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Carnival Triumph Nightmare Cruise

triumphThe Carnival Triumph was on the third day of a planned four-day cruise from Galveston, Texas, to Mexico when a fire broke out and brought the trip to a halt.

Stranded on the crippled ship, passengers and crew lived with worsening conditions. The Triumph was eventually towed into port in Mobile, Alabama.

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Washington (CNN) — The fire that crippled the Carnival cruise ship Triumph started with a leak in a fuel-oil return line running from one of the ship’s engines, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday.

Leaking oil hit a hot surface, starting the fire, said Teresa Hatfield, the lead investigator for the Coast Guard. Hatfield said there was no indication the leak in a flexible hose section was intentional.

cruise-fire“Fire suppression was immediately activated by the crew, first by waterfog and then by (carbon dioxide). They did a very good job,” Hatfield said.

“We are looking at the cause of the fire and why the ship was disabled for so long, and we are also looking at the crew response to the fire as well.”

Hatfield said the investigation will last for several months.

The Coast Guard said it has conducted 21 interviews with passengers and crew members since Thursday, when investigators boarded the ship while it was still at sea.

Hatfield said the oil return line is one of the items that is routinely inspected, but she did not say when it was last inspected or describe its condition at that time.

Vance Gulliksen, a spokesman with Carnival Cruise Lines, told CNN Monday that the ship’s last scheduled Coast Guard inspection was on November 15.

Gulliksen also said the cruise line agreed with the Coast Guard’s determination of the origin of the fire.

Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Diaz said the line ran from the ship’s “number-6 engine” to a fuel tank.

The Triumph was on the third day of a planned four-day cruise from Galveston, Texas, to Mexico when the fire broke out and brought the trip to a halt.

It was carrying more than 4,200 people, including 3,100 passengers. The Triumph was eventually towed into port in Mobile, Alabama, Thursday night, and the last passengers disembarked Friday.

Stranded on the crippled ship, passengers and crew lived with worsening conditions, as toilets stopped working, and waste spilled onto floors and into hallways. Passengers had to use plastic bags to collect their waste.

Passenger Cassie Terry described the ship as “a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish, a floating hell” in a lawsuit filed Friday against Carnival for unspecified damages related to the cruise.

Passengers reported long lines for food, shortages of fresh water and widespread boredom. Many passengers slept in hallways or outside to escape the odors and heat below decks.

Patrick Cuty, a senior marine investigator for the Coast Guard, told CNN Sunday that investigators had located the area where flames erupted in the engine room.

“We know that the fire originated in front of a generator,” Cuty said. “You can see the ignition marks on the wall.”

There are three generators in the engine room where the fire broke out. Three other generators are in a second engine room that wasn’t involved in the fire, Cuty said.

The same ship encountered a problem in January with its propulsion system, according to a notice posted on the website of Carnival senior cruise director John Heald.

On Saturday, Carnival crew members were bused to and from the ship to help with the clean-up. One housekeeper told CNN it wasn’t pleasant work but said it had to be done, and the crew was willing to do it.

Passengers have praised the crew for its response during the ordeal.

Because the Carnival Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel, the Bahamas Maritime Authority is the primary investigative agency and will work with the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Investigators pulled the voyage data recorder, a device that records alarms, voice communications on the bridge, engine speed, navigation information and rudder angle, Cuty said.

It appears that the fire suppression worked as designed, Cuty said Friday. The engineer who was on watch around dawn February 10 saw the fire ignite over a video feed and immediately notified the bridge, Cuty said.

Remember the days of the Love Boat? Seems that all we’re seeing these days are tales of disaster at sea.

We’ve seen outbreaks of gastro-intestinal illness, ships crashing into rocks and now, the non-so-triumphant Carnival Triumph. But can these disasters be avoided?

We’re now learning that no regulating authority reviews whether cruise ships are up-to-date on mechanical requirements.

The information may not sit well with potential passengers who just witnessed one dirty, stinky disaster on the Carnival Triumph.

Helicopters caught people spelling the word “help” with their bodies on deck.

Questions linger even though they’re now home after days of hell on the high seas.

Thousands of passengers and crew members had to camp out in hallways and on deck, trying to avoid raw sewage spilling out of their toilets and sloshing across floors.

One week ago, an engine room fire cut off electricity and disabled the ship in many ways.

People were hot, cold, miserable — basically left in the dark as Triumph floated aimlessly in the Gulf of Mexico before finally being towed to Mobile, Alabama.

One group of young friends says they have taken several cruises, but Triumph was one trip they want to forget.

“Yeah, it feels like we’ve been there for a year at least,” one of them told CNN.

10-year-old Allie Taylor Kept a diary during the ordeal.

“We’re hot and sweaty and tired. But I can’t sleep unless we die or something…” she wrote.

When asked if she really thought she was going to die, she replied, “I thought we were going to tip over in case the tug boat got out of control cause it was dark outside.”

“It’s been a rough one, but my God, it’s so good to be home right now, you don’t even know,” another passenger, Lisa Miller, remarked.

Everyone wants to know what happened. Ships are basically independent cities floating at sea.

In U.S. waters, the Coast Guard is typically responsible for investigating problems with cruise ships.

Bahamian officials, however, are the lead investigators in this case becasue Triumph is registered in Nassau.

Areas of focus include the cause of the fire, the crew’s response, engine maintenance and safety procedures on board the ship.

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board are assisting officials from the Bahamas.

Carnival is compensating all passengers, but many people feel it’s not enough, and they plan to file lawsuits.

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.


The Love Boat, it ain’t.

A crippled Carnival Cruise ship finally docked tonight in Mobile, Alabama.

Many passengers, however, are still stuck on board as it will take hours for the more than four-thousand people to disembark.

One woman says getting **off** the ship was the best part of this cruise.

“It was terrible.  Toilets didn’t work.  No air, no electricity.  People are on edge.  I think they weren’t telling us everything that was happening to us.”

Finally — dry land.

Thousands of people are now heading home after a cruise catastrophe.

They endured several days of deplorable conditions on board what was supposed to be a luxury trip from Galveston, Texas to the Caribbean.

Last week, about 31-hundred passengers and more than one-thousand crewmembers set out on the Carnival Triumph.

But on Sunday, an engine room fire cut off electricity, leaving Triumph…not so triumphant.

The ship was adrift, floating, powerless, listing.

Passengers were able to send out pictures and tales of sleeping in hallways and on deck, with feces and urine spilling out of toilets that were not working…sloshing across floors and seeping through walls.

They were hot, they were cold, they were miserable.

Apparently there was one disaster after another.

For example, problems with tug boat lines breaking certainly didn’t help the situation.

Triumph was originally supposed to dock in Mexico, but then rerouted to Alabama.

Many people describe the trip as **hell** on the high seas.

A reporter at the scene tonight in Alabama says you can smell sewage from the dock.

Carnival says it will compensate passengers for their trouble.

The cruise line will give each passenger $500, a free flight home, a full refund for the trip and credit for another cruise.

– Chris Wolfe, KTLA News