The giant Carnival cruise ship left adrift in the Gulf of Mexico after a weekend fire will be towed to Mobile, Ala., and should get there Thursday, the cruise line said Monday night.Carnival said the 102,000-ton Carnival Triumph originally was going to be towed to its closest port, in Progreso, Mexico, by late Wednesday. The ship has since drifted about 90 miles north because of strong currents, putting it equidistant to Mobile, Carnival said.
“Given the strength of the currents, it is preferable to head north to Mobile, rather than attempt to tow against them,” Carnival president GerryCahill said in a statement.
The first of two tugboats was tied to the ship Monday evening, and the second is expected to arrive this morning, Cahill said.
Passengers on the ship described uncomfortable conditions after the Sunday-morning fire. Although the blaze was contained to the engine room with the help of the ship’s automatic fire-suppression systems, it resulted in a loss of power to operate air conditioning, elevators and toilets in passenger areas, as well as kitchen equipment to prepare hot meals. For a time, the ship’s freshwater system also was down.
Some passengers spent Sunday night sleeping on the ship’s open decks because of a lack of air conditioning. Plastic bags were used as makeshift toilets.
“My wife (is) on this cruise and has said the conditions were horrible. No power, no water, having to use the bathroom in bags,” Gary Keyes of Baton Rouge told usatoday.com.
Carnival said technicians have since restored fresh water, and toilets were operating in some parts of the ship. Some power was restored to a buffet to provide coffee and some hot food. Some elevators were operating.
None of the 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew was injured during the fire. Carnival said Monday that a passenger in need of dialysis was transferred off the ship to another vessel, the Carnival Legend, for transport to Cozumel, Mexico. The Legend provided meals for passengers on the Triumph. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Vigorous also is on the scene.
At the time of the fire, the Carnival Triumph was near the end of a four-night cruise to Mexico out of Galveston, Texas, that began Thursday. The ship was scheduled to return to Galveston on Monday. Carnival is arranging to get passengers back home from Mobile.
Industry analyst Tim Condor of Wells Fargo estimated the incident could cost parent company Carnival Corp. as much as 10 cents per share, or nearly $80 million, in lost revenue, reimbursements and repair costs.
Although the incident comes at the height of the busiest time of the year for cruise bookings, a period known as Wave Season, travel agents weren’t bracing for a downturn in business Monday, in part because the incident had yet to get major publicity, said Mike Driscoll of Cruiseweek, an industry newsletter.
The Carnival Triumph fire comes two years after another Carnival ship, the 113,000-ton Carnival Splendor, was disabled off the Pacific coast of Mexico by a fire during a cruise from California — a similar incident that ultimately affected bookings leaving Texas, Driscoll said.
The Carnival Triumph fire is the latest in a string of serious incidents involving cruise ships, most notably the Costa Concordia, which capsized in January 2012, killing 32 passengers. On Sunday, five crewmembers of a Thomson Cruises ship were killed during a safety drill in Spain.
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