HOUSTON (AP) — 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 it was left powerless in the Gulf of Mexico by an engine-room fire.
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.
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.
On its most recent journey, the Triumph lost power Sunday after the fire. The ship drifted until Tuesday when two tugboats took it in tow. A third tugboat was en route Wednesday from Louisiana.
Passengers have had limited cellphone service because of the power failure, but many of them were able to make calls to friends and family when the Triumph rendezvoused with another Carnival ship that dropped off food and supplies. The other ship had a working cellular antenna.
Robert Giordano, of the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond, 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 sentiment shared by Vivian Tilley, of San Diego, whose sister is also on the vessel.
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, Ala. And that came after the cruise line switched the ship's towing destination from Progreso, Mexico, to Mobile.
Tilley said her sister, Renee Shanar, of Houston, told her the cabins were hot and smelled like smoke from the engine fire, forcing passengers to stay on the deck. She also said people were getting sick.
"It's a nightmare," Tilley said, noting Shanar and her husband chose a four-day cruise so they wouldn't be away from their two daughters for too long.
Carnival said Wednesday that it had reserved hotels in New Orleans and Mobile, as well as charter flights and buses to get passengers home.
The company has disputed the accounts of passengers who say the ship is filthy, saying employees are doing everything to ensure people are comfortable.
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