MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – The miserable cruise for passengers aboard the disabled Carnival Triumph has finally come to an end Thursday, despite a towline snapping, temporarily leaving the ship adrift just off the Alabama coast.
The ship docked at at the Port of Mobile at around 10:30 p.m. ET, but Carnival officials estimate it can take up to five hours for all passengers to disembark.
The ship was moving at a good clip Thursday when it suffered a setback. A tow line snapped and caused minor damage to the ship. Crews quickly repaired the tow lines to get the ship moving once again.
The four-day trip on the Carnival ship has turned into the vacation from hell.
Passengers on the ship have said there are overflowing toilets, sewage backed up in the showers, scarce food, and people getting sick.
Even when the passengers make it to land, they then face the choice of a hours-long bus ride or other travel headaches to return home. The entire situation has lead to growing frustration with Carnival on and off the ship.
"There's poop and urine all along the floor," Renee Shanar of Houston told the Associated Press. "The floor is flooded with sewer water...and we had to poop in bags."
Making matters worse is the ship is tantalizingly close to the Alabama shoreline, yet still crippled enough to prevent the passengers from disembarking.
Coast Guard Petty Officer William Colcolugh said Thursday that until repairs are completed, the Triumph is "dead in the water."
Chopper images from CNN showed passengers with signs of "Help" and "I love you" hanging from cabin rooms. The AP said people in boats believed to be officials from Carnival, the Coast Guard and Customs have boarded the ship.
Shanar said food was given out on the 9th floor and the elderly needed younger people to bring it to them. Shanar said initially, passengers were only given cold cuts until another cruise line dropped off hamburgers and chicken sandwiches.
The line for the burgers and sandwiches was reportedly four hours long.
Carnival has said the reports from passengers that the ship is filthy are not accurate and that employees are doing everything they can to make people comfortable.
The ship still has to make it through tricky turns and cross-currents just to make it to the dock in Mobile.
"This is going to be a long day," said Carnival vice president Terry Thornton. "There is no way we can speed up the process."
Carnival said once the ship is docked, passengers can either get on a bus for Galveston or Houston, Texas, which would take seven hours; or the passengers could take a two-hour ride to New Orleans where the company said it booked 1,500 rooms. Carnival said it would cover all transportation costs.
"I can't imagine being on that ship this morning and then getting on a bus," said Kirk Hill, whose 30-year-old daughter Kalin Christine Hill is on the ship. "If I hit land in Mobile, you'd have a hard time getting me on a bus."
Carnival said it chose to send passengers to New Orleans, rather than keeping them in Mobile, because the Crescent City, "offered additional capacity and flexibility which was important to us."
However, Carnival employees are staying in Mobile during the next few days.
In Mobile, officials were preparing a cruise terminal that has not been used for a year to help passengers go through customs after their ordeal.
Mobile Mayor Sam Jones questioned the plan to bus passengers to other cities, saying the city has more than enough hotel rooms and its two airports are near the cruise terminal.
"We raised the issue that it would be a lot easier to take a five-minute bus ride than a two-hour bus ride" to New Orleans, Jones said.
Thelber Lanier's wife was on the ship and he said she had reported the ship only had cold water and the toilets haven't worked in three-and-a-half days.
Vance Gulliksen, a Carnival spokesman, said the Triumph is expected to arrive in Mobile between 8 and 11 p.m. and that 200 Carnival employees are in Mobile to help passengers once the ship docks.
The ship left Galveston for a four-day cruise last Thursday with 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members. The ship was about 150 miles off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula when an engine room fire knocked out its primary power source, crippling its water and plumbing systems and leaving it adrift on only backup power.
No one was injured in the fire, but a passenger with a pre-existing medical condition was taken off the ship as a precaution.
Jones said Carnival employees will be staying in Mobile.
Carnival Cruise Lines has canceled more than dozen more planned voyages aboard the Triumph and acknowledged that the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before the engine-room blaze. The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation.
Gulliksen said the Triumph's recent mechanical woes involved an electrical problem with the ship's alternator on the previous voyage. Repairs were completed Feb. 2. He said there was no evidence between the previous problem and the fire.
Passengers are supposed to get a full refund and discounts on future cruises, and Carnival announced Wednesday they would each get an additional $500 in compensation.
Once docked, the ship will be idle through April.
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