HOUSTON (AP) — The head of Carnival Cruise Lines said Tuesday his company was working hard to ensure the thousands of passengers stranded on a disabled ship in the Gulf of Mexico were as comfortable as possible while the vessel was being towed to port in Alabama.
The reassurances made by Carnival Cruise Lines President and CEO Gerry Cahill were in sharp contrast to what some passengers have told relatives about dirty and hot conditions aboard the ship, including overflowing toilets and limited access to food.
Cahill said the ship has running water and most of its 23 public restrooms and some of the guest cabin bathrooms are working. He downplayed the possibility of an outbreak of disease from unsanitary conditions, saying the ship hasn't seen an abnormal number of people reporting to the infirmary as being ill.
"No one here from Carnival is happy about the conditions onboard the ship," Cahill said at a news conference in Miami. "We obviously are very, very sorry about what is taking place."
Jimmy Mowlam, 63, said his 37-year-old son, Rob Mowlam, who is aboard the ship told him by phone Monday night that there is no running water and few working toilets. He said passengers were given plastic bags to "use for their business."
The ship left Galveston, Texas, for a four-day cruise last Thursday with 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members. The ship was about 150 miles off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula when an engine room fire Sunday knocked out its primary power source, crippling its water and plumbing systems and leaving it adrift on only a backup power.
No one was injured in the fire, but Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva said Tuesday that a passenger with a pre-existing medical condition was taken off the ship as a precaution.
Everyone else will likely have to remain onboard until the ship reaches Mobile, Ala., which is expected to happen Thursday, weather permitting.
Besides the two tugs, at least two other Carnival cruise ships have been diverted to the Triumph to leave supplies and a 210-foot Coast Guard cutter was at the scene, Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm said Tuesday.
"If they do need any help, we're there," he said.
Mowlam said his son told him the lack of ventilation on Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Triumph had made it too hot to sleep inside. He said Rob and his new bride — they got married onboard Saturday — have seen many passengers set up camp on the ocean liner's decks and in its common areas. Mowlam said he wasn't sure where his son was sleeping.
"He said up on deck it looks like a shanty town, with sheets, almost like tents, mattresses, anything else they can pull to sleep on," said Mowlam, 63, who is from Warren, in southeast Texas. His son is from nearby Nederland.
Mowlam said his son indicated that passengers are trying to make the best of a bad situation.
"So far people have been pretty much taking it in stride," Mowlam said his son told him.