No vacation here--Carnival cruise ship tugging to the U.S.

Credit: AP

In this image released by the U.S. Coast Guard on Feb. 11, 2013, a small boat belonging to the Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous patrols near the cruise ship Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico, Feb. 11, 2013. The Carnival Triumph has been floating aimlessly about 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula since a fire erupted in the aft engine room early Sunday, knocking out the ship's propulsion system. No one was injured and the fire was extinguished. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard- Lt. Cmdr. Paul McConnell)

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by BILL MCGINTY / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @billwcnc

WCNC.com

Posted on February 12, 2013 at 4:51 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 12 at 7:20 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- From a distance everything looks like a great vacation, but listen to the passengers on board calling news outlets, the vacation is anything but great.

The Carnival Cruise ship Triumph is now under tugboat tow to Mobile, Alabama after it was determined the U.S. coast was the best and closer option other than Mexico.  And, time is of the essence for the people on board. It’s uncomfortable and reports say people are stepping over raw sewage and sleeping up on deck because of no air conditioning.

Kevin Weisner is a veteran cruiser and runs cruise deals travel in Charlotte.  He said he was alerted of the Triumph issues over the weekend.

“We have a couple of cabins booked on one of the next two sailings, so we are working to get those customers their refunds,” Weisner said.

On their website, Carnival wrote that “all guests on the current carnival triumph voyage will receive a full refund for the cruise along with transportation expenses. In addition, they’ll receive a future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for this voyage as well as being reimbursed for on-board ship purchases except for the gift shop and casino.”

The last cruise-gone-bad headline was the Costa Concordia in 2012, which partially sank near Italy, killing 32 people.

Weisner says he took four cruises last year and noticed an emphasis on safety. 

“I noticed a real stepped up emphasis on safety, including people dressed in haz-mat suits.  It was impressive to see,” he added.

The Triumph should be back in the U.S. Thursday morning.

Stranded cruise passengers facing dirty conditions

HOUSTON (AP) -- Family members of passengers onboard a disabled cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico say their loved ones are trying to take the hot and dirty conditions in stride.

Jimmy Mowlam told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his son Rob and new daughter-in-law got married onboard the Carnival Triumph on Saturday and are among the roughly 3,100 stranded passengers.

He says his son told him by phone Monday night that many passengers are sleeping on deck because the lack of ventilation made it too hot to sleep inside.

He says his son says passengers were mostly "taking it in stride."

Other passengers have described more dire conditions, including water and feces on the ship's floors.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A second tug boat reached a disabled cruise ship that had been drifting without power in the Gulf of Mexico since a weekend fire and was helping tow it Tuesday toward an Alabama port, the Coast Guard said.

There were no reported injuries caused by Sunday's engine room fire aboard the Carnival Cruise Lines ship Carnival Triumph, which knocked out power and crippled the ocean liner's water and plumbing systems.

The ship was about 150 miles off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula when the fire occurred, but after currents pushed it northward, a decision was made to tow it to Mobile, Ala., instead of Progreso, Mexico, in order to make it easier for passengers without passports to return home.

On Tuesday morning, the vessel was about 270 miles south of Mobile, and weather permitting, the ship should reach the city by Thursday, Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm said.

The ship left Galveston, Texas, last Thursday on a scheduled four-day cruise with 3,143 passengers and a crew of 1,086.

Besides the two tugs, at least two other Carnival cruise ships have been diverted to the Triumph to leave supplies and a 210-foot Coast Guard cutter was at the scene, Brahm said.

"If they do need any help, we're there," he said. "But that's kind of it, to make sure everything is OK."

Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva said Tuesday that a passenger with a pre-existing medical condition was transferred to one of those ships, the Carnival Legend, "as a precautionary measure."

Carnival hasn't determined what caused the fire or how it caused the electrical problems that have crippled the ship's water and plumbing systems, Oliva said.

"We're going to have to send this question around and see what we can find out," she said.

Passengers have limited access to bathrooms, food and hot coffee, but some described miserable conditions aboard the ship.

Carnival Cruise Lines President and CEO Gerry Cahill said in a statement Monday that the Carnival Triumph had drifted so far north of its original position that it made more sense to tow it to Mobile, allowing for less complicated re-entry for passengers without passports.

The fire in the aft engine room knocked out the ship's propulsion system. The ship has been operating on backup generator power since the incident, the statement said.

When another Carnival cruise ship, the Legend, rendezvoused with the stranded vessel Monday, Texas resident Brent Nutt was able to briefly chat with his wife, Bethany, who could draw a cellphone signal from the visiting cruise line.

Without power, the ship's stabilizers are apparently not working, Nutt told The Associated Press, and the massive liner had been leaning to one side Sunday. By Monday afternoon, the ship seemed more upright, he said.

"She sounded a whole lot better today than she did yesterday," Nutt said about two hours after chatting with his 32-year-old wife.

Oliva said the "very slightly" 4.5-degree list was caused by the 25-knot winds from the south-southeast, a condition not unexpected "given the wind speed and posed no safety risk."

It wasn't immediately certain if the list had been corrected with the ship under tow.

Nutt said his wife told him passengers were also given food and some of the bathrooms are working. But the ship is dirty, he said his wife told him.

"There's water and feces all over the floor," Nutt relayed. "It's not the best conditions. You would think Carnival would have something in place to get these people off the ship."

Passengers also are getting sick and throwing up, he said, adding that his wife told him: "The whole boat stinks extremely bad."

A similar situation occurred on a Carnival cruise ship in November 2010. That vessel was also stranded for three days with 4,500 people aboard after a fire in the engine room. When the passengers disembarked in San Diego they described a nightmarish three days in the Pacific with limited food, power and bathroom access.

Carnival said in a statement that it had cancelled the Triumph's next two voyages scheduled to depart Monday and Saturday. Passengers aboard the stranded ship will also receive a full refund, the statement said.

 

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