Crippled cruise docks at Alabama terminal
By Jay Reeves and Ramit Plushnick-Masti, AP
February 16, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
MOBILE, Alabama--A cruise ship disabled for five nightmarish days in the Gulf limped into port under tow with more than 4,000 people aboard late Thursday, passengers raucously cheering the end to an ocean odyssey they say was marked by overflowing toilets, food shortages and foul odors.
People aboard the stricken, 14-story Triumph, lined the deck rails as passengers disembarked. The ship's horn loudly blasted several times on its final docking approach as some gave a thumbs-up sign and flashes from cameras and cellphones lit the night.
About an hour after the ship pulled up at 9:15 p.m. Central, a steady stream of passengers began making their way down the glass-enclosed gang plank, some in wheelchairs and others pulling carry-on luggage. One man gave the thumbs up.
An ambulance pulled up to a gate at the bottom of the gang plank and then its lights went on and it pulled away.
A few dozen relatives on the top floor of the parking deck of the terminal were waving lights at the ship as it was carefully making its way alongside. Those about were screaming, whistling and taking pictures.
Hundreds gawked from dockside at the arrival at the Alabama cruise terminal in Mobile, the state's only seaport, as the Triumph inched into port about 9:15 p.m. Central time. It took six grueling hours navigating the roughly 30-mile (48-kilometer) ship channel to dock, guided by at least four towboats. Nearly 900 feet (274 meters) in length, it was the largest cruise ship ever to dock at Mobile.
Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill apologized at a news conference.
"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 every poor," he said. "We pride ourselves on providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case."
Earlier on Thursday, the more than 4,200 passengers and crew members suffered another setback with towline issues that brought the vessel to a dead stop for about an hour just when it was getting close to port.
No one was injured in the fire aboard, but a passenger with a pre-existing medical condition was taken off the ship as a precaution. In addition, the Coast Guard said in a statement Thursday that it evacuated a passenger who reportedly suffered a stroke.
Passengers were supposed to get a full refund and discounts on future cruises, and Carnival announced Wednesday they would each get an additional US$500 in compensation.