Crippled cruise ship slowly limping toward shore
February 14th, 2013
08:04 PM ET

Crippled cruise ship slowly limping toward shore

  • Tugboats towing crippled Carnival Triumph from Gulf of Mexico to Alabama port
  • Passenger to CNN by phone: "Just get us out of here."
  • More than 3,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members living in squalid conditions since fire knocked out power on Sunday.
  • Ship expected in Mobile, Alabama, Thursday night or early Friday.
  • Get updates below; watch live; read our full story here; read: passengers, family vent online
  • Are you aboard? Share your story

[Updated at 8:04 p.m. ET] Triumph passenger Sylvester Davis, backing up what other passengers have said today, told CNN by phone that the ship was cleaner today.

“It got a lot better once the notification went out that the (National Transportation Safety Board) and the Coast Guard was coming on board," Davis said. "They spent a lot of time cleaning up, and it's sort of frustrating because it doesn't look like now the way it’s been looking and the way we've been living.”

[Updated at 7:36 p.m. ET] We've received video, taken Sunday morning, showing smoke from the fire that knocked out the ship's power. The video was sent to us by passenger Megan Clemons-Foxall.

[Updated at 7:26 p.m. ET] The end of the trip is near: The ship is about 17 miles from the dock. We're anticipating an arrival between 10 p.m. ET and midnight ET.

It won't be over immediately for the crew and passengers. Because more than 4,000 people are aboard, and there's just one working elevator, Carnival anticipates it'll take about four or five hours to get everyone off the ship.

[Updated at 6:20 p.m. ET] Like other passengers who talked to CNN today, passenger Julie from Lake Charles, Louisiana, tells CNN by phone that the crew members have been great.

"The crew has worked nonstop," she said. "They have been (working) from daylight till dark. Once they got a break, it was too hot in their deck to sleep. Too hot, no air flow.”

Julie, her daughter, her sister and a couple of nieces took the trip together. Their cabin was too hot to sleep in since Sunday's power outage, so they've been sleeping in the hallway outside.

"Miserable. Probably the worst time in our life," Julie said. "We’ve had to put a lot of faith in God."

Food has been available, though some people - worried that the food supply would run out - hoarded, sometimes making it difficult for others to get food immediately, she said.

[Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET] We've been getting a bunch of pictures from Triumph passengers ahead of the ship's docking. Here's one that passenger Megan Clemons-Foxall sent of what she said was "buckets of sewage" in a stairwell aboard the ship.

We wrote earlier about passengers improvising cell-phone charging stations with surge protectors and the few still-working outlets or computers. Here's a look at one of these stations, from passenger Kaitlyn Robertson.

For more pictures, check out this gallery.

[Updated at 5:04 p.m. ET] The Coast Guard has taken one guest off the ship because of a medical issue, out of an abundance of caution, Carnival Senior Vice President Terry Thornton said.

[Updated at 4:36 p.m. ET] CNN has had a helicopter flying over the ship, and passengers are clearly aware. Here's some people arranging themselves on the deck, spelling what appears to be "help."

[Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET] Even after the ship docks tonight or early Friday morning, passengers still will have a while to wait before they can leave.

It could take four to five hours for Carnival to complete the disembarking process, because of the ship's power problems, said Terry Thornton, Carnival senior vice president. The ship has only one working elevator right now, he said.

Thornton says the ship could dock between 10:30 p.m. ET Thursday and 1:30 a.m. ET. Friday.

[Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET] We have a new estimated time of the Triumph's arrival at port in Mobile: From 10:30 p.m. to midnight ET. This comes after a delay precipitated by a busted towing line.

The line was replaced not long ago, and tugboats are again moving the ship.

[Updated at 4:01 p.m. ET] More descriptions of sewage running down the ship's interior walls this week: Triumph passenger Darryl Malone tells CNN that that "it sounded like it was raining" sewage at one point.

Malone echoed what passenger Donna Gutzman told us earlier - things are cleaner today.

"Today they tried to clean it up and make it look better, because everyone (including the Coast Guard) came on board," Malone told CNN's Brooke Baldwin.

[Updated at 3:49 p.m. ET] The cruise ship is moving again, thanks to a replacement tug line, Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Olivia says.

A line between a tugboat and the cruise ship broke this afternoon, so the tugging was halted while a replacement was attached.

Meanwhile, it appears officials are committed to having the Triumph docked tonight.

According to Justina Strong with the Alabama State Shipping Authority, the Triumph is in the shipping channel - that indicates officials do intend to have the ship at port tonight.

[Updated at 3:41 p.m. ET] Triumph passenger Donna Gutzman says that the ship is much cleaner today than it had been.

"This ship was a wreck before (the Coast Guard boarded the ship today)," Gutzman said. "We were walking through urine."

When she woke up this morning, "all the chairs on the deck were lined back up ... (and) the water that was standing has been vacuumed," she told CNN's Brooke Baldwin by phone from the ship.

[Updated at 2:57 p.m. ET] A few more details about our interview with passenger Julie Morgan earlier this hour - she offered some more insight on why she and others people with rooms on the lower floors had been sleeping on the deck over the past few nights.

Morgan's first-floor room had little ventilation after the outage, and was "very hot and extremely smelly."

Sewage "backed up unto our showers," she said. The ship has been listing since the outage, and "water goes into our rooms," she said.

"We don’t really stay down there. We have our luggage up on our beds to stay dry. We're only going down there to change clothes and take a kind-of shower,” she said.

Though people have had to wait in lines for food, people aren't left in hunger. "We're not hungry at all. We're doing fine on that front," Morgan said. The Coast Guard and a sister cruise ship had dropped off supplies this week.

[Updated at 2:48 p.m. ET] Another passenger tells CNN that the crew members have been great.

"The crew has been wonderful. Couldn't have asked for nicer crew members,” passenger Kimberly Ware told CNN's Brooke Baldwin by phone from aboard the ship.

Ware confirmed what Carnival wrote minutes ago on Twitter: The tugging process has been delayed. Carnival wrote that a tug line broke and is being replaced.

The worst part of the trip for Ware was Sunday's fire, she said. Just the day before during muster drills, crew members told passengers that fire was the greatest danger for cruise ships, she said.

"The lowest point for me was waking up and seeing the smoke and glow from the fire. That was very, very frightening to me, and the hours after that until we knew we were safe," Ware said.

[Updated at 2:38 p.m. ET] There's been a hiccup in the towing operation:

[Updated at 2:31 p.m. ET] If you're wondering why some passengers are just now talking to their onshore relatives by phone - in some cases for the first time in days - passenger Julie Morgan offers an explanation:

First, there's the reception situation. Since Sunday's power outage, people generally haven't had cell phone reception except in brief periods of time when other cruise ships came nearby, Morgan told CNN by phone minutes ago. Since the ship is coming close to Alabama's shore, reception is better.

Second, people have struggled to keep their cell phones charged. A generator is on the ship. Passengers have "rigged charging stations from the ship computers," Morgan said. She didn't go into too much detail, but apparently it involves lots of surge protectors.

[Updated at 2:18 p.m. ET] Though the conditions are bad, Triumph passenger Julie Morgan has nothing but compliments for the ship's crew.

"The crew on the ship has been phenomenal," Morgan told CNN by cell phone moments ago. "Never a bad word (from them). They've been working to the bone,” only getting three hours of sleep at a time, she said.

"All our complaints would be with the head office in Miami," Morgan said.

Morgan said she's frustrated about communication with Carnival officials on land - it took her a while to figure out how she was getting home, because the ship had departed from and initially was supposed to return to Houston.

Her husband is meeting her in Mobile. He told CNN that although Carnival is offering to transport passengers to a hotel in New Orleans, he said he plans to stay with his wife for a night in Mobile.

[Updated at 2:13 p.m. ET] It's been an interesting climate change for the passengers and crew - it's 51 degrees in the Mobile, Alabama, area, and it was cooler this morning. Passengers have told us by phone that they've been wearing bathrobes to stay warm today - remember, most didn't pack for a cool day, since it was a cruise to the Caribbean.

But most of the past five days, people on board have been dealing with stifling heat. Last night, passenger Julie Morgan told CNN by cell phone, people were sleeping under sheets on the deck.

[Updated at 1:48 p.m. ET] CNN's Chad Myers reports that strong winds and unfavorable currents still are hampering efforts to tow the stricken cruise ship toward shore. The Carnival Triumph, with the help of four tugboats, is currently moving at just 1 mph.

[Updated at 1:19 p.m. ET] About 30 minutes ago we wrote about getting a father and daughter on the ship to wave to our helicopter camera. The video also showed the pair's friends, including 10-year-old Allie Taylor and her father.

Allie's mother, Kim, who is not on the ship, saw it on CNN. The mother and the daughter talked by phone moments ago, and CNN carried the conversation.

"It’ll be soon baby, very soon. You’ll be here tonight," Kim told her daughter.

Allie told CNN about the sanitary situation on the ship.

"We have to use the restroom in a bag because the water doesn’t work,” she said.

Earlier today, passenger Larry Poret, the friend of Allie's father, told CNN by phone that 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.

A couple dozen toilets on the ship are working, Carnival has said.

[Updated at 1:01 p.m. ET] One man who has relatives on the ship, including his 18-year-old daughter, drove from Indianapolis to Mobile to greet them when the ship finally docks.

The man, Rusty Adkins, talked to CNN's David Mattingly moments ago as he waited on shore for the ship. Adkins had just talked privately to his relatives by phone, and he relayed what his daughter had told him about the conditions aboard.

"The ship listed to one side, so grease and sewage and fluids are building up on one side of the ship," Adkins said. "She said it’s kind of nasty. It's not a very good situation at all."

[Updated at 12:46 p.m. ET] We seem to have managed a remote mother-daughter reunion of sorts. While we've been in contact with passenger Larry Poret and his daughter Rebekah Poret by phone, we got them to wave from the deck to the helicopter, and then got Rebekah to talk on air to her mother, who didn't take the cruise and is waiting for them on land.

The mother, Mary, told Rebekah that she'll be waiting for her with a warm blanket.

Rebekah had a request for her mom:

"Have some McDonald's there, too. We’re hungry!”

[Updated at 12:39 p.m. ET] The ship is now visible from shore in Alabama, but the ship has quite a way to go - it's about 45 miles away, and it still has to navigate a channel, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield reports.

[Updated at 12:33 p.m. ET] More details about the sanitary situation: Carnival has said a couple dozen toilets - for the more than 4,000 people aboard - are working. Triumph passenger Larry Poret tells CNN by phone that the toilets' functionality has been erratic.

"The toilet will flush one time, and the next time you need them to flush they won't. They may not flush for hours and hours," Poret said.

[Updated at 12:29 p.m. ET] Passengers have reported sewage sloshing around in hallways, flooded rooms and trouble getting enough to eat.

Talking to CNN by phone, Triumph passenger Larry Poret says he's not particularly worried about food at this point.

"To be honest with you, we're just tired. ... Just get us out of here."

[Updated at 12:24 p.m. ET] CNN's video shows passengers on the Triumph with makeshift signs saying "The ships afloat" and "Get us to Louisiana."

[Posted at 12:16 p.m. ET] CNN has a helicopter giving us our first live views of the crippled ship Carnival Triumph - where thousands of passengers have been living in squalid conditions - limping toward port in Mobile, Alabama, Thursday afternoon.

It's been a nightmare five days for the 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members on board the 900-foot, 14-story Triumph, where a fire broke out in the engine room early Sunday. Much of the ship's electrical power went down in the fire, causing widespread malfunctions, including taking out sanitary systems.

Passengers have been gathering on the deck for days to get away from terrible smells and stifling heat on the inside, though as the ship gets closer to shore, the air is colder, and some are huddling together with whatever blankets or bathrobes they can find.

A passenger, Larry Poret, is on the phone with CNN - he says he's frustrated and just wants off the ship.

“We're frustrated. ... Why can’t we have more tugboats?" he said.

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Filed under: Travel
soundoff (162 Responses)
  1. Sam

    Let it go adrift and see where it ends up.

    February 14, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rose M Guidry

    What happens to the crew once all the passengers have disembark? If Deck 1 is flooded can you imagine how bad the lower decks, where the crew lives, is like?

    February 14, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. doctornitro

    What was interesting to me was another, smaller Carnival ship continued to pull alongside the stranded ship to drop off supplies. Why didn't they instead pick up people??

    February 14, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rose M Guidry

      With the waves and winds it would be too dangerous to have someone walk from one ship to another. The Triumph is listing and with both ships bobbing up and down it would be impossible to have someone walk from one to another on a plank or gangway. Especially small children and elderly people with walkers.

      February 14, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • doctornitro

      Didn't think of that, really. I did think "well surely we can figure something out..." If it was me, I'd volunteer to vault across LOL!

      February 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mary Ellen W

    Why did they not evacuate the passengers to another ship or onto the lifeboats?

    February 14, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boater

      Much too dangerous.

      February 14, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sam

    Fox News would never show anything like this. It would have to be a political event for them to spend money to show the crippled ship.

    February 14, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. karen S

    why did they not come back to Galveston, where most passengers cars are parked?

    February 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ishtiaq

    Why haven't they send similar size ship to evacuate them?

    February 14, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boater

      Much too dangerous to evacuate them that way. That type of evacuation is only used in the even that the risk is less than leaving the passengers aboard (ie, if the ship is sinking)

      February 14, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Michelle Mitchell

    I saw moments ago where a tow line has now broken and the ship is not moving at all.

    February 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dave Thompson

    The ship is listing! Wait, which ship is that? This one going 'the speed of a lawn mower' doesn't seemed to be listing too much...lots of people ambling around deck waving to helicopters.ha ha. I better go look up 'listing' in the dictionary...

    February 14, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    4000 people had a choice. They knew there was going to be a risk. Nobody is going to get sued. Before it's over with,they'll make a big cover up of it, to pick up the next 4000 suckers.

    February 14, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Andy

    Here is the real news behind this whole situation. My wife was on this same boat the week before this incident. They were delayed the whole first day from even boarding due to lack of power in the engines. They were supposed to go to Cozumel and Progresso, but due to the engine problems they only got to go to Progresso. I wonder why no one is talking about how Carnival knew that ship had engine problems and obviously did not fix it before attempting to embark on another voyage.

    February 14, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • ronvan

      ANDY: The answer is simple, MONEY!

      February 15, 2013 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
  12. bezerkur

    This story has been a comic relief for me personaly.What a fitting story for people who have the time and money to go on a cruise. To bad it wasnt hurricane season..

    February 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      If a few days of waiting in lines, backed up sewers and limited food is the worst thing to happen to these cruisers, they certainly have charmed lives. They obviously don't know anything about hardship.

      February 14, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. djsurgets

    if they are so close why dont they send a smaller ship to take them off the boat and get them to land faster?

    February 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • American Pie


      February 14, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. American Pie

    These people should have been evacuated off the ship days ago. Exiting and boarding the ship is done all the time for excursions. It sounds like the seas were calm, the ship wasn't moving. They bring smaller vessels along side these ships all the time for excursions.

    February 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. todd

    How spoiled are the richest 1% of the worlds people. The conditions on that ship are better than most of the world. Maybe we should worry about rescuing the children in orphanages around the world starving and sitting all day in filthy diapers.

    February 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
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