The Carnival cruise ship Triumph is now scheduled to arrive at Mobile's port late Thursday night, as the job of towing the stricken 100,000-ton ship hundreds of miles across the Gulf of Mexico has taken longer than expected. Since an engine room fire Sunday, the ship's 3,143 passengers have coped with sewage problems and a lack of ventilation.
"The ship is now expected to dock at the Mobile cruise terminal between 8 and 11 p.m. this evening," reports Cruise Critic. Carnival says it has sent a third tug to help guide the Triumph to port.
"Pipes are busting, I know the sewer is backing up, and water is in the cabins, and it's just a nightmare," passenger Jamie Baker told NBC's TODAY show, in a phone interview from the ship.
Mirroring other reports from the ship, Baker said that while food has been available, there have been long lines. She also reported that people have used trash cans as toilets.
"Like Katrina in the Dome, except it's afloat," Baker tells TODAY.
The Carnival cruise line, which has previously stated it would refund nearly all expenses related to the cruise and give passengers a credit for a future voyage, has now said it will also pay each passenger $500. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Coast Guard reported the vessel was still 108 nautical miles south of Mobile.
"We know it has been a longer journey back than we anticipated at the beginning of the week under very challenging circumstances. We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure," Carnival president Gerry Cahill said Wednesday. He added, "I look forward to welcoming everyone to Mobile tomorrow and have mobilized our full resources to assist and support them as they travel home."
This morning, the Triumph received 3,000 pounds of supplies from a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, a payload that included a generator and electrical cables. The ship has been operating under emergency generator power since Sunday's fire. It has also received food and other supplies from at least three other Carnival cruise ships.
But those efforts could do little to improve the Triumph's problems which have included a shortage of working toilets and hot food, as well as stiflingly hot interior cabins that have forced many passengers to sleep on the open upper decks, relying on improvised tents.
Passengers have been able to contact the mainland via texts and phone calls during resupply visits made by other ships. Tuesday, Cahill admitted that conditions on the Triumph are "challenging," saying that his cruise line is doing its best to keep them comfortable.
Carnival says it will have around 200 employees waiting to meet the Triumph and assist its passengers as they begin the journey home one week after they departed Galveston, Texas, on a four-day cruise. The cruise line is providing hotel rooms in New Orleans, and it has chartered flights out of Houston, Texas, to help passengers get back home.
Both of those options would mean hours-long bus rides — it's about two hours to New Orleans and seven to Houston. Passengers who drove will be taken back to Galveston.
In Mobile, officials are upset that their town is being bypassed in favor of New Orleans. While Cahill said earlier this week that the cruise line had booked 1,500 rooms in Mobile and New Orleans, Carnival now says all rooms are in New Orleans.
"Those poor people haven't showered in five days," Maura Garino, vice president of the Holiday Inn Downtown, tells The Houston Chronicle. "Who wants to get on a bus?"
The next 14 voyages of the Triumph have been cancelled. After the ship arrives tonight, a team of Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board will begin an investigation into the fire and the ship's response to it.