Story Summary

Befouled cruise ship returns home

A leak in a fuel line was responsible for the engine fire that crippled the carnival triumph cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico last week.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, oil from the leak caught fire when it came into contact with the hot engine, causing a fire.

The engine fire drained power from the ship, turning it into a floating petri dish for five days.

Investigators say a full report on the ship could take up to six months.

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First it was Triumph, then Elation, Dream and now Legend.

While they are happy names for cruise ships, some passengers say they’ve had experiences recently that belie those names.

In yet another setback, Carnival Cruise ship Legend is having technical difficulties that are affecting its sailing speed, the latest in a growing list of woes for the travel company.

The Legend was on the last leg of a seven-day Caribbean cruise that departed Tampa on Sunday. Within a span of a month, three other Carnival Cruise ships have reported problems.

Carnival Dream lost power and some toilets stopped working Wednesday, and no one was allowed to get off the vessel docked at Philipsburg, St. Maarten, in the eastern Caribbean. Carnival says it is flying the more than 4,000 passengers back to Florida and will give them discounts.

Carnival Elation had to be escorted by a tugboat Saturday because of a malfunction in its steering system, the cruise company said.

And in the most publicized case, last month, an engine room fire left the Carnival Triumph crippled and adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with more than 4,200 people aboard. That scheduled four-day cruise stretched into eight days as tugs pulled the vessel into port in Alabama. Food was scarce and passengers sweltered in the heat with no air conditioning.

Passengers losing patience

Because of the problems on the Legend, Carnival said it had canceled a scheduled stop in Grand Cayman and the ship will make its trek back to its scheduled ending destination in Tampa, Florida.

Even though the vessel is expected to arrive on schedule Sunday, some are losing patience, passenger Rob Bonenfant said.

“Passengers are now really pissed off,” Bonenfant said via e-mail. “Mood on the ship is getting worse among passengers, captain is giving limited information.”

Carnival has promised to refund $100 to passengers and give them other refunds and discounts.

“Carnival Legend is experiencing a technical issue with one of the ship’s Azipod units that is affecting the vessel’s sailing speed,” the cruise company said. “The ship’s safety systems and hotel services are all functioning normally.”

The Azipod, a crucial part for steering and propelling a vessel, was the same issue that hampered the Carnival Elation on Saturday.

“Carnival is really screwing this up,” Bonenfant said. “Many have already said they will not book again with Carnival.”

Stuck in the Caribbean

Some passengers on Carnival’s stricken cruise ship Dream are also complaining.

Although power has been restored and facilities were functioning again, passengers still have to be flown back to Florida after the ship malfunctioned in the eastern Caribbean.

Cruise passengers received a letter from the captain, according to a passenger who e-mailed a photo of the correspondence to CNN.

Capt. Massimo Marino told passengers they will be booked on flights to Orlando or another destination. Passengers with cars at Port Canaveral will be bused from Orlando to the facility about an hour away.

The letter also offers passengers a three-day refund and a half-price cruise in the future.

The captain said passengers could “enjoy another day in beautiful St. Maarten” or stay onboard for a “full schedule” of activities.

“We sincerely apologize for the disappointment this unexpected change has caused and regret we were unable to provide you with the fun and memorable cruise vacation we had in store for you,” he wrote.

In a statement, Carnival said the ship’s emergency diesel generator failed. The ship’s next voyage was canceled, the cruise line said.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said Thursday that 4,300 guests were aboard the Dream along with about 1,300 crew members. Carnival’s website puts the ship’s capacity at 3,646 passengers, but that’s based on only two people per cabin, and some cabins hold more, Gulliksen explained.

There are also three- and four-person cabins aboard.

The first flights for passengers stranded on cruise ship Dream will begin Friday at 9 a.m. ET., starting the process of 10 flights expected to take 2,184 passengers back home Friday, Carnival said. More passengers will be taken on the weekend.

On Tuesday, Carnival announced it was conducting “a comprehensive review” of all of its 23 ships after a fire last month that crippled one of its ships in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving passengers stranded for days while the vessel was towed back to land. Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill said the probe will focus on the prevention, detection and suppression of fires, engine room redundancies, and what additional hotel facilities might be provided and might run off the emergency generators.

‘Human waste all over the floor’

After the problems began Wednesday, CNN was contacted by passengers describing the conditions.

Gregg Stark, who is traveling with his wife and two young children, said the conditions are deplorable.

“There’s human waste all over the floor in some of the bathrooms and they’re overflowing — and in the state rooms,” Stark said. “The elevators have not been working. They’ve been turning them on and off, on and off.”

An announcement over the ship’s public address system said the crew was trying to fix the problem and was working on the generators, according to Stark. A few hours later, another announcement said the problem was worse than originally believed.

“We are not allowed off of the boat despite the fact that we have no way to use the restrooms onboard,” Jonathan Evans of Reidsville, North Carolina, said in an e-mail Thursday. “The cruise director is giving passengers very limited information and tons of empty promises. What was supposed to take an hour has turned into 7-plus hours.”

But Thursday afternoon, Carnival told CNN that based on conversations with the ship’s management team, a look at service logs “and extensive physical monitoring of all public areas, including restrooms, throughout the night, we can confirm that only one public restroom was taken offline for cleaning based on toilet overflow and there was a total of one request for cleaning of a guest cabin bathroom.

“Aside from that, there have been no reports of issues onboard with overflowing toilets or sewage. The toilet system had periodic interruptions yesterday evening and was fully restored at approximately 12:30 a.m. this morning.”

‘This needs to change’

Last month, an engine room fire left the Carnival Triumph crippled and adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with more than 4,200 people aboard.

That scheduled four-day cruise stretched into eight days as tugs pulled the vessel into port in Alabama. Food was scarce, and passengers sweltered in the heat with no air conditioning. People aboard also reported overflowing toilets and human waste running down the walls in some parts of the ship.

A class action lawsuit was filed against Carnival Corp. in the aftermath.

The Triumph is still undergoing repair at a shipyard in Mobile, Alabama, Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva said.

“We are now focused on the lessons we can learn from the incident and also what additional operational redundancies might be available,” Cahill said this week.

Another ship, the Carnival Splendor, had a fire in 2010 due to “a catastrophic failure of a diesel generator,” said Cahill, the Carnival president.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to Micky Arison, the chief executive officer of Carnival Corp.

“The Coast Guard has responded to a string of 90 marine casualty incidents with passengers onboard Carnival ships in the last five years,” the West Virginia Democrat wrote. “It seems that Carnival has failed to take any meaningful course of corrective action after these continual incidents. This needs to change.”

CNN’s Dave Alsup, Jake Carpenter,Chuck Johnston, Tina Burnside and Marlena Baldacci contributed to this report.

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The fire that crippled the Carnival cruise ship Triumph started with a leak in a fuel-oil return line running from one of the ship’s engines, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday.

Leaking oil hit a hot surface, starting the fire, said Teresa Hatfield, the lead investigator for the Coast Guard. Hatfield said there was no indication the leak in a flexible hose section was intentional.

“Fire suppression was immediately activated by the crew, first by waterfog and then by (carbon dioxide). They did a very good job,” Hatfield said.

“We are looking at the cause of the fire and why the ship was disabled for so long, and we are also looking at the crew response to the fire as well.”

Hatfield said the investigation will last for several months. The Coast Guard said it has conducted 21 interviews with passengers and crew members since Thursday, when investigators boarded the ship while it was still at sea.

Hatfield said the oil return line is one of the items that is routinely inspected, but she did not say when it was last inspected or describe its condition at that time.

Vance Gulliksen, a spokesman with Carnival Cruise Lines, told CNN Monday that the ship’s last scheduled Coast Guard inspection was on November 15. Gulliksen also said the cruise line agreed with the Coast Guard’s determination of the origin of the fire.

Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Diaz said the line ran from the ship’s “number-6 engine” to a fuel tank.

The Triumph was on the third day of a planned four-day cruise from Galveston, Texas, to Mexico when the fire broke out and brought the trip to a halt. It was carrying more than 4,200 people, including 3,100 passengers. The Triumph was eventually towed into port in Mobile, Alabama, Thursday night, and the last passengers disembarked Friday.

Stranded on the crippled ship, passengers and crew lived with worsening conditions, as toilets stopped working, and waste spilled onto floors and into hallways. Passengers had to use plastic bags to collect their waste.

Passenger Cassie Terry described the ship as “a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell” in a lawsuit filed Friday against Carnival for unspecified damages related to the cruise.

Passengers reported long lines for food, shortages of fresh water and widespread boredom. Many passengers slept in hallways or outside to escape the odors and heat below decks.

Patrick Cuty, a senior marine investigator for the Coast Guard, told CNN Sunday that investigators had located the area where flames erupted in the engine room.

“We know that the fire originated in front of a generator,” Cuty said. “You can see the ignition marks on the wall.”

There are three generators in the engine room where the fire broke out. Three other generators are in a second engine room that wasn’t involved in the fire, Cuty said.

The same ship encountered a problem in January with its propulsion system, according to a notice posted on the website of Carnival senior cruise director John Heald.

On Saturday, Carnival crew members were bused to and from the ship to help with the clean-up. One housekeeper told CNN it wasn’t pleasant work but said it had to be done, and the crew was willing to do it.

Passengers have praised the crew for its response during the ordeal.

Because the Carnival Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel, the Bahamas Maritime Authority is the primary investigative agency and will work with the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Investigators pulled the voyage data recorder, a device that records alarms, voice communications on the bridge, engine speed, navigation information and rudder angle, Cuty said.

It appears that the fire suppression worked as designed, Cuty said Friday. The engineer who was on watch around dawn February 10 saw the fire ignite over a video feed and immediately notified the bridge, Cuty said.
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The passengers of the Carnival Triumph are now back on dry land, and the first lawsuit has been filed since the ordeal.

sandeep

Sandeep Berry, one of the stranded passengers on the Carnival cruise

After traveling overnight, Sandeep Berry of Evanston arrived at O’Hare International Airport Friday morning where she reunited with her husband following a vacation nightmare.

On Sunday, a fire in the engine room knocked out power to most of the ship in the Gulf of Mexico. It took tugboats nearly 5 days to pull the Triumph to Mobile, ALABAMA. Berry described deplorable conditions. She said passengers had to trudge through raw sewage and stand in line for hours to get food.

“For the crew that was on the ship, they did an amazing job but higher up management had no plan in place,” said Berry.

On Friday, a Texas woman filed the first lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Lines calling the Triumph a “floating toilet.”

Finally, after days of listing on a disabled Carnival cruise ship without electricity and working toilets, thousands of passengers finished disembarking early Friday morning at the Port of Mobile.

The frustration that many felt was typified by Janie Esparza, one of the first passengers to get back on land.

“It was horrible. Horrible,” Esparza told a scrum of reporters. “The bathroom facilities were horrible and we could not flush toilets. No electricity and our rooms were in total darkness. Honestly, think that this ship should have ever sailed out.”

The Carnival Triumph, became a major media story, when it caught fire off the coast of Mexico. The blaze left the vessel listing to the side, drifting in Gulf of Mexico currents and the more than 4,200 passengers and crew on board in limbo. It took five days for the ship to dock at the Alabama Cruise Terminal, three days after it was due.

Finally, after days of listing on a disabled Carnival cruise ship without electricity and working toilets, thousands of passengers finished disembarking early Friday morning at the Port of Mobile.

The frustration that many felt was typified by Janie Esparza, one of the first passengers to get back on land.

“It was horrible. Horrible,” Esparza told a scrum of reporters. “The bathroom facilities were horrible and we could not flush toilets. No electricity and our rooms were in total darkness. Honestly, think that this ship should have ever sailed out.”

The Carnival Triumph, became a major media story, when it caught fire off the coast of Mexico. The blaze left the vessel listing to the side, drifting in Gulf of Mexico currents and the more than 4,200 passengers and crew on board in limbo. It took five days for the ship to dock at the Alabama Cruise Terminal, three days after it was due.

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.

Boredom and stress

At some point during the ordeal 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, said Larry Poret.

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

“We definitely (were) not adequately informed,” Poret said.

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.

After a bad cruise, can you cruise into court?

The final trip home

Carnival promised an army of about 200 employees would take care of its passengers once they cleared customs.

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

Carnival said it had reserved about 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

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.

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.

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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A little more than four days after their ship was disabled by an engine fire, the more than 4,200 people on board the Carnival cruise ship Triumph finally reached port Thursday night.

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.

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.
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Chicago woman describes conditions on nightmare cruise

Lincoln Park resident Rian Tipton describes conditions on Carnival Cruise ship as its towed in to port.

Kim McKerreghan stood in the dark at dockside in the Port of Mobile early Wednesday, worried sick about her 10-year-old daughter and her ex-husband, both passengers on the distressed cruise ship being towed there. carnivalcruiseshipstranded

Her daughter, Allie Taylor, called her in a panic Sunday after a fire broke out in the Carnival Triumph’s engine room.

Automatic sprinklers extinguished the blaze but the flames paralyzed the ship’s propulsion system, leaving it temporarily marooned in the Gulf of Mexico, subject to the whims of wind and sea currents.

“Mommy, it’s so scary,” McKerreghan said her daughter told her. “I want to come home.” McKerreghan fought back tears as she recalled the conversation. “Just come get me,” her daughter begged her.

The cell phone signal was bad, and they ended the call, leaving the mother from Lufkin, Texas, feeling helpless. “I wanted to have a meltdown,” McKerreghan said. “I’m going to have that moment here,” she told CNN’s Victor Blackwell at the Alabama port.

Two tug boats are dragging the nearly 900-foot, 14-story Triumph at a jogger’s pace to the harbor, where Carnival hopes to return 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members to freedom on Thursday, the cruise line said.

The convoy was approximately 160 nautical miles from port around 9 a.m. Wednesday, on track to arrive at the Mobile dock approximately between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Thursday, according to an official briefed on plans for the recovery of the ship.

The Triumph is expected to navigate the “safety fairway,” or the corridor into Mobile Bay, late Wednesday night, bringing it, around 8 a.m. Thursday, to the point where a pilot from the Port of Mobile will board the ship and guide it to dock, the same official told CNN.

Mobile Infirmary Health Services has offered to set up a triage unit at the port, in case any debarking passengers need medical assistance, Alabama Cruise Terminal General Manager Sheila Gurganus said Tuesday.

Then, after what Gurganus predicted would be “easy access out the door of customs with your luggage,” Carnival will try to take care of its passengers on land.

The cruise line has reserved more than 1,500 hotel rooms in Mobile and New Orleans, about a two-hour drive away, for Thursday night. In addition, Carnival has arranged for more than 20 chartered flights on Friday to ferry the stranded vacationers to Houston, the closest major city to the cruise’s origination point, Carnival President Gerald Cahill has said.

Unsanitary conditions

The cruise ship left Galveston, Texas, for a Caribbean tour last week and was scheduled to arrive back there Monday.

That day, McKerreghan’s ex-husband, stranded at sea, phoned to say the sanitary situation had already begun to deteriorate on board the Triumph.

“He said that the conditions have gotten so bad that they’re asking them to use the restroom in bags, and they were eating onion sandwiches,” McKerreghan said.

The call was the last she has heard from them.

Much of the ship’s electrical power went down in the fire, causing widespread malfunctions, including taking out sanitary systems.

Passengers have reported sewage sloshing around in hallways, flooded rooms and trouble getting enough to eat.

“It’s disgusting. It’s the worst thing ever,” passenger Ann Barlow told CNN.

“From what I understand, they’re walking around in a lot of urine and fecal matter, and the sewers are backing up,” McKerreghan said. Her doctor gave her antibiotics to give her daughter as soon as she gets on land. A checkup will follow as soon as possible.

Passenger Jet Hilton from Crawfordsville, Indiana, has relied on her sense of humor to get through the ordeal, her sister Jennifer Stanfield told CNN affiliate WTHR.

Four thousand people on a stranded ship can’t flush, Hilton jokingly messaged Stanfield to vent about the stench on board.

Carnival has said that most of the Triumph’s 23 public restrooms and some others are working. But with the large number of people on board, they will at least have to stand in line.

Other inconveniences

Hilton stood in line for three hours waiting for something to eat, her sister said.

“People ahead of her hoarded food,” Stanfield said. “By the time she got up there, all she could get was a hamburger and some waters.”

Hilton and 20 of her girlfriends booked the cruise to celebrate one of their birthdays.

She is a former cheerleader, Stanfield said, and is doing what she can to keep her group’s spirits up.

The fire also cut power to air conditioning, and the ship is very hot, Stanfield said. Passengers are flocking to the deck for fresher, cooler air.

The crew has higher priorities to fulfill than cooling cabins with what electricity the ship does have.

“They have to make sure there’s adequate power to keep the ship from sinking or burning further,” said Dr. Richard Burke from the University of New York Maritime College.

The fire also knocked out the ship’s stabilization system, causing it to list, Burke said.

“There’s time when the ship is leaning pretty hard, and you’re worried you’ll flip,” said passenger Donna Gutzman.

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.

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.

The cruise company apologized for the current conditions on board the Triumph and said it was using its full resources to help the passengers.

“No one here at Carnival is happy about conditions on board the ship,” said Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill Tuesday. “We are very sorry about what is taking place.”

Damage control

Passengers will get a free flight home, a full refund for their trip and for most expenses on board, as well as a credit for another cruise, Carnival said.

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.

McKerreghan drove over from Texas together with a friend, Mary Poret, whose 12-year-old daughter Rebekah is on board, with Poret’s ex-husband.

Poret also received a frightening call from her daughter after the fire and feared they may never see each other again. “I will grab her, hold her in my arms and not want to let go,” she said.

Though the ship is not expected to arrive until after noon Thursday, they don’t mind the wait. They’d rather be a day early than two minutes late.

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

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