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MOBILE, Alabama: Four tugboats were hauling the disabled Carnival Triumph cruise ship slowly into port in Mobile, Alabama, where authorities expected it to arrive soon, carrying more than 4,220 people who have endured days of unsanitary conditions and food shortages.
The 893-foot vessel, notorious for reports of raw sewage from overflowing toilets, has been without propulsion and running on emergency generator power since Sunday, when an engine room fire left it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.
The ship is operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, the flagship brand of global cruise ship giant Carnival Corp. It left Galveston, Texas, last Thursday carrying 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew and had originally been due to return there on Monday. Vance Gulliksen, a spokesman for Carnival Corp, said the final leg of the journey was slow.
A Coast Guard cutter has been escorting the Triumph on its long voyage into port since Monday and a Coast Guard helicopter ferried about 1,360kg of equipment including a generator to the stricken ship. Earlier this week, some passengers reported on the poor conditions on the Triumph when they contacted relatives and media before their cellphone batteries died.
They said people were getting sick from gut-wrenching odours aboard the sweltering ship, which had no working air conditioning, and said passengers had been told to use plastic “biohazard” bags as makeshift toilets.
Carnival Cruise Lines President and Chief Executive Gerry Cahill said the company had decided to add further payment of $500 per person to help compensate passengers for “very challenging circumstances” aboard the ship.
“We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure,” Cahill said. Mary Poret, who spoke to her 12-year-old daughter aboard the Triumph, rejected Cahill’s apology out of hand in comments to CNN, as she waited anxiously in Mobile with a friend for the Triumph’s arrival.
“Seeing urine and feces sloshing in the halls, sleeping on the floor, nothing to eat, people fighting over food, $500? What’s the emotional cost? You can’t put money on that,” Poret said.
Carnival said it had initially planned to tow the Triumph into Progreso in Mexico, the closest port to its location early on Sunday when the engine room fire occurred. But the ship drifted about 90 nautical miles north, due to strong currents, before the towing got under way, and that left it stranded roughly midway between Progreso and Mobile.