HOUSTON – Carnival Cruise Lines has canceled a dozen more planned voyages aboard the Triumph and acknowledged that the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before an engine-room fire left it powerless in the Gulf of Mexico.
The company’s announcement on Wednesday came as the Triumph was being towed to a port in Mobile, Ala., with more than 4,000 people on board, some of whom have complained to relatives that conditions on the ship are dismal and that they have limited access to food and bathrooms.
Passengers’ stay in Alabama will be limited, Carnival said in a statement late Wednesday. The company said passengers were being given the option of boarding buses directly to Galveston, Texas, or Houston, or spending the night in a hotel in New Orleans, where the company said it booked 1,500 hotels. Those staying in New Orleans will be flown Friday to Houston. Carnival said it will cover all the transportation costs.
Mobile Mayor Sam Jones said late Wednesday that the city has more than enough hotel rooms to accommodate passengers and its two airports are near the cruise terminal.
“We raised the issue that it would be a lot easier to take a five-minute bus ride than a two-hour bus ride” to New Orleans, Jones said, adding that he did not know the company’s reasoning. Jones said Carnival employees will be staying in Mobile.
Once docked, the ship will be idle through April. Two other cruises were called off shortly after Sunday’s fire.
Debbi Smedley, a passenger on a recent Triumph cruise, said the ship had trouble on Jan. 28 as it was preparing to leave Galveston. Hours before the scheduled departure time, she received an email from Carnival stating the vessel would leave late because of a propulsion problem. Passengers were asked to arrive at the port at 2 p.m., two hours later than originally scheduled.
The ship did not sail until after 8 p.m., she said.
“My mother is a cruise travel agent so this is not my first rodeo. I have sailed many, many cruises, many, many cruise lines. This was, by far, I have to say, the worst,” said Smedley, of Plano, Texas.
The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the fire.
Meanwhile, officials in Mobile are preparing a cruise terminal that has not been used for a year to help passengers go through customs after their ordeal.
The Triumph is expected to arrive Thursday afternoon.
The company has disputed the accounts of passengers who describe the ship as filthy, saying employees are doing everything to ensure people are comfortable.
Passengers are supposed to receive a full refund and discounts on future cruises, and Carnival announced Wednesday they would each get an additional $500 in compensation.
“We know it has been a longer journey back than we anticipated at the beginning of the week under very challenging circumstances,” Carnival President and CEO Gary Cahill said. “We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure.”