Stricken Carnival cruise ship nears Mobile, Alabama
As the damaged Carnival cruise ship limped towards the Alabama coast, passengers talked about the overwhelming stench and described the trip as hellish.
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Operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, the flagship brand of Carnival Corp , the ship left Galveston a week ago carrying 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew. It was supposed to return there on Monday.Skip to next paragraph
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A Coast Guard cutter has been escorting the Triumph on its long voyage into port since Monday, and a Coast Guard helicopter ferried about 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg) of equipment including a generator to the stricken ship late on Wednesday.
Earlier in the week, some passengers reported on the poor conditions on the Triumph when they contacted relatives and media before their cell phone batteries died. They said people were getting sick and passengers had been told to use plastic "biohazard" bags as makeshift toilets.
Smoke from the engine fire was so thick that passengers on the lower decks in the rear of the ship had to be permanently evacuated and slept the rest of the voyage on the decks under sheets, passengers said.
'VERY CHALLENGING CIRCUMSTANCES'
Carnival Cruise Lines Chief Executive Gerry Cahill said in a statement late on Wednesday that the company had decided to add further payment of $500 a person to help compensate passengers for "very challenging circumstances" aboard the ship.
"We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure," Cahill said.
Mary Poret, who spoke to her 12-year-old daughter aboard the Triumph on Monday, rejected Cahill's apology in comments to CNN on Thursday, as she waited anxiously in Mobile with a friend for the Triumph's arrival.
"Seeing urine and feces sloshing in the halls, sleeping on the floor, nothing to eat, people fighting over food, $500? What's the emotional cost? You can't put money on that," Poret said.
Some passengers said conditions onboard improved on Thursday after the generator was delivered to the ship, providing power for a grill to cook hot food.
Combs said that when batteries ran out on electronic devices, passengers jury-rigged power-charging hubs by unplugging ATM machines and stringing together extension cords and power strips.
Carnival Corp Chairman and CEO Micky Arison faced criticism in January 2012 for failing to travel to Italy and take personal charge of the Costa Concordia crisis after the luxury cruise shop operated by Carnival's Costa Cruises brand grounded on rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio. The tragedy unleashed numerous lawsuits against his company.
The cruise ship mogul has taken a low-key approach to the Triumph situation as well, even as it grabbed a growing share of the U.S. media spotlight. His only known public appearance since Sunday was courtside on Tuesday at a game played by his Miami Heat championship professional basketball team.
"I think they really are trying to do the right thing, but I don't think they have been able to communicate it effectively," said Marcia Horowitz, an executive who handles crisis management at Rubenstein Associates, a New York-based public relations firm.
"Most of all, you really need a face for Carnival," she added. "You can do all the right things. But unless you communicate it effectively, it will not see the light of day."
Carnival Corp shares closed down $0.11 at $37.35 in trading on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares closed down 4 percent at $37.46 on Wednesday after the company said voyage disruptions and repair costs related to Carnival Triumph could shave up to 10 cents a share off its second-half earnings.