MOBILE, Ala. - The cruise from hell is lasting longer than expected.
The crippled Carnival Triumph cruise ship was expected to be towed into port here at about 4 p.m. Thursday. Now, it looks like it won't land until between 10 p.m. to midnight. And the 3,142 passengers may have to wait an additional four-and-a-half hours until they're all able to disembark by early Friday morning.
Wind, sea currents and the sluggish speed of the the towing operating has caused the multihour delay, further hampered by a snapped tow line as the ship began entering the channel south of Mobile Bay, according to Carnival Cruise Lines Senior Vice President Terry Thornton.
A replacement tug boat already was in position, but when the replacement vessel was put into place, the tow rope snapped. "The cruise ship did not begin progressing back toward the terminal until 2 p.m.," Thornton said.
Getting passengers off will be delayed because there is only one functioning elevator on the Triumph and because of the size of the ship - the largest ever to dock at the Alabama Cruise Terminal.The channel narrows to 400 feet inside Mobile Bay, and the ship was about 115 feet wide. It was traveling about 5 mph.
"This is going to be a long day," Thornton said. "There is no way we can speed up the process."
A Sunday fire in Triumph's engine room cut power to the ship, leaving it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico and turning a fun holiday cruise into a hellish nightmare for scores of passengers and crew. Passengers have been complaining about terrible conditions on board, with backed up toilets, feces and urine on floors, little food and electrical power. Some passengers were sleeping in tents outside to escape sweltering temperatures in overheated cabins.
Television images showed passengers with signs of "Help" and "I love you" hanging from the 14-story ship. And as the ship neared port and came within range of cellphone access, passengers sent out pictures of sewage-stained carpets and walls, and garbage-strewn hallways.