Cruise Ship Returns to Florida

Frustrated passengers came ashore Wednesday complaining of sewage spills and a lack of water aboard their cruise ship, adrift two days in an area threatened by Tropical Storm Harvey.

"They said towards the last 24 hours the only thing they had to eat was cold sandwiches," reports Terry Soltau of CBS Affiliate WHNZ-AM, who greeted the passengers as they disembarked in Port Manatee, Fla.

"It's been hell on this ship," said Larry Clark, the mayor of Lake Alfred, Fla., who was aboard the 660-foot Tropicale with his wife, Sarah, and 4-year-old grandson, Jacob.

Passengers said they walked around raw sewage in hallways. They said water stopped flowing in cabin sinks, toilets and showers, but cold water was restored to sinks intermittently before the Carnival Cruise Lines ship docked with 1,700 passengers and crew.

Carnival spokesman Tim Gallagher denied conditions were quite that bad.

"I understand the guests' frustration that they don't think we are telling anything but the reality is we're telling them as much as we know," he told WHNZ.

An engine room fire disabled the ship Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico. Harvey churned up 12-foot seas in the area before turning south, sparing the ship and carrying heavy rainfall into South Florida.

As the ship sailed into Port Manatee on one engine Wednesday, a handmade sign displayed by passengers read "Five hour fire no H2O in toilet." Another said "Help No Water, No Toilet, No AC."

"Everyone was getting sick...They had no provisions at all for anybody that was sick," Clark said by cellular phone while waiting to disembark. "The Fun Ship turned into the ship of hell."

Gallagher had said Tuesday that the ship still had air conditioning, working toilets and electricity for guest cabins.

A passenger with a heart condition was airlifted from the ship early Monday.

Some passengers said they noticed plumbing problems before the fire, including overflowing toilets and toilets that wouldn't flush. They also complained that they received little direction from the crew and were misinformed about how serious the fire was.

"It was horrible," said David Rizzo, of Clearwater, Fla. "I've never seen stuff like that in my life."

Two Coast Guard investigators were airlifted to the ship Tuesday along with two cruise line inspectors. Coast Guard spokesman Luis Diaz said the ship was last inspected in October 1998.

The ship left Tampa on Thursday for a cruise that was to last four days, stopping in Key West and Cozumel, Mexico.

The cruise line promised all passengers a full refund, a free ticket for a future cruise and help rescheduling flights home, but reporter Soltau doubts many will accept the free pass.

"Most of the passengers I talked to say they wouldn't dare use the free ticket," said Soltau. "They say they wouldn't dare use Carnival again, their lives are more important."

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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