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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soundoff (162 Responses)
  1. Paul E. Tomlinson

    While I was watching the cruise ship video, I saw black smoke comming from the starboard side smokestack. What is the crew trying to do? Purge the engine ? Meaning any extra laiden fuel/oil from the systems?

    February 14, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave Thompson

      Or we have a new Pope!

      February 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. tgelvin

    Carnival has told us how they will compensate the passengers, my question is how is Carnival going to reward it's employees for such an extraordinary job they have done over and above any normal cruise? These employees deserve some sort of monetary reward for their job.

    February 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Dave Thompson

    Welcome to our viewers in the US and around the world...I'm Wolf Blitzer. Happening now!! Breaking news,! Cruise ship Catastrophe. Stay tuned for our exclusive coverage from land sea and air, and our White House correspondent aboard Air Force One where the president is expected to make a brief comment before doing a fly over to view the hellish scene of destruction and horror. ..and our exclusive interview with Bill Gates who is leading the fundraising effort for the Carnival Triumph Memorial to be built this summer in Washington DC. Also, other stuff happening in the world...

    February 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Mani

    Why cant they do evacuation using heliciopters and get people out in small teams based on their medical needs etc., while it reaches shore slowly? Cant this be done?

    February 14, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeffery

      umm the amount of time for the helicopters to land, get people aboard, and fly that distance at only teams of 5-6 would be a long time.. It would be about 5-6 times faster doing it the way they are doing it right now.

      February 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • kat

      It would be very dangerous to offload passengers at sea - either by life boat or chopper. They are safest where they are right now - as long as they can remain there without further problems on board. I know it is not pleasant, but people tend to be far too demanding in these situations.

      February 14, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mani

      One thing to comfort is regardless of the the poor living conditions all of them have been exposed to, most passengers are talking about the crew being good, really helpful, working very hard et all. Appreciate the crew who are putting up a bold face and doing the best they can.

      February 14, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. IssyLC76

    Just wondering if this is even close to the conditions the slaves had to endure on their passages??? Just asking!!!

    February 14, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ctookes

    ...conditions probably are a bit challenging out there but I'm sure pale in comparison to those of the Middle Passage.

    February 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Karen Garvey

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHVSr67wjEo&version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0%5D

    February 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Duh

      what is this garbage?

      February 14, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rob T

    You gonna tell me the cruise line could'nt send another boat to them today or yesterday and off load to better ship. Or we as a nation with a Navy could'nt get a ship over there. Come on!!!! Some one needs to get sued and their butts wipped for this one. This is SAD to the MAX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RACOOK

    WHY DIDN'T THEY USE THE LIFE BOATS TO GO ASHORE

    February 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • columbus

      Good Point!

      February 14, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • M. S.

      Lifeboast are a last resort. its far more safer on the ship than an open life raft headig to shore. too dangerous to transfer the perssenger at sea unless it was a matter of life or death.

      February 14, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Anirban

    Could they just try restarting the engines once ? :)

    February 14, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. ctookes

    Uhh! Smoke would actually be white if Pope is elected. Just and FYI -

    February 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave Thompson

      Good call....we'll have to wait for the next vote before we habemus a papem...

      February 14, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. AJ

    Why aren't they deploying the lifeboats or sending out other boats to transfer the passengers and crew to take them to shore? Why didn't they just go to Galveston instead of going all the way to AL and then transporting them back to TX?

    February 14, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Portland tony

    A interesting story...but no one was injured, killed or maimed. If there was a problem with the safety of the passengers they would have been crossdecked to another vessel long ago. They just get to tell their grandkids about their cruise to hell!

    February 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. jane

    Many thanks to Dr. Sanjay Gupta for throwing a little common sense into the discussion.........

    February 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave Thompson

      Amen to that...Dr Wolf was getting a little hysterical

      February 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Stephy

    What's ironic about all this is the name of the ship... Carnival Triumph...Definition 1. To be victorious or successful; win. 2. To rejoice over a success or victory;exult. Etc...OH THE IRONY! On another note Hope these passengers get back safe and sound ASAP!

    February 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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