HOUSTON - The operators of a cruise vessel stranded in the Gulf of Mexico after a weekend engine fire said Monday evening that the craft had drifted so far north of its original position that they now will tow the ship to Mobile, Ala., instead of their original plan for Progreso, Mexico.
Carnival Cruise Lines President and CEO Gerry Cahill said in a statement that strong currents caused the vessel, the Carnival Triumph, to drift about 90 miles north of its original position off the Yucatan Peninsula.
Cahill's statement says the ship should arrive in Mobile on Thursday and that it will allow for less complicated re-entry for passengers without passports.
Passengers had limited access to bathrooms, food and hot coffee on Monday as they waited for tugboats to arrive, Carnival Cruise Lines said in a statement.
The Carnival Triumph had been floating aimlessly about 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula since a fire erupted in the aft engine room early Sunday, knocking out the ship's propulsion system. No one was injured and the fire was extinguished. The ship has been operating on backup generator power since the incident, the statement said.
The ship, which left Galveston, Texas, on Thursday and was scheduled to return there Monday, will instead be towed to Mobile with its 3,143 passengers 1,086 crew members. They are due to arrive in Alabama on Thursday.
One tugboat arrived Monday afternoon, and the other was expected later in the evening, Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said in an email. The Coast Guard has informed Mexican authorities of the situation in their waters, a spokesman said.
When another Carnival cruise ship, the Legend, rendezvoused with the stranded vessel Monday, supplying Triumph passengers with food and supplies, Texas resident Brent Nutt was able to briefly chat with his wife, Bethany, who could draw a cellphone signal from the visiting cruise line.
Without power, the ship's stabilizers are apparently not working, Nutt told The Associated Press, and the massive liner had been leaning to one side Sunday. By Monday afternoon, the ship seemed more upright, he said.
"She sounded a whole lot better today than she did yesterday," Nutt said about two hours after chatting with his 32-year-old wife.
Passengers were also given food, Nutt said, and some of the bathrooms are working. But the ship is dirty, Nutt said his wife told him.
"There's water and feces all over the floor," Nutt relayed. "It's not the best conditions. You would think Carnival would have something in place to get these people off the ship."
Passengers also are getting sick and throwing up, he said, adding that his wife told him: "The whole boat stinks extremely bad."
Melinda Ramos, meanwhile, said her father was laughing when she briefly spoke to him Sunday.
"He might be completely joking, but he said they're sleeping in tents outside," the 19-year-old daughter of Mary and Matt Ramos told The Houston Chronicle.
A similar situation occurred on a Carnival cruise ship in November 2010. That vessel was also stranded for three days 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.
Carnival said in a statement that it had cancelled the Triumph's next two voyages scheduled to depart Monday and Saturday. Passengers aboard the stranded ship will also receive a full refund, the statement said.
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