February 13, 2013
Update, 3:31 p.m. EST: Carnival Cruise Lines confirmed the lead tugboat has been reattached to Carnival Triumph and the ship is en route to Mobile again.
Update, 2:57 p.m. EST: The Associated Press is reporting a towline on one of the four tugboat's towing Carnival Triumph has broken, leaving the ship dead in the water. The tugboat must be replaced with a useable boat. No estimate was given as to how long this will take. Prior to the break, the ship was moving at about 5 miles per hour and was expected to arrive in Mobile late tonight.
Update, 1:12 p.m. EST: Carnival Triumph is just south of Dauphin Island, off the coast of Alabama and is still seven to 10 hours away from docking in Mobile. It will take another one to three hours to get everyone off the ship.
A CNN helicopter hovering over Carnival Triumph is relaying live video of the ship. Passengers can be seen wearing bathrobes, as can numerous "deck beds" made of lounge chairs pushed together and covered with sheets on the decks sheltered by lifeboats.
Update, 12:40 p.m. EST:Customs and Border Patrol agents, along with bar pilots, boarded Carnival Triumph to help speed up the customs and immigration process when the ship arrives in Mobile.
Update, 11:47 a.m. EST: According to Carnival Cruise Lines the generator that was flown in by the Coast Guard is up and running and providing additional limited hot food service for passengers.
Update, 10:03 a.m. EST: The tow operation of Carnival Triumph is taking longer than anticipated, Carnival Cruise Lines told Cruise Critic. The ship is now expected to dock at the Mobile cruise terminal between 8 and 11 p.m. this evening.
(9:50 a.m. EST) -- A Coast Guard helicopter delivered an electrical generator and cables to the fire-disabled Carnival Triumph on Wednesday afternoon. The generator will be used to provide additional power to the cruise ship.
The ship's last reported location, according to the Coast Guard, was approximately 108 nautical miles south of the port of Mobile on Wednesday afternoon. Four tugboats are towing Triumph, which is expected to arrive this afternoon.
Upon its arrival into Mobile, Triumph passengers will be bused to New Orleans, where 1,500 hotel rooms are reserved. Passengers who choose to spend the night will be flown to Houston on private charters Friday.
When asked why Carnival chose to bus passengers the two and a half hours to New Orleans, rather than put them up in Mobile, Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said: "We looked at all options closely. Ultimately, we selected to stage the hotel and airport operation in New Orleans as it offered additional capacity and flexibility which was important to us given that the complexity of the towing operation creates an uncertain arrival time in Mobile." People with cars at the Galveston port will be bused from the Houston airport to Galveston, where the port has announced it will issue refunds or free parking vouchers to be used on future cruises to customers on the current Triumph sailing.
Triumph crew members also will be disembarked from the ship in Mobile and reassigned to other vessels.
Details of the onboard experience continue to be scarce, though Rachel Alderete, the only passenger to be transferred off the ship due to her need for dialysis, spoke to the New York Times yesterday. According to the article, Alderete said her family, a group of 30, was sleeping in a hallway and using red plastic bags wrapped around garbage cans as bathrooms. Crew, she said were "doing their best" to clean up the waste and keep the few working toilets clean.
On Tuesday, before her transfer, the crew was distributing fruit, water and sandwiches to passengers. She acknowledged that some people were taking large amounts of food but said it was not a case of hoarding; rather, they were trying to get enough food for large groups.
Alderete has not spoken with or heard from anyone in her group since she left the ship.
On Tuesday evening, Carnival Cruise Lines president and CEO, Gerry Cahill, admitted conditions onboard the ship are "very challenging."
Yesterday, Cahill announced Carnival was upping the line's compensation by $500 to affected passengers.
"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."
The cruise line has canceled voyages through April 13; those 14 cruises could affect more than 40,000 passengers. A timeline for repairs will be announced once the ship is in port and has undergone inspection, according to the line. Damage suffered by Carnival Splendor from an engine room fire in 2010 kept the ship out of service for more than three months.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board launched an investigation into the cause of the fire. The Bahamas Maritime Authority will be the lead investigative agency, as Carnival Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged ship.