Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

More cruises axed on troubled ship

The Carnival Triumph cruise ship is being towed back to the US (AP)

Carnival Cruise Lines has cancelled a dozen more planned voyages aboard the Triumph and admitted that the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before an engine-room fire left it powerless in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company's announcement came as the Triumph was being towed to a port in Mobile, Alabama, with more than 4,000 people on board, some of whom have complained that conditions on the ship are dismal and that they have limited access to food and bathrooms. The ship will be idle during April and 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 January 28 as it was preparing to leave Galveston, Texas. 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 2pm, two hours later than originally scheduled. The ship did not sail until after 8pm, 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 Ms Smedley, of Plano, Texas.

After losing power on its most recent journey, the ship drifted until Tuesday, when two tugboats began moving it towards shore. A third tugboat was on its way from Louisiana early on Thursday. The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the fire.

Robert Giordano, of the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond, said he last spoke to his wife Shannon by mobile phone on Monday. She told him she waited in line for three hours to get a hot dog, and 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," Mr Giordano said. "There was faecal matter all over the floor."

Even more distressing, he said, had been the lack of information from Carnival, a complaint shared by Vivian Tilley, of San Diego, California, whose sister is also on the vessel. Carnival, she said, had not told families what hotel passengers would be put in or provided precise information about when they would arrive in Mobile.

Meanwhile, officials in Mobile are preparing a cruise terminal that has not been used for a year to help passengers go through customs after their ordeal. The Triumph is expected to arrive on Thursday afternoon local time.

The cruise ship company has chartered 15 buses to take passengers to hotels in New Orleans and central Mobile, said Barbara Drummond, a spokeswoman for the city of Mobile.Carnival said passengers would also be able to fly home on chartered flights.

The company has disputed the accounts of passengers who describe the ship as filthy, saying employees are doing everything to ensure people are comfortable. Passengers are supposed to receive a full refund and discounts on future cruises and Carnival announced on Wednesday they would each receive an additional 500 dollars (£320) in compensation.

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