Carnival cruise ship on last leg of "very challenging" U.S. Gulf trip

Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:12am EST

* Exact arrival time still not clear

* Angry mother rejects cruise line executive's apology

By Kaija Wilkinson

MOBILE, Ala., Feb 14 (Reuters) - Three tugboats were hauling the disabled cruise ship Carnival Triumph cruise ship slowly into port in Mobile, Alabama, on Thursday where its arrival with more than 4,220 people aboard was expected later in the day, authorities said.

The 893-foot (272 meter) vessel, notorious for reports that it has been awash in raw sewage from overflowing toilets while passengers suffer from food and water shortages, has been without propulsion and running on emergency generator power since Sunday. That was when an engine room fire left it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.

The ship is operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, the flagship brand of global cruise ship giant Carnival Corp. It left Galveston, Texas, last Thursday carrying 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew and had originally been due to return there on Monday

There were conflicting reports about the Triumph's expected arrival time in Mobile. But Petty Officer Bill Colclough, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman, said the Triumph was located about 25 nautical miles south of the sea buoy near the entrance to Mobile Bay early on Thursday.

He said he was not sure exactly when the Triumph would make its final entrance into the port but added that it was expected to be sometime on Thursday afternoon.

A spokesman at Carnival Corp's headquarters in Miami had no immediate comment on the ship's estimated time of arrival.

A Coast Guard cutter has been escorting the Triumph on its slow moving journey into port since Monday and a Coast Guard helicopter ferried about 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg) of equipment including a generator to the stricken ship on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, some passengers who contacted relatives and media before their cellphone batteries died reported on the poor conditions on the Triumph.

They said people were getting sick from gut-wrenching odors aboard the sweltering ship, which had no working air conditioning, and said passengers had been told to use plastic "biohazard" bags as makeshift toilets.

In a statement late on Wednesday, Carnival Cruise Lines President and Chief Executive Gerry Cahill said the company had decided to add further payment of $500 per person to help compensate passengers for "very challenging circumstances" aboard the ship.

"We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure," Cahill said.

Mary Poret, who spoke to her 12-year-old daughter aboard the Triumph on Monday, rejected Cahill's apology out of hand in comments to CNN on Thursday, as she waited anxiously in Mobile with a friend for the Triumph's arrival.

"Seeing urine and feces sloshing in the halls, sleeping on the floor, nothing to eat, people fighting over food, $500? What's the emotional cost? You can't put money on that," Poret said.

The troubles on the Carnival Triumph occurred a little more than a year after 32 people were killed when the Costa Concordia, a luxury cruise ship operated by Carnival Corp's Costa Cruises brand, was grounded on rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio in Italy.