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Conditions on disabled cruise ship in dispute

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:02 a.m. HST, Feb 13, 2013

HOUSTON » A cruise line says it is making the passengers stranded aboard a disabled ship in the Gulf of Mexico as comfortable as possible with running water and some working bathrooms, contradicting the accounts of some passengers who told relatives of filthy, hot conditions and limited access to food.

The ship, the Carnival Triumph, is still at least a day from being guided to a port in Mobile, Ala.

Carnival President Gerry Cahill said Tuesday the ship has running water and most of its 23 public restrooms and some of the guest cabin bathrooms were working. He downplayed the possibility of an outbreak of disease from unsanitary conditions, saying the ship had not seen an abnormal number of people reporting to the infirmary as being ill.

"No one here from Carnival is happy about the conditions onboard the ship," Cahill said at a news conference in Miami. "We obviously are very, very sorry about what is taking place."

Jimmy Mowlam, 63, whose 37-year-old son, Rob Mowlam, got married Saturday onboard the ship, said his son told him by phone Monday night that there is no running water and few working toilets. He said passengers were given plastic bags to "use for their business."

Despite a forecast of brisker winds and slightly higher seas, the Coast Guard and Carnival said they did not expect conditions to deteriorate aboard ship.

A cold front was expected to cross the central Gulf where the vessel is under tow, bringing north and northwesterly winds of 15 to 25 mph and seas of 4 to 6 feet, said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.

However, such conditions shouldn't affect conditions aboard ship, said Bill Segelken, spokesman for the Coast Guard Galveston command center.

The ship was about 200 miles south of Mobile, Ala., as Tuesday faded into  today, the Coast Guard said. Carnival says the ship is expected to arrive in Mobile on Thursday.

The ship left Galveston, Texas, for a four-day cruise last Thursday with 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members. The ship was about 150 miles off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday when an engine room fire knocked out its primary power source, crippling its water and plumbing systems and leaving it adrift on only a backup power.

No one was injured in the fire, but Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva said Tuesday that a passenger with a pre-existing medical condition was taken off the ship as a precaution.

Everyone else likely will have to remain onboard until the ship reaches Mobile, Ala., which is expected to happen Thursday, weather permitting.

Besides two tugs, at least two other Carnival cruise ships have been diverted to the Triumph to leave supplies and a 210-foot Coast Guard cutter was at the scene, Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm said Tuesday.

Mowlam said his son told him the lack of ventilation on the Triumph had made it too hot to sleep inside and that many passengers had set up camp on the ocean liner's decks and in its common areas. Mowlam said he wasn't sure where his son was sleeping.

"He said up on deck it looks like a shanty town, with sheets, almost like tents, mattresses, anything else they can pull to sleep on," said Mowlam, of the southeast Texas town of Warren. His son is from nearby Nederland.

Mowlam said his son indicated that passengers are trying to make the best of a bad situation.

"So far people have been pretty much taking it in stride," Mowlam said his son told him.

Rob Mowlam told his father the ship's crew had started giving free alcohol to passengers.

"He was concerned about what that was going to lead to when people start drinking too much," Mowlam said.

Other passengers have described more dire conditions, including overflowing toilets and limited access to food.

Jay Herring, a former senior officer for Carnival Cruise Lines, said one of the biggest concerns crew members will have until the ship docks is the potential for disease outbreak, particularly norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea.

"Housekeeping, others are probably working double shifts to keep the mess clean and wipe down and sanitize all the common areas," said Herring, who worked for Carnival from 2002 to 2004 and spent four months on the Triumph.

Carnival hasn't determined what caused the fire, said Oliva, the company spokeswoman.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Tuesday it has opened an investigation into the cause of the fire. The NTSB said the Bahamas Maritime Agency will lead the investigation because the ship carries a Bahamian flag.

The ship was originally going to be towed to a port in Progreso, Mexico, but after currents pushed it northward, the company decided to take it to Alabama, saying it would make it easier for passengers without passports to get home.

Cahill said Carnival has reserved more than 1,500 hotel rooms in Mobile and New Orleans for Thursday. The company plans to return passengers back to Houston on Friday using charter flights.

A similar situation occurred on a Carnival cruise ship in November 2010. That vessel, named Splendor, was stranded with 4,500 people aboard after a fire in the engine room. When the passengers disembarked in San Diego, they described a nightmarish three days in the Pacific with limited food, power and bathroom access.

Cahill said the Spendor's fire was different because it involved a "catastrophic explosion" in a diesel generator, and the Triumph's fire had "some other cause." He could not say what the economic impact will be due to the fire aboard the Triumph. The impact from the Splendor was $40 million, he said.

Carnival canceled the Triumph's next two voyages, scheduled to depart Monday and Saturday. Passengers aboard the stranded ship will also receive a full refund.


Associated Press writers Terry Wallace in Dallas and Christine Armario in Miami contributed to this report.

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manakuke wrote:
The cruise from Hades.
on February 13,2013 | 05:29AM
loquaciousone wrote:
What do you need toilets as sea for? Just lean over the side and heave ho......
on February 13,2013 | 05:57AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
With over 4,000 people on board they should have at least 2,000 oars. Then they could just paddle back to shore. Do I have to think of everything?
on February 13,2013 | 10:44AM
cojef wrote:
Since the emergence of mega-ship stopped cruising in 2004 after 20 cruises ships smaller 1,500 passengers. Cruised 11 times with Crystal Cruise Lines and feel it as a premier cruise line. Last cruise was on the Crystal Harmony on its last cruise, before being remodeled for the Asian clientle, and re-named the Asuka II. Her capacity was 960 passengers and cruised aboard her on maiden and final cruises. Sailed on Crystal Symphony on her pre-christening from London to New York City where he christened by non other than Angela Langsbury. The liner was christened one day late due to encountering a severe storm and the route was re-routed to the avoid the storm. Know the feeling of not having toilet facilities in that, experienced it aboard the New Amsterdam sailing out of Fort Lauderdale where a section of toiets became inoperable because the a departing passenger from the former cruise accidently dropped a towel in the toilet. Had to sleep in the lounge that night so that I could have excess to public toilet.
on February 13,2013 | 07:30AM
waikiicapt wrote:
This is but one example of a long, well documented, embarrassing history of incidents involving ships where the safety of the ship, it's passengers and crew, and/or environment are placed at risk. Sadly, most people in Hawaii have no idea...and that's just how the North West Cruise Ship Association (NWCA) likes it. Hawaii is the LEAST regulated state when it comes to monitoring what cruise ships do while they sail our coastal waters. Alaska, California, and Washington scrutinize far more than Hawaii, the operations onboard these ships. We should take note. While local lobbyists for the NWCA continue to pontificate about how their ships never have problems because of their "modern and redundant systems" onboard, those claims are in large part a bunch of lies. One small fire such as the world has seen aboard the TRIUMPH and in 2010 aboard the SPLENDOR, can disable a ship within just a few minutes. BTW, in case you think this could never happen here, you should know the CARNIVAL SPLENDOR just passed through Hawaii two weeks ago. These are the same ships that we see in Hawaii all year, all the time. There is a great risk, along with some rewards, in having some of the largest cruise ships in the world transiting our state's waters. Local residents, especially those living on the neighbor islands, should be asking their legislators questions about a current issue pending before them. The NWCA is 'demanding' a reduction in the use of a tug that escorts large ships through our neighbor island ports. This goes against historical practice. Hawaii has seen success in achieving a safe record of these ships transiting our waters, specifically because tugs have been available to local pilots during many well documented incidents and "near misses". But the local NWCA lobbyists want to save money by not having to pay for tugs. They want Hawaiians to assume all the risk and the rich cruise ship owners (Mickey Arison, worth over $5 billion dollars) see all the gain. Look out Hawaii. Don't trust anything you hear from a representative of any cruise ship company. Or their lobbyist. It's amazing what some campaign donations to enough well placed politicians can accomplish. Especially when you start at the governor's office.
on February 13,2013 | 07:38AM
bluebowl wrote:
Mahalo, for the information.
on February 13,2013 | 08:03AM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
carnival is full 'o ****.
on February 13,2013 | 09:26AM
waikiicapt wrote:
Actually...their ship is. Literally.
on February 13,2013 | 10:53AM
localguy wrote:
Carnival failed to learn from their earlier incident where the ship also lost all power due to an engine room fire. They have no backup plan to deal with this type of event, no separate power system to operate water, power and toilets. Carnival knew it could happen again, decided to be cheap, not spend the money, no concern for passenger comfort. Wait till all these passengers get back to land and post videos and pictures of the event, showing the real truth. Carnival will try to push the passengers not to do this, have them sign statements before refunding their money. This is what you do when you have shoddy management, clueless CEO, all with the intent to rip off as many passengers as possible. Wait till the inspection finds out what really happened and slams Carnival with a massive fine.
on February 13,2013 | 10:34AM
waikiicapt wrote:
Sadly, we won't find out. The USCG announced yesterday that they and the NTSB "are investigating" this matter. Wrong. That was strictly a PR move to make themselves look good and assuage the American public. They have no bearing or jurisdiction in this matter and everyone should know, they will be allowed limited entry and investigation on the TRIUMPH. The incident took place on an international voyage in non US waters. The flag state is Bahamas and they will manage any (if there is one) investigation. However, Carnival is a big player and the regulating authority in a little office in Bahamas knows well where their business comes from. They will only actually investigate this incident as much as Carnival allows it to happen. THAT is why these incidents reoccur. Carnival (Actually it's Mr. Mickey Arison) is interested in one thing only; getting the TRIUMPH back in revenue generating mode. Minimal effort and time and money expended to clean and repair the ship. Then, back in service. Every time you read a media release about this event, they ALWAYS refer to the next voyage being canceled. Really? Like you needed to tell us that? The SPLENDOR was out for months after her fire. It was expensive. This will be too. Carnival and the cruise industry in general need to be watched, constantly, by everyone. They would get away with murder if they could. Oh, wait...they have. Lot of crew and passengers have gone missing in recent months with little or no investigations by anyone. The US Congress actually tried to pass a law where the public could get more information from them regarding these incidents. BUT...well the FBI got involved and changed some wording on the law at the last minute before passage, making it more difficult for the public to learn (and far easier for the cruise ships to not report) any details about "incidents" onboard these ships. Safety? What a joke.
on February 13,2013 | 10:53AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
The passengers are given bags and told to pooop in them.

Good thing Neil is not in charge of the boat. He would charge 10 cents for each bag.

on February 13,2013 | 10:40AM
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