Feb 15 2013
Carnival Cruise Lines' boss has said he would go aboard and apologise personally to passengers for foul and dangerous conditions while the stricken liner Triumph was adrift for five nightmarish days.
Chief executive Gerry Cahill spoke as the Triumph limped into Mobile, Alabama, and said he appreciated the patience of the 3,000 passengers on board. Meanwhile he apologised on the public address system. He said Carnival prided itself on providing people with a great holiday "and clearly we failed in this particular case".
Distraught passengers told stories of overflowing toilets, food shortages, foul odours and dangerously dark passageways while the Triumph was disabled in the Gulf of Mexico. Passengers cheered raucously on the 14-storey ship, lining the deck rails as the first passengers began disembarking. As they did, others waiting were chanting: "Let me off, let me off!"
It took six gruelling hours navigating the 30-mile ship channel to dock, guided by at least four tugboats. At nearly 900ft in length, Triumph was the largest cruise ship ever to dock at Mobile.
But the passsengers' ordeal is not yet over - even once the ship is stable, it will take four to five hours for all the passengers to disembark, said Carnival senior vice president of marketing Terry Thornton.
Passengers have the option of a seven-hour bus ride to the Texas cities of Galveston or Houston or a two-hour trip to New Orleans. Some also can stay in Mobile. Galveston is the home port of the ill-fated ship, which lost power in an engine-room fire on Sunday about 150 miles off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.
Dozens of chartered buses - with markings from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas - had gathered in Mobile. Carnival said 100 buses had been reserved and it would cover transportation costs.
Earlier the more than 4,200 passengers and crew members suffered another setback with towline issues that brought the vessel to a stop for about an hour, just when it was getting close to port.
No-one was injured in the fire aboard, but a passenger with a pre-existing medical condition was taken off the ship as a precaution. In addition, the US Coast Guard said it evacuated a passenger who reportedly suffered a stroke.
Carnival Cruise Lines has cancelled a dozen more planned voyages aboard the Triumph and acknowledged 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.