Crippled Cruise Ship Finally Reaches Port

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MOBILE, Alabama — Finally, after days of listing on a disabled Carnival cruise ship without electricity and working toilets, thousands of passengers finished disembarking early Friday morning at the Port of Mobile.

The frustration that many felt was typified by Janie Esparza, one of the first passengers to get back on land.

“It was horrible. Horrible,” Esparza told a scrum of reporters.

“The bathroom facilities were horrible and we could not flush toilets. No electricity and our rooms were in total darkness. Honestly, think that this ship should have ever sailed out.”

The Carnival Triumph, became a major media story, when it caught fire off the coast of Mexico.

The blaze left the vessel listing to the side, drifting in Gulf of Mexico currents and the more than 4,200 passengers and crew on board in limbo

.It took five days for the ship to dock at the Alabama Cruise Terminal, three days after it was due.

Family members cheered as the ship pulled in and in the crowd also was Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill. The CEO had his own message for the weary passengers: Sorry.

“We pride ourselves in providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case,” he said.

The beleaguered CEO went on the ship as passengers departed and delivered another apology.

But for some, like passenger Norma Reyes, it was too little too late.

“The hallways were toxic,” said Reyes, who said she would never go on a Carnival cruise again.

“Full of urine. It was horrible. If that ship caught on fire, and they had not contained it where would we be? Floating in the ocean or dead.”

Others were more forgiving.

“They did a good job of managing expectations,” said Brett Klausman. “The information that trickled out was probably well thought out to kind of keep people safe and calm.”

Despite the ordeal, many passengers had nothing but praise for the crew, saying they had worked long shifts to make sure their guests were as comfortable as possible.

“No power, no toilets, nothing. Nothing. I mean, it was was disgusting, but the staff, they did such an amazing job,” said Joseph Alvarez.

“And I give them so much props because they were amazing through it all. I mean, they worked their tails off to accommodate everybody’s needs.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, Coast Guard members and a Carnival team boarded the ship before it arrived in port to help speed efforts to get passengers off as quickly as possible, he said.

Some families gathered at the Alabama Cruise Terminal, far from where the ship was originally supposed to dock in Galveston, Texas.

Marissa Jenks said her family reported they had a hot meal Thursday morning and crew members were trying to clean up the ship as it neared port.

Boredom and stress

At some point during the ordeal urine and feces streamed in the halls and down walls after toilet facilities failed, soaking the mattress of a friend of his who was sleeping in a hallway, said Larry Poret.

Emergency power failures caused section doors to slam shut, panicking some passengers who had no idea what was happening.

“We definitely (were) not adequately informed,” Poret said.

Poret said toilets on the ship worked on and off, but were too inconsistent to trust.

He said waste tipped out of some commodes and sloshed across floors as the ship listed to the side.

“It runs down the walls from one floor to the next. It’s running out of somebody’s bathroom out into the hallway all the way across,” he said.

Long lines for food and frequent delays were constantly aggravating, he said.

“Here we are looking for hope that, hey it’s 6 o’clock, it’s going to get better,” he said. “And 6 o’clock comes and goes and all of a sudden an announcement at 8, ‘Hey, we’re running behind schedule.’ Well, no joke.”

The incident aboard the ship scared Poret’s daughter and a friend taking the cruise with her, Poret said.

“As soon as you get them calmed down, the electric goes out and doors start slamming shut,” he said.

During less stressful times, passengers passed the hours playing cards, walking the deck and going to see what was happening on other areas of the ship, Poret said.

Passengers set up charging stations to help their fellow passengers juice up cell phones and other devices, he said.

The final trip home

Carnival promised an army of about 200 employees would take care of its passengers once they cleared customs.

Passengers boarded buses to Galveston, where the cruise originated, or Houston, or went to spend the night in a hotel in New Orleans.

Carnival said it had reserved about 100 motor coaches, more than 1,500 New Orleans hotel rooms, multiple charter flights from New Orleans to Houston on Friday and transportation from Houston to the Port of Galveston so that guests may retrieve their cars if they drove to the port.

Carnival officials had initially planned to tow the ship to a Mexican port, but after Gulf currents pushed it farther north before tugboats could take control.

And considering that 900 of the passengers do not have passports, the company decided to take the Carnival Triumph to Mobile instead, where it can be repaired.

Compensation for travelers

The cruise line said it would give each passenger $500, a free flight home, a full refund for their trip and for most expenses on board, as well as a credit for another cruise.

The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board launched an investigation into the cause of the engine room fire.

Because the Carnival Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel, the Bahamas Maritime Authority is the primary investigative agency.

Travelers have few options for compensation in these cases, other than what the cruise line is already offering, according to travel expert Jason Clampet of, a travel website.

“The passengers on the ship aren’t going to have a great deal of recourse when they get home,” he said.

Travel “insurance really doesn’t cover this sort of thing. Their trip wasn’t interrupted and they aren’t incurring extra expenses … so they can’t be compensated that way.”

Still, there’s no denying that the fire and resulting bad PR will hurt Carnival.

“It’s a terrible sight, thinking of people trapped on a ship with limited food and filthy conditions, so I think people will think twice about taking a cruise,” Clampet said.

Bad luck before

The fire is at least the second problem for the ship since late January, when it had an issue with its propulsion system, according to a notice posted on the website of Carnival senior cruise director John Heald.

It’s also not the first fire to disable one of the cruise line’s ships.

In 2010, the Carnival cruise ship Splendor lost power after an engine room fire, leaving it drifting off the Pacific coast of Mexico.

The USS Ronald Reagan ferried 60,000 pounds of supplies for the ship’s passengers and crew as the ship was towed to San Diego.

After this ill-fated cruise, the Carnival Triumph won’t host vacationing passengers until at least mid-April.

Carnival has canceled a dozen voyages scheduled between February 21 and April 13. That makes a total of 14 scratched trips.

The cruise line already had eliminated voyages slated for February 11 and February 16.


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  • Suzi Hayward

    I love cruising and for those of us who do it regularly, Carnival isn't top choice. Their cruise ships lack luster, entertainment, and quality food that you can find in other lines for the same price. We recently took a cruise on Carnival (as it was the only one available from our port and to our desired location, at that time), right before the cruise my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. When she tried to get a refund, they refused. She did not purchase insurance, and she should have, but is on a limited income…regardless, she had letters from her oncologist…they certainly could have afforded the $1300 refund….but they didn't. Now with news like this, and don't get me wrong…I so feel for the passengers, but it does go to show the quality of Carnival. One would think they may want to improve on customer service and rates before they find themselves obsolete!

  • Tajia

    When they cut cost on maintenance, they'd eventually end up with fire in the engine room. And this lesson wasn't learned from the 2010 incident. I guess when you have idiots who suffer with the disease called greed, this kind of mess usually what they would experience.

  • Tajiia

    When they cut cost on maintenance, they'd eventually end up with fire in the engine room. And this lesson wasn't learned from the 2010 incident. I guess when you have idiots who suffer with the disease called greed running the company, this kind of mess usually what they would experience.

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  • Rockina2

    Hey Tajiia you do realize mechanical things do break sometimes and for this to have happened twice in three years? At least this ship is upright and not laying on its side like the Concordia or an airplane with an engine fire. It is unfortunate but it sounds like Carnival has gone above and beyond to get these folks home and at no expense to them whatsoever. Of course the media goes out and finds the most hysterical Mom they can to interview.

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  • Sarah

    Who writes for KTLA? The articles on here have been so poorly written lately. The stories have several grammatical errors & often do not make sense.

  • Frank

    I'm glad to hear the crew went out of their way to help make the ordeal more comfortable. Anybody who has been on a cruise knows that the majority of the crew members are made up of mostly foreign (non-US) citizens., and it is clear they take pride in their work. I hate to say it, but if it were mostly Americans working on cruise ships, they would have jumped ship days ago.