decided to take the Carnival Triumph to Mobile instead, where it can be repaired.

Compensation for travelers

Thornton said conditions had improved on the ship, which he said is in “excellent shape” and would be “fully provisioned” by the time it reaches port.

The cruise line said it would give each passenger $500, a free flight home, a full refund for their trip and for most expenses on board, as well as a credit for another cruise.

The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board launched an investigation into the cause of the engine room fire. Because the Carnival Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel, the Bahamas Maritime Authority is the primary investigative agency.

Passenger rights

Travelers have few options for compensation in these cases, other than what the cruise line is already offering, according to travel expert Jason Clampet of Skift.com, a travel website.

“The passengers on the ship aren’t going to have a great deal of recourse when they get home,” he said. Travel “insurance really doesn’t cover this sort of thing. Their trip wasn’t interrupted and they aren’t incurring extra expenses … so they can’t be compensated that way.”

Still, there’s no denying that the fire and resulting bad PR will hurt Carnival.

“It’s a terrible sight, thinking of people trapped on a ship with limited food and filthy conditions, so I think people will think twice about taking a cruise,” Clampet said.

Bad luck before

The fire is at least the second problem for the ship since late January, when it had an issue with its propulsion system, according to a notice posted on the website of Carnival senior cruise director John Heald.

It’s also not the first fire to disable one of the cruise line’s ships.

In 2010, the Carnival cruise ship Splendor lost power after an engine room fire, leaving it drifting off the Pacific coast of Mexico. The USS Ronald Reagan ferried 60,000 pounds of supplies for the ship’s passengers and crew as the ship was towed to San Diego.

After this ill-fated cruise, the Carnival Triumph won’t host vacationing passengers until at least mid-April. Carnival has canceled a dozen voyages scheduled between February 21 and April 13. That makes a total of 14 scratched trips. The cruise line already had eliminated voyages slated for February 11 and February 16.

By Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy

CNN’s Sandra Endo, Rich Phillips, Tom Watkins, Chandler Friedman, Victor Blackwell, Tristan Smith, Joe Sutton, Mike Ahlers, Dave Alsup, Sandra Endo, Chuck Johnston, Esprit Smith, Greg Botelho, Katia Hetter and Marnie Hunter contributed to this report.

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Cruise ship stranded at sea

Photo courtesy: U.S. Coast Guard

MOBILE, Ala.

It’s almost, but not quite, over for the 4,229 passengers and crew stuck on a filthy, disabled cruise ship limping into port five days after it was due.

As the Carnival Triumph was being towed toward Mobile, Alabama, passengers gathered on deck, waving as a helicopter flew overheard. About a dozen people used their bodies to spell out “HELP.”

Some made signs on sheets sending well-wishes on this Valentine’s Day to loved ones. Others lounged on deck chairs, passing the time.

It appeared help was still hours away, a Carnival Cruise Lines executive said.

Terry Thornton, vice president of revenue and planning, said the ship was expected to dock after 10:30 p.m. (11:30 p.m. ET).

The journey home was delayed for a short time when the towline from the lead tugboat to the ship snapped.

“It looked like a whip in the water,” passenger Darryl Malone said, adding he was being told to get off the deck via an announcement broadcast throughout the ship. “They’re telling us to go inside, not look overboard because one of the towlines broke.”

Despite the delay, passengers were thrilled to be nearing port.

“I just had a crab sandwich with lobster for lunch because they are finishing off all the food,” said Ed Buck, who was staying on an upper floor. “Life is good. People are very excited right now. We’re getting back. You know, I think the media’s made a lot of — made it sound real bad. It’s not quite as bad as everybody says.”

Most people didn’t agree with Buck, who said he has cruised 13 times and will do so again.

“I don’t know how much more we could have took,” passenger Larry Poret said via cell phone. Poret was aboard with his 12-year-old daughter, Rebekah, who said the ordeal has been “really, really difficult.”

Thanks to CNN cameras aboard a helicopter circling the crippled ship, Rebekah’s mother, Mary Poret, was able to see her daughter for the first time in six days.

“It’s excellent, I’m very happy,” Mary Poret said.

“I’m so excited to see her and she’s so excited to see me,” Rebekah said. “I can’t wait to get back.”

“We see land right now,” she said.

“Yay! It’s just going to get bigger,” Mary Poret answered.

The relief was immense, especially in light of the frightening call Poret received from her daughter about 30 hours after an engine room fire on Sunday.

“She was hysterical, crying hysterically. She was scared. She don’t know what was going to happen next,” Mary Poret said. “And what broke my heart the very most was her saying, ‘Mommy, I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again,’ and that’s really hard to hear from your 12-year-old daughter.”

Once the ship ties up at the dock, it will take four to five hours to get everyone off, Thornton said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, Coast Guard members and a Carnival team boarded the ship before it arrived in port to help speed efforts to get passengers off as quickly as possible, he said.

Some families gathered at the Alabama Cruise Terminal, far from where the ship was originally supposed to dock in Galveston, Texas. Marissa Jenks said her family reported they had a hot meal Thursday morning and crew members were trying to clean up the ship as it neared port.

Adam Buck, a spokesman for the city of Mobile, said about 75 people were waiting for their loved ones. Family members who spoke to CNN said they had come from Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas. Some had come in as early as Wednesday but the bulk of people arrived Thursday afternoon, with each hour bringing a few more cars.

Most of the anxious families couldn’t bear the thought of their relatives being on a bus for hours and had gotten hotel rooms in Mobile where the homecoming would include a long shower and a meal.

Larry Poret confirmed reports of dire conditions aboard the ship, saying urine and feces streamed in the halls and down walls after toilet facilities failed, soaking the mattress of a friend of his who was sleeping in a hallway.

Emergency power failures caused section doors to slam shut, panicking some passengers who had no idea what was happening.

“We definitely are not adequately informed,” Poret said.

The Triumph, carrying 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members, was on its way home Sunday when a fire off the coast of Mexico left the vessel listing to the side and drifting in Gulf of Mexico currents.

Boredom and stress

Poret said toilets on the ship worked on and off, but were too inconsistent to trust.

He said waste tipped out of some commodes and sloshed across floors as the ship listed to the side.

“It runs down the walls from one floor to the next. It’s running out of somebody’s bathroom out into the hallway all the way across,” he said.

Long lines for food and frequent delays were constantly aggravating, he said.

“Here we are looking for hope that, hey it’s 6 o’clock, it’s going to get better,” he said. “And 6 o’clock comes and goes and all of a sudden an announcement at 8, ‘Hey, we’re running behind schedule.’ Well, no joke.”

The incident aboard the ship scared Poret’s daughter and a friend taking the cruise with her, Poret said.

“As soon as you get them calmed down, the electric goes out and doors start slamming shut,” he said.

During less stressful times, passengers passed the hours playing cards, walking the deck and going to see what was happening on other areas of the ship, Poret said.

Passengers set up charging stations to help their fellow passengers juice up cell phones and other devices, he said.

Poret and his daughter said they just wanted to sleep through the ordeal.

“When we wake up I ask myself and my dad, ‘Can I go back to sleep again,’ because I want another day to pass so bad,” Rebekah said.

The final trip home

Carnival promises an army of about 200 employees will take care of its passengers once they clear customs.

Passengers can board buses to Galveston, where the cruise originated, or Houston, or spend the night in a hotel in New Orleans.

Carnival said it has reserved and arranged approximately 100 motor coaches, more than 1,500 New Orleans hotel rooms, multiple charter flights from New Orleans to Houston on Friday and transportation from Houston to the Port of Galveston so that guests may retrieve their cars if they drove to the port.

Carnival officials had initially planned to tow the ship to a Mexican port, but after Gulf currents pushed it farther north before tugboats could take control, and considering that 900 of the passengers do not have passports, the company decided to take the Triumph to Mobile instead, where it can be repaired.

Compensation for travelers

Thornton said conditions had improved on the ship, which he said is in “excellent shape” and would be “fully provisioned” by the time it reaches port.

The cruise line said it would give each passenger $500, a free flight home, a full refund for their trip and for most expenses on board, as well as a credit for another cruise.

The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board launched an investigation into the cause of the engine room fire. Because the Carnival Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel, the Bahamas Maritime Authority is the primary investigative agency.

Passenger rights

Travelers have few options for compensation in these cases, other than what the cruise line is already offering, according to travel expert Jason Clampet of Skift.com, a travel website.

“The passengers on the ship aren’t going to have a great deal of recourse when they get home,” he said. Travel “insurance really doesn’t cover this sort of thing. Their trip wasn’t interrupted and they aren’t incurring extra expenses … so they can’t be compensated that way.”

Still, there’s no denying that the fire and resulting bad PR will hurt Carnival.

“It’s a terrible sight, thinking of people trapped on a ship with limited food and filthy conditions, so I think people will think twice about taking a cruise,” Clampet said.

Bad luck before

The fire is at least the second problem for the ship since late January, when it had an issue with its propulsion system, according to a notice posted on the website of Carnival senior cruise director John Heald.

It’s also not the first fire to disable one of the cruise line’s ships.

In 2010, the Carnival cruise ship Splendor lost power after an engine room fire, leaving it drifting off the Pacific coast of Mexico. The USS Ronald Reagan ferried 60,000 pounds of supplies for the ship’s passengers and crew as the ship was towed to San Diego.

After this ill-fated cruise, the Triumph won’t host vacationing passengers until at least mid-April. Carnival has canceled a dozen voyages scheduled between February 21 and April 13. That makes a total of 14 scratched trips. The cruise line already had eliminated voyages slated for February 11 and February 16.

By Michael Pearson and Ed Payne

CNN’s Rich Phillips, Tom Watkins, Chandler Friedman, Victor Blackwell, Tristan Smith, Joe Sutton, Mike Ahlers, Dave Alsup, Sandra Endo, Chuck Johnston, Esprit Smith, Greg Botelho, Katia Hetter and Marnie Hunter contributed to this report.

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™ & ©2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Cruise ship stranded at sea

Photo courtesy: U.S. Coast Guard

GULF OF MEXICO-

Passengers on a Carnival cruise ship drifting in the Gulf of Mexico aren’t getting the vacation they expected — sleeping on its decks, making do with a few working toilets, and doing what they can to get food — all due to a weekend engine fire left the vessel dead in the water.

The Carnival Triumph was about 150 miles off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, heading back Sunday morning to Galveston, Texas — where it had departed Thursday on a four-day trip — when a fire broke out in an engine room, according to Carnival Cruise Lines.

The ship’s automatic fire extinguishing system kicked in and soon contained the flames, and no injuries were reported, Carnival reported.

Yet this fire left the ship — and its 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members — adrift without propulsion, the cruise line said, halting its trip back to port.

The first of two tugboats that will tow the ship to Mobile, Alabama, arrived on Monday evening, the cruise line said in a statement. The ship should arrive in the Gulf city some time Thursday.

Not being able to sail, though, is just one of the problems. Issues with running water, scarce electricity and more contributed to headaches big and small, according to passengers and their loved ones.

Toby Barlow’s wife Ann told him there was “sewage running down the walls and floors” with passengers being asked to defecate in bags and urinate in showers due to a lack of functioning toilets. Food lines ran 3½ hours long and some, like herself, slept outside to keep cool.

“Elderly and handicap(ped people) are struggling,” she texted her husband. “The smells are gross.”

Brent Nutt said his wife, Bethany — who is on board, and whom he talked to Sunday — reported similar problems.

“She said they had no power, no running water, and she said she hadn’t been able to eat anything yet. Then you call the Carnival phone number for families, and they tell you that everything is all right,” Nutt told CNN.

Posts to CruiseCritic.com, which bills itself as an “interactive community of avid and first-time cruisers,” documented similar issues with power and more. Some posts, though, were more light-hearted.

“They are all fine,” wrote one woman, whose sister is on board. “Said they are still having fun and gave me the task to call her boss who seems to think I was lying.”

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen acknowledged issues, while noting the cruise line’s efforts to address the situation.

Some people are camping out on the decks because some cabins don’t have air conditioning, he said Monday evening.

And Gulliksen pointed to recent progress. For instance, “we have restored toilets in some public areas and cabins;” there is running water for showers, even if it’s cold; and some elevators are working.

As for the food situation, he said the Triumph’s poolside restaurant has “limited food service” and meals have been brought aboard from two other Carnival ships. Earlier Monday, the cruise line said in a statement that there was hot coffee available, among other options.

“All our guests are safe, and we’re doing everything we can to make them as comfortable as possible,” Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill said in a statement issued at 8:30 p.m. ET Monday. “We’re terribly sorry for the inconvenience, discomfort and frustration our guests are feeling.”

Besides the two Carnival vessels that have come to transfer supplies — and, in one case, take on a passenger with a pre-existing medical condition, said Gulliksen — the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Vigorous is on-site to aid the stranded ship.

“It’s in deep water and not near any hazards to navigation,” said Greg Magee, the commander of the Vigorous.

The ship was initially expected to be towed into the northern Yucatan port of Progreso, Mexico. But the ship had already drifted about 90 miles north due to strong currents by Monday night, prompting the decision to instead move the Triumph to Mobile.

Carnival said Mobile and Progreso were then roughly equidistant, adding that strong currents toward the Alabama shore and a “simpler re-entry” — especially for the 900 passengers without passports — also drove the decision to head to the U.S. coast.

After being towed to port, those aboard the Carnival Triumph will be flown home at no cost to them, the cruise line said. They will also get a full refund, credit that can be used toward a future trip and reimbursement for all expenses, except casino and gift shop purchases, for their current trip.

The vessel’s next two departures, scheduled for Monday and Saturday, have been canceled. Those slated to be on those trips will get full refunds and discounts toward future cruises, the cruise line said.

Family and friends of those on board may call 888-290-5095 or 305-406-5534 for information.

Throughout the ordeal, Barlow said his wife Ann has kept her sense of humor despite being stranded.

“I joked with her that I got the raw end of the deal. I was stuck in Texas with all (the) kids going to watch midget wrestling while she was on a cruise this weekend with her girlfriends,” he said. “When I talked to her (Sunday) night, I reminded her maybe I got the better end of the deal,” he said.

CNN’s Joe Sutton, Dave Alsup, Mike Ahlers, Chuck Johnston, Esprit Smith, Greg Botelho and Marnie Hunter contributed to this report.

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