Carnival Cruise Passengers On Fourth Day With Limited Power

It's turned out to be a lot more than just a three-hour tour. For passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph, a four day pleasure cruise has turned into a nightmare. The ship lost power in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday and is being slowly towed to port in Alabama. The company says it's working to ensure safety and passenger comfort. But on board, passengers say toilets aren't working, food is scarce and conditions are horrible.

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Passengers aboard the Carnival Cruise ship Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico will be very happy tomorrow when their cruise finally ends. A fire in the engine room knocked out power aboard the ship. And for four days, the Triumph has had no air conditioning, little hot food and a limited number of operating toilets. Three tugboats are now towing the Triumph to dock in Mobile, Alabama. NPR's Greg Allen reports, in the meantime, Carnival says it's doing everything it can to ensure passenger safety and comfort.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: It was supposed to be a luxurious four-night cruise in the Western Caribbean. But on Sunday, the day before it was to return to port in Galveston, a fire broke out in the engine room. It was quickly extinguished. The fire knocked out power to the vessel's engines and to the rest of the ship. Using emergency generators, Carnival says it's been able to restore limited power. But passengers say without proper ventilation and enough working toilets, much of the ship's interior has become uninhabitable. Ann Butler is a passenger who talked via cell phone to CNN.

ANN BUTLER: Our room is flooded, there's sewage - raw sewage, pretty bad. When you walk in the hallways, you have to cover your face. We don't have any masks for breathing. It's disgusting. It's the worst thing ever.

ALLEN: Carnival says power has been restored to all the ship's public restrooms and some cabins. The company has diverted other cruise ships to transfer food and supplies to the Triumph. A Coast Guard cutter is also standing by, accompanying the tugboats that are slowly pulling the crippled ship to port. Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill held a news conference in Miami in which he apologized to passengers and their families.

GERALD CAHILL: There's no question that conditions on board the ship are very challenging, all right? I can assure you that everyone on board on the Carnival team and everyone shoreside is doing everything they can to make our guests as comfortable as possible.

ALLEN: Because of the smell and lack of ventilation, many passengers on the Triumph have been sleeping outside on the open deck.

JIMMY MOWLAM: It's starting to look like a shantytown up there with mattresses everywhere, people pitching sheet tents and everything.

ALLEN: In Beaumont, Texas, Jimmy Mowlam has been in regular contact with his son Rob, who's on board the Triumph with his new wife, Stephanie. They were married during the cruise. Mowlam says his son reports that with the engines and stabilizers out, the ship is listing slightly to starboard.

MOWLAM: And the ship's people told them that was due to the wind, that the ship swung around with the listing side into the wind and it didn't change. So it's not getting any worse or changing. It's just that they can't do anything with the ship except float.

Carnival says it has 1,500 hotel rooms booked tomorrow in Mobile and New Orleans to accommodate passengers after they dock, plus 20 charter flights to get them back to Houston on Friday. The company says all passengers will receive full refunds, a credit for a future cruise, and, because of the very challenging circumstances, an additional $500 in cash. The problems aboard the Triumph come two years after Carnival experienced a similar fire that knocked out power on a different cruise ship.

ALLEN: In addition, the company is facing a number of lawsuits over the wreck in Italy of the Concordia, a ship operated by a subsidiary. This new incident is another setback for the company during its peak season, and one that will carry a big cost, according to an analyst as much as $80 million. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

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