Carnival Cruise Ship Triumph
The vacation ship carrying some 4,200 people docked late Thursday in Mobile to raucous cheers from passengers weary of overflowing toilets, food shortages and foul odors.
"Sweet Home Alabama!" read one of the homemade signs passengers
affixed alongside the 14-story ship as many celebrated along deck rails
lining several levels of the stricken ship. The ship's horn blasted
several times as four tugboats helped it to shore at about 9:15 p.m.
CST. Some gave a thumbs-up sign and flashes from cameras and cellphones
lit the night.
"It was horrible, just horrible" said Maria Hernandez, 28, of
Angleton, Texas, tears welling in her eyes as she talked about waking up
to smoke in her lower-level room Sunday from the engine-room fire and
the days of heat and stench that followed. She was on a "girls trip"
It took about four hours for all passengers to disembark.
Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen
said passengers had three options: take a bus straight to Galveston,
Texas, to retrieve cars parked at the ship's departure port, take a bus
to New Orleans to stay at a hotel before a charter flight home or have family or friends pick them up in Mobile.
As if the passengers hadn't endured enough, one of the buses broke
down during the two-hour ride to New Orleans. Carnival spokesman Vance
Gulliksen said the passengers got on another bus and made it safely to
New Orleans. Passengers aboard another bus also said their luggage was
Gulliksen said up to 20 charter flights would leave New Orleans later
Friday to take guests who stayed in hotels there to their final
Nearly 2,000 passengers arrived at a New Orleans Hilton in the wee hours, and by dawn many were headed out again to fly to Houston. They then had to get a connecting flight home or chartered bus back to their cars in Galveston.
"It just feels so good to be on land again and to feel like I have
options," said Tracey Farmer of Tulsa, Okla. "I'm just ready to see my
family. It's been harder on them than us I think because they've been so
worried about us. It's been extremely stressful for them."
Buses arrived at the Port of Galveston on Friday morning after an
eight-hour drive from Mobile. Port of Galveston police said they
expected as many as 800 people by bus.
While complaints about Carnival itself piled up, passengers nearly universally praised the crew.
"The crew was awesome. I don't know how they did it, I mean, gloves,
masks, sprays — they were up and down the hallway 24/7. Our little cabin
boy, I don't know when he slept because he was always in there cleaning
our bathrooms," said Brandi Dorsett, 36, of Sweeny, Texas.
In Mobile, tugs pulled the ship away from the dock Friday, moving it
down a waterway in the direction of a shipyard where city officials said
it will be repaired. Gulliksen said the damage assessment was ongoing
and the company did yet have a timetable for the repairs. Several
cranes were stationed alongside the ship and smoke could be seen spewing
from its generators.
Only hours earlier, weary passengers streamed down the gangplank, some in wheelchair.
For 24-year-old Brittany Ferguson, of Texas, the worst part was not knowing how long they would be at sea.
"I'm feeling awesome just to see land and buildings," said Ferguson,
who was in a white robe to keep her warm during cold nights.
As the ship pulled up, some aboard shouted, "Hello, Mobile!" Some
danced. "Happy V-Day" read one of the homemade signs made for the
Valentine's Day arrival and another, more starkly: "The ship's afloat,
so is the sewage."
A line of taxis waited for people, and motorists on Interstate 10
stopped to watch the exodus of passengers. Some still aboard chanted,
"Let me off, let me off!"
It took six grueling hours navigating the 30-mile ship channel. At nearly 900 feet in length, it was the largest cruise ship ever to dock at Mobile.
Galveston is the home port of the ill-fated ship, which lost power in
an engine-room fire Sunday some 150 miles off Mexico's Yucatan
A team of six investigators from the National Transportation Safety
Board was in Mobile to look into what caused the engine room fire, NTSB
spokesman Keith Holloway said Friday.
The NTSB was working with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bahamas
Maritime Authority, which will serve as the primary investigative
agency. The Bahamian government was taking the lead because the Triumph
is a Bahamian-flagged vessel and it was in international waters at the
time of the fire, Holloway said.
Still, the NTSB could take information from the probe and use it to
make recommendations for improving cruise ship safety, he said.
Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill apologized at a news conference and later on the public address system as people disembarked.
"I appreciate the patience of our guests and their ability to cope
with the situation. And I'd like to reiterate the apology I made
earlier. I know the conditions on board were very poor," he said. "We
pride ourselves on providing our guests with a great vacation
experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case."
Joseph and Cecilia Alvarez of San Antonio said some passengers passed the time by forming a Bible study group.
"It was awesome," he said. "It lifted up our souls and gave us hope that we would get back."
The company disputed the accounts of passengers who described the
ship as filthy, saying employees were doing everything to ensure people
In a text message, Kalin Hill, of Houston, described deplorable conditions over the past few days.
"The lower floors had it the worst, the floors 'squish' when you walk
and lots of the lower rooms have flooding from above floors," Hill
wrote. "Half the bachelorette party was on two; the smell down there
literally chokes you and hurts your eyes."
Passengers were supposed to get a full refund and discounts on future
cruises, and Carnival said it would give an additional $500 in
"This is my first and last cruise. So if anyone wants my free cruise,
look me up," said Kendall Jenkins, 24, of Houston. Bounding off the
ship in bathrobes, she and her friend Brittany Ferguson immediately
kissed the pavement at the Port of Mobile in Alabama.
Associated Press writers Danny
Robbins in Dallas; Mike Graczyk in Houston; Ramit Plushnick-Masti in
Houston; Stacey Plaisance in New Orleans; Bob Johnson in Montgomery, Ala.; and Melissa Nelson-Gabriel in Mobile, Ala.; contributed to this report.
If you were on the Carnival Cruise Ship Triumph, please call the Kemp Law Firm to assist in any recourse you may have. 281-681-2600