The lifeless Carnival Triumph cruise ship limped into the Mobile (Ala.) Port late Thursday with 4,200 uncomfortable and angry passengers and crew eager to abandon ship after five days drifting at sea.
However, the party cruise turned nightmare was far from over for the hungry, and tired people trapped on board. Carnival Cruise Line officials said they expected the disembarking process could stretch well into Friday morning after continued mishaps following a fire that knocked out power sending the entire cruise up in figurative flames.
It was only last Thursday when the Carnival Triumph left the Port of Galveston (Tex.) for a scheduled four-day Caribbean cruise finishing at Cozumel, Mexico. The ship's engine room caught fire on Sunday, crippling all the ship's systems, leaving it practically dead in the water.
Now, a week later and still not quite home yet, passengers were aghast at their experience of sleeping on top of decks due to lack of power, using plastic bags for human waste and left with candy and buns covered with ketchup as their only food.
"It's like being locked in a Porta Potty for days," Peter Cass, a Beaumont, Tex. physician said to the New York Times. "We've lived through two hurricanes and this is worse."
Carnival's original plan to haul the crippled ship to a Mexican port on Thursday was scrapped after the ship drifted about 90 miles north of course due to strong currents.
At times on Thursday, the ship was moving toward Mobile Bay at one mile per hour, slower than a person can walk. Two tugboats now were assisting the vessel on its long, long journey home.
In the meantime, the Triumph's condition onboard kept on deteriorating. The Triumph management gave free booze or alcohol drinks just to appease some passengers raising concerns about people's behavior, considering the toilets didn't work and sanitary conditions were miserable, according to the New York Daily News.
Passengers held captive in the power-deprived cruise ship continued to complain of poor sanitation issues with scarce running water, overflowing toilets, no air conditioning and long lines for food. With no refrigeration, the stinky smell onboard was intense, forcing most of the passengers to stay and sleep on the decks.
Carnival President Gerry Cahill apologized Tuesday, saying the ship had running water and most of its 23 public bathrooms and some of the guest restrooms were working fine. This was shown to be false when the first images from the ship reached shore the next day.
Carnival officials have yet to explain how the fire broke out on the 14-year-old ship although analysts noted the ship suffered mechanical woes last month that affected a similar cruise. Carnival canceled all future cruises on the troubled ship until repairs were made.
The nightmare continued unabated Thursday for 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members on board as most passengers slept on deck. One passenger texted his dad who relayed the situation through ABC News.
"He said up on deck it looks like a shanty town," the man said, "with sheets, almost like tents, mattresses, anything else they can pull to sleep on."
And the long week's journey into cruise ship hell will not quite end when the ship finally docks, officials said. Due to challenges at the port that was shut down last year and never intended to handle such a large vessel, it may take upwards of five hours to clear the ship of its passengers, they said, even as 20 busses steamed into Mobile to take passengers to New Orleans hotel rooms and flights back to their stateside homes.