Carnival Triumph cruise ship stranded without power in the Gulf of Mexico. (US Coast Guard photo)
MOBILE, Ala. -- The families of passengers on the crippled Carnival Triumph have begun arriving at the dock area where the ship is due later today, eager to whisk their loved ones away from what they say has been a miserable experience.
"It's been a nightmare for me and my wife, and (our experience) is nothing compared to what they are experiencing on the ship," says Rickey Felts, 55, of Houston, who drove seven hours to be here when the vessel arrives.
Felts' daughter, Ashlie, 27, had been filled with excitement about the cruise, which she took with a friend, before it departed. But Felts says all that changed on Sunday after the fire broke out.
"She called me up screaming. She said it's horrible," he says."She said they were handing out poop bags, and that was her exact words, and telling them to pee in the showers."
Carnival has said it plans to begin transporting passengers back to Texas, where the voyage began, on buses and charter aircraft as soon as the ship arrives, but Felts and other family members assembling at the Alabama Cruise Terminal say they didn't want to leave it up to Carnival to get their loved ones home.
"I'm furious with the way this whole thing has been handled," Felts says, noting that the line has provided him with limited information and wouldn't help when he wanted to come to Mobile to meet the ship. "I asked them if they would pay for my hotel room, and they said no."
Thelbert Lanier, 61, of Houston, says he drove eight hours from Houston to bring home his wife, Cyndie, who is aboard the fire-damaged vessel with her sister. He says he got texts early this morning as the ship pulled near enough to land for a connection.
"It says the room smells like an outhouse, there's no air conditioning, cold water only," Lanier says, holding up his cell phone with the texts. "She says the toilet hasn't worked in three-and-a-half days."
Under tow from three tugboats, the Carnival Triumph is visible from Alabama's shore but is not expected in Mobile until this evening, four days after a engine room fire left the ship dead in the water with limit power.