Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen acknowledged the Triumph's recent mechanical woes, explaining that there was an electrical problem with the ship's alternator on the previous voyage. Repairs were completed Feb. 2.
Testing of the repaired part was successful and "there is no evidence at this time of any relationship between this previous issue and the fire that occurred on Feb. 10."
Debbi Smedley, a passenger on a recent Triumph cruise, said the ship had trouble 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.
Communication with passengers on the Triumph has been limited to brief windows when other cruise ships with working cellular towers have rendezvoused to deliver supplies, but some relatives have reported being told of uncomfortable and unsanitary conditions.
Giordano said he last spoke to his wife, Shannon, on Monday. She told him she waited in line for three hours to get a hot dog and that conditions on the ship were terrible.
"They're having to urinate in the shower. They've been passed out plastic bags to go to the bathroom," Giordano said. "There was fecal matter all over the floor."
Even more distressing, Giordano said, has been the lack of information he has been able to get from Carnival, a complaint shared by Tilley, of San Diego.
Carnival, she said, has not told families what hotel passengers will be put in or provided precise information about when they will arrive in Mobile. And that came after the cruise line switched the ship's towing destination from Progreso, Mexico, to Mobile.
Passengers are supposed to get a full refund and discounts on future cruises, and Carnival announced Wednesday they would each get an additional $500 in compensation.
Once docked, the ship will be idle through April. In addition to the dozen voyages canceled Wednesday, two other cruises were called off shortly after Sunday's fire.
Jay Herring, a former senior officer with Carnival Cruise Lines who worked on the Triumph from 2002 to 2004, said the ship was not problematic when he was on it.
The Triumph takes five generators — with one on backup — to power the ship, and 80 percent of that energy is needed to simply push the massive vessel through the water, Herring said.
Each of those generators is the size of a bus, so it's unrealistic to think that the ship could have enough backup power on board to run services when the engines die, Herring added.
"It's one of their bigger ships. It's certainly on the top end of Carnival's fleet," he said of the Triumph. "There are so many moving parts and things that can go wrong."
Associated Press writer Bob Johnson contributed to this report from Montgomery, Ala. Plushnick-Masti reported from Houston.