On Feb. 14, CNN started broadcasting extensive reports about the disabled Carnival Triumph cruise ship, especially as it nears its final destination in Mobile. Reporters are stationed on Dauphin Island and in helicopters to get exclusive aerial shots of the ship. Around noon on Thursday, the 24/7 news network spoke to several passengers aboard the Triumph and even connected them with their concerned loved ones on land, many of whom traveled for hours to get to Mobile to welcome the weary cruisers home after enduring days of unsanitary conditions and food shortages.
The 102,000-ton Carnival Triumph cruise ship departed from Galveston on Feb. 7 for what was supposed to be a four-night cruise to Mexico and back. However, a fire ignited in the engine room early Sunday morning, disabling the ship and leaving it essentially dead in the water. The 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members have had to endure miserable conditions including no power, air-conditioning, hot water or sanitation, plus a shortage of food.
Since Sunday, most of Triumph’s passengers have not been able to contact their loved ones. Now that the ship is nearing Mobile, their cell phones are back in service and several passengers on-board called CNN on Thursday. Julie Morgan said on air, “We’re OK, our group is good.” She explained that around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, she heard commotion above her room. “The far end of our hall was filled with smoke,” she added. After sleeping on the top deck for three nights, she moved to the dining room last night due to rain and cold. She spent her time rigging a charging station and confirmed that the carpets in public places are saturated with sewage. She also called the smell "revolting" and added that she is definitely leaving at least one pair of shoes behind on the ship. CNN connected Julie with her concerned husband, Tim Morgan, who told his wife, “I’m glad you’re OK.” He promised his weary spouse a warm jacket and clean clothes.
CNN also connected Bethany Nutt with her worried husband, Brent. Concerning the initial accident, she said, “We saw it from our balcony and we could see the fire.” Her low moments were the ensuing panic attack after the fire and when the giant ship began to tilt in strong seas. “It just felt like the boat was going to fall over.” She is looking forward to ice, a hot meal and the ground. Concerning their Valentine’s Day reunion, Brent said, “This will be one for the books.”
Passenger Kimberly Ware also connected with a loved one on CNN. She spoke to her son Nick on air and said her lowest point of the difficult days was seeing smoke and flames from the fire, especially since the staff emphasized during the muster drill that fire was the biggest danger at sea. Ware added that she was worried about small children, babies and elderly passengers.
On Thursday afternoon, CNN brought in health expert Dr. Sanjay Gupta and consumer advocate Clark Howard to talk about the Carnival Triumph “cruise from hell.” Gupta said that it was unlikely the passengers would experience widespread illness, despite deplorable conditions. Clark Howard stated that passengers would probably have little recourse against Carnival. “The cruise lines have contracts that severely limit the recourse you have,” he stated on CNN on Feb. 14. “You have no rights to psychological damages,” he explained, but added that attorneys will test the limits of the contract in coming days, weeks and months.
CNN also brought in Jay Herring, a former cruise ship officer and author of “The Truth About Cruise Ships,” to discuss Triumph's drama on the high seas. He explained that it wouldn’t be safe to pull passengers off of the ship due to shifting winds and rough seas. He also said that six diesel electric generators, each about the size of a bus, power the Triumph. Eighty percent of that power goes to propel the ship, so emergency generators don’t supply near enough power to flush toilets and keep the lights on.
Around 4 p.m. on Thursday, CNN aired the first photos from inside the Carnival Triumph. One showed passengers camped out in a tent city on the top deck. Another showed a public hallway crammed with mattresses. A more disturbing photo showed buckets of human waste.
At 5:15 p.m., Wolf Blitzer interviewed passenger Parisa Safarzadeh and connected her with her worried mother. The recent college grad said that she and her friends were OK. She was impressed by the camaraderie of passengers and the staff, but couldn't say the same about Carnival's corporate office. Her mother, Sheila Safarzadeh told her daughter that she was very proud of her, to which Parisa replied, “You should be proud of the crew.”
CNN is currently airing non-stop coverage of Carnival Triumph’s return. “We are following it every step of the way,” one reporter promised. Look for debarkation photos and interviews with passengers and their loved ones. The ship is expected to dock somewhere between 10 p.m.-midnight EST. It could take up to five hours to disembark because only one elevator is operable. Passengers will have the option to take a bus to New Orleans, where 1,500 hotel rooms are reserved. From there, they will be flown to Houston or Galveston. However, most family members plan on whisking their loved ones to a hotel room in Mobile for an immediate hot shower and a warm meal.
Carnival is offering all Triumph passengers a full refund, plus a free future cruise and $500 following their experience on the “fun ship.”
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