Bus trip awaits passengers
MOBILE, Ala.—After days stranded in the Gulf of Mexico in conditions some have described as dismal, most passengers aboard the disabled Carnival Triumph can look forward to an hours-long bus ride today after they reach dry land.
The company announced its plan for passengers late yesterday as the Triumph was being towed to a port in Mobile, Ala. with more than 4,000 people on board—some of whom have complained to relatives that they have limited access to food and bathrooms.
Those staying in New Orleans will be flown tomorrow to Houston. Carnival said it will cover all the transportation costs.
Speaking by phone to NBC’s “Today” show this morning, passenger Jamie Baker said conditions on the ship were “extremely terrible.”
There has been no electricity and few working toilets, she noted.
Baker also described having to use plastic bags to go to the bathroom and wait in line for hours to get food, and once saw a woman pass out line.
“It’s just a nightmare,” she stressed.
Baker said she and her friends slept with their life vests one night because the ship was listing and they feared it would tip over.
Vivian Tilley, whose sister, Renee Shanar, is on the ship, said Shanar, of Houston, told her the cabins were hot and smelled like smoke from the engine fire, forcing passengers to stay on the deck.
She also said people were getting sick.
The company has disputed the accounts of passengers who describe the ship as filthy, saying employees are doing everything to ensure people are comfortable.
Meanwhile, officials in Mobile were preparing a cruise terminal that has not been used for a year to help passengers go through Customs after their ordeal.
The Triumph was expected to arrive this afternoon.
Mobile Mayor Sam Jones questioned the plan to bus passengers to other cities late yesterday, saying the city has more than enough hotel rooms to accommodate passengers and its two airports are near the cruise terminal.
“We raised the issue that it would be a lot easier to take a five-minute bus ride than a two-hour bus ride [to New Orleans],” Jones said.
He noted Carnival employees will be staying in Mobile, adding he was not told of the company’s reasoning for putting passengers on extended bus rides after their experience at sea.
“I don’t know if the passengers even know that,” Jones added.
Earlier yesterday, Carnival Cruise Lines cancelled a dozen more planned voyages aboard the Triumph and acknowledged the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before the engine-room blaze.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the cause.
Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen acknowledged the Triumph’s recent mechanical woes, explaining there was an electrical problem with the ship’s alternator on the previous voyage.
Repairs were completed Feb. 2.
Testing of the repaired part was successful and “there is no evidence at this time of any relationship between this previous issue and the fire that occurred on Feb. 10,” Gulliksen said.