Carnival Cruise Lines cancelled 12 additional voyages of the cruise ship Triumph after an engine fire disabled the ship and stranded thousands of passengers.
The cancelled cruises, which include sailings from Feb. 21 through April 13, are in addition to two previously cancelled voyages departing from Galveston on Feb. 11 and Feb. 16.
The head of Carnival Cruise Lines said Tuesday his company was working hard to ensure the thousands of passengers stranded on the disabled ship in the Gulf of Mexico were as comfortable as possible while the vessel was being towed to port in Alabama.
The reassurances made by Carnival Cruise Lines President and CEO Gerry Cahill were in sharp contrast to what some passengers have told relatives about dirty and hot conditions aboard the ship, including overflowing toilets and limited access to food.
Cahill said the ship has running water and most of its 23 public restrooms and some of the guest cabin bathrooms are working. He downplayed the possibility of an outbreak of disease from unsanitary conditions, saying the ship hasn't seen an abnormal number of people reporting to the infirmary as being ill.
"No one here from Carnival is happy about the conditions on board the ship," Cahill said at a news conference in Miami. "We obviously are very, very sorry about what is taking place."
The Carnival Triumph left Galveston on Thursday and was supposed to return on Monday, but a fire broke out in an engine room on Sunday morning when it was about 150 miles away from the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The ship's automatic fire extinguishing systems kicked in and the fire was extinguished, officials said.
None of the 3,143 passengers or 1,086 crew members were hurt.
Carnival officials said the ship does not have propulsion and was about 250 miles south of Mobile as of Tuesday afternoon. Two tugboats are towing the disabled ship to Mobile. The Triumph was being towed at 8 mph and is expected to arrive in Alabama on Thursday.
Officials originally planned to tow the ship to Progreso, Mexico, but the ship drifted about 90 miles north due to strong currents.
The National Transportation Safety Board is headed to Mobile to investigate why the fire started and work to find ways to prevent it from happening again.
"Because the Carnival Triumph is a Bahamian flagged vessel, the Bahamas Maritime Authority is the primary investigative agency," a statement from the NTSB read. "In accordance with international guidelines, the U.S. will participate in this investigation as a Marine Safety Investigative State."
After the ship gets to Mobile on Thursday, passengers will stay in either Mobile or New Orleans before they are flown to Houston on Friday. They will then be transported to the Galveston, where their vehicles are parked.
The ship has been operating on generator power. The Carnival Elation rendezvoused with the Triumph on Sunday to provide dinners, and the Carnival Legend did the same thing on Monday.
Passengers are sleeping on the deck. Some of the toilets on the ship are functional, but there is no hot water for showers. Passenger Donna Gutzman said living conditions on board the ship are becoming unbearable.
"The worst part is the bathrooms," said Gutzman. "(There's) no water and you can't flush, so everyone is going in little plastic baggies and putting it outside their room."
Gutzman also said the ship is leaning, so she is worried it could flip over.
A.J. Jones' wife is on the Triumph. She called home when she was able to use a nearby boat's WiFi signal.
"She said they were actually having them urinate in a cup and pour it in the shower, or urinate in the shower," Jones said. "For bigger business, they're having them go in trash bags. Now what they're doing with the trash bags after that, I don't know."
Julie Kuzin said her sister is on the Carnival Triumph.
"They've been told they can't offload the ship to other ships because of conditions out in the water," Kuzin said. "I called Carnival to find out about that and they just said they don't have ships available to do that. That's not part of their plan."
Brent Nutt said he heard similar complaints from his wife who is on board.
"It smells and there is water all over the floor," Nutt said. "Water is seeping out of the walls. There's feces on the floor."
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