Crippled Ship’s Tow Line Snaps On Way To Shore

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MOBILE, Ala.
(AP) — The crippled Carnival cruise slowly making its way back to dry
land suffered another setback Thursday when a tow line snapped, setting
the ship adrift once again as crews worked to repair it.

On
board, passengers described overflowing toilets, sewage backed up in
showers, scarce food and people getting sick, bringing the scene into
sharper focus after a week at sea. What began as a four-day voyage in
the Gulf of Mexico has turned into a vacation nightmare, not at all the
luxury cruise touted in brochures.

Passengers
were expected to make it to shore Thursday night – only to then face an
hours-long bus ride or other travel hassles to finally get back home.
Frustrations with the cruise line were simmering on and off the ship, as
passengers and their relatives questioned why it has taken so long to
get back to dry land after an engine-room fire disabled the ship Sunday.

“There's
poop and urine all along the floor,” Renee Shanar, of Houston, said
from her cellphone aboard the ship. “The floor is flooded with sewer
water … and we had to poop in bags.”

The ship was in sight of the Alabama shore Thursday afternoon when the tow line broke.

Until
the repair is complete, the ship is “dead in the water and when they
reconnect safely, they then proceed on their way,” Coast Guard Petty
Officer William Colclough said.

The 14-story
ship still has to negotiate a tricky shipping channel before it could
dock. Before the line broke, the ship was traveling about 5 mph.

Television
images from CNN showed passengers with signs of “Help” and “I love you”
hanging from their cabin rooms. Others walked around the deck, some
waving to the helicopters flying above. People in boats, presumably
officials from Carnival, the Coast Guard and Customs, have boarded the
ship.

Shanar, who is on the ship with her
husband, said the couple had a cabin with no windows, so they have been
sleeping outside for days. She said the food has been distributed on the
9th floor, and some of the elderly have needed younger people to bring
it to them. They were initially only given cold cuts, like turkey and
vegetable sandwiches. Then another cruise line dropped off hamburgers
and chicken sandwiches, but the line for that fare was nearly four hours
long.

“And then people started getting sick from the food,” she said.

The
company has disputed the accounts of passengers who describe the ship
as filthy, saying employees are doing everything to ensure people are
comfortable.

Terry Thornton, senior vice
president for Carnival Cruiselines, said they received an extra
generator that allowed them to serve hot food on the ship Wednesday
night, and that the food services will be fully operational when they
are docked.

That isn't expected until at least
8 p.m., perhaps later and the massive ship still needs to travel
through tricky turns and cross currents – all without the help of its
engines.

“This is going to be a long day,” Thornton said. “There is no way we can speed up the process.”

When
passengers arrive in Alabama, their stay will be short. Carnival said
in a statement late Wednesday that passengers were being given the
option of boarding buses directly to Galveston, Texas, or Houston – a
roughly seven-hour drive – or taking a two-hour bus ride to New Orleans,
where the company said it booked 1,500 hotel rooms. Those staying in
New Orleans will be flown Friday to Houston. Carnival said it will cover
all the transportation costs.

“I can't
imagine being on that ship this morning and then getting on a bus,” said
Kirk Hill, whose 30-year-old daughter, Kalin Christine Hill, is on the
cruise. “If I hit land in Mobile, you'd have a hard time getting me on a
bus.”

Hill is booking a flight from Amarillo, Texas, to New Orleans to meet his daughter when she gets there.

Vance
Gulliksen, a Carnival spokesman also said the company chose to bus
people to New Orleans because it “offered additional capacity and
flexibility which was important to us.”

Thelbert Lanier was waiting at the Mobile port for his wife, who texted him early Thursday.

“Room
smells like an outhouse. Cold water only, toilets haven't work in 3 1/2
days. Happy Valentines Day!!! I love u & wish I was there,” she
said in the text message, which was viewed by The Associated Press.
“It's 4:00 am. Can't sleep…it's cold & I'm starting to get sick.”

Robert
Giordano, whose 33-year-old wife Shannon is aboard the cruise liner
with a group of friends of hers from Edmond, Okla., said he has yet to
speak to someone at Carnival. All his information has come through
pre-recorded phone calls, the most recent one Wednesday afternoon when
he was told the ship would “probably” arrive in Mobile late Thursday or
early Friday. He got better information, he said, when the “Today” show
called him.

“A complete utter surprise to me.
I'm excited but I didn't know about that,” Giordano said. “That's the
biggest frustration for me now is that the media knows more than the
family members do and certainly more than the passengers do on the
ship.”

Gulliksen said the Triumph is now
expected arrive in Mobile between 8 and 11 p.m. Thursday. He said the
company has tried to keep families updated and established a toll-free
number for friends and relatives. Gulliksen said about 200 Carnival
employees are in Mobile waiting to assist passengers upon their arrival,
and some will go on board to assist when the ship sails in.

The
ship left Galveston for a four-day cruise last Thursday with 3,143
passengers and 1,086 crew members. The ship was about 150 miles off
Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula when an engine room fire knocked out its
primary power source, crippling its water and plumbing systems and
leaving it adrift on only backup power.

No one was injured in the fire, but a passenger with a pre-existing medical condition was taken off the ship as a precaution.

In
Mobile, officials were preparing a cruise terminal that has not been
used for a year to help passengers go through customs after their
ordeal.

Mobile Mayor Sam Jones questioned the
plan to bus passengers to other cities, saying the city has more than
enough hotel rooms and its two airports are near the cruise terminal.

“We
raised the issue that it would be a lot easier to take a five-minute
bus ride than a two-hour bus ride” to New Orleans, Jones said. Jones
said Carnival employees will be staying in Mobile.

Carnival
Cruise Lines has canceled more than dozen more planned voyages aboard
the Triumph and acknowledged that 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.

Gulliksen
said the Triumph's recent mechanical woes involved an electrical
problem with the ship's alternator on the previous voyage. Repairs were
completed Feb. 2. He said there was no evidence between the previous
problem and the fire.

Passengers are supposed
to get a full refund and discounts on future cruises, and Carnival
announced Wednesday they would each get an additional $500 in
compensation.

Once docked, the ship will be idle through April.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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