Nightmare grows longer on disabled cruise ship
Updated 12:50 am, Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Food is scarce as are other essentials such as running water and toilets. They're sleeping in makeshift tents - and using bags as bathrooms.
This may sound like life for castaways on a desert island, but it became a harsh reality for about 4,200 passengers and crew members stranded aboard the Carnival Triumph cruise ship, which was left disabled in the Gulf after losing power Sunday.
Among the worse reports from the ship were of sewage running down the walls and floors, making the vessel smell so foul people reportedly were vomiting. Passengers will spend at least another two days on their vacation-turned-nightmare trip while two tugboats pull the 893-foot ship to a port in Mobile, Ala.
"It's very difficult for me, just the thought," said Elaine Holley, 57. Her three grandchildren, ages 14, 11 and 9, are aboard the ship with their father, a Texas City police officer, who got them the cruise as a Christmas gift. "The more I see on TV and the more I read, I visualize my grandchildren going through that. It hurts."
Initially scheduled to arrive back in Galveston Monday morning, a small fire in the ship's engine room knocked out the cruise liner's propulsion system, leaving it floating aimlessly in the Gulf about 150 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill said there is no question the conditions aboard the ship are "challenging." The cruise line, federal agencies, port authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard have been working to fix the situation and keep the guests safe, Cahill said Tuesday night at a press conference in Miami.
"At Carnival our promise is to create a great vacation experience, and in this case we didn't deliver on that promise," Cahill said. "We are sorry that occurred."
The ship will arrive at the port in Mobile, Ala., on Thursday afternoon. Carnival reserved more than 1,500 hotel rooms in Mobile and New Orleans to accommodate the guests Thursday evening.
On Friday, guests will be flown to Houston on 20 chartered flights and then be given transportation to Galveston if necessary. Cahill said guests wanting to be home Thursday evening will be taken by motor coach Thursday night from Mobile to Galveston.
'People are hoarders'
No injuries have been reported on the cruise. At least three other Carnival ships have delivered food and supplies to the vessel.
"Three ships supplied us with food but people are hoarders. Ship needs to ration." That's a text Nick Ware of Houston received from his mother's boyfriend, Ed Buck. His mother, Kim Ware, and Buck made a spontaneous decision to celebrate their anniversary on the Carnival Triumph.
Nick Ware said the couple told him food is cold, and it takes up to four hours to get a meal. He said guests ate hamburger buns without meat, supplemented only with condiments.
Cahill said the Triumph has been using its backup generator, and the team on board has slowly been restoring auxiliary power making some public and cabin toilets operational. Power has been restored to a few elevators and in a dining area.
Nick Ware said his mother and Buck told him passengers are asked to use the restroom in hazard bags, and the few working bathrooms were filthy from overuse. Kim Ware told her son heaps of trash were piling up, causing a stench aboard the ship and the deck had become cluttered with passengers.
"They said the people sleeping on the deck carried mattresses up there because the heat below deck is unbearable," Nick Ware said.
Although passengers have described conditions as horrific, Buck told Nick Ware they were trying to make the best of a "horrible situation." The crew organized bean tag tosses, trivia and scheduled musicians to play Monday night.
Cahill said Carnival Triumph guests will receive a full refund along with transportation expenses. They will also receive a cruise credit equal to the amount paid for the current voyage, including reimbursement for most shipboard purchases during the voyage.
Ware said he wasn't sure if his mom and Buck would use the free cruise from Carnival.
"I don't think it would be any time soon," he said.