Weary passengers disembark crippled Carnival ship in Alabama

Fri Feb 15, 2013 4:22am EST
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By Kaija Wilkinson

MOBILE, Alabama (Reuters) - Thousands of relieved passengers poured ashore from a stinking cruise ship on Friday after five days adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with overflowing toilets and stench filled cabins.

Exhausted passengers lined the ship's decks, waving towels and flashlights, cheering and singing "Sweet Home Alabama" as tug-boats pulled the stricken Carnival Triumph into the port of Mobile, Alabama.

Some travelers kissed the ground when they walked off, others disembarked wearing the ship's white bath robes, part souvenir and part protection against a chilly night.

With only one working elevator, it took several hours to get the more than 4,200 people off the ship, Carnival said. Passengers were greeted dockside with warm food, blankets and cell phones to call family and friends.

About 100 buses waited to carry passengers on a seven-hour bus ride to Galveston, Texas, while others buses departed for shorter rides to New Orleans, as well as hotels in Mobile, before eventually flying home.

The end of the saga, documented live on U.S. cable news stations, was another public relations disaster for cruise giant Carnival Corp. Last year, its Costa Concordia luxury liner grounded off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people.

Carnival officials said the Triumph, which entered service in 1999, would be towed to a Mobile repair facility for damage assessment.

The 893-foot (272-metre) vessel was returning to Galveston from Cozumel, Mexico on the third day of a four-day cruise when an engine-room fire knocked out power and plumbing across most of the ship on Sunday.   Continued...

Passengers leave the Carnival Triumph cruise ship after reaching the port of Mobile, Alabama, February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Lyle Ratliff