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Cruise Ship Triumph Now Being Towed To Alabama, Not Mexico

NPR icon by Bill Chappell
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Passengers aboard the cruise ship Triumph, set adrift after an engine fire Sunday, will now wait until Thursday before what was billed as a four-day cruise finally ends, the Carnival cruise ship line says. Strong currents have pushed the ship another 90 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, foiling plans to tow it to Progreso, Mexico.

The news comes as those aboard the ship have been reaching out to loved ones on shore to describe life on the stricken vessel, marked by a lack of air conditioning and ventilation below decks, improvised toilets, and sleeping on the open deck.

Tuesday morning, the Coast Guard reported that two tugs — the Resolve Pioneer and Dabhol — are now towing the cruise ship to Mobile. The cutter Vigorous has been shadowing the Triumph in the gulf.

A picture of life on the ship has emerged on the Cruise Critic website, where friends and relatives of passengers have passed along details gleaned from phone calls and texts. Here's a sampling:

"Wmiller86 (February 11, 2:11 p.m.) – My wife and 3 of her girlfriends are on the Triumph... My wife was able to call me Sunday night for a few minutes while Elation was alongside. My wife told me that it was pretty scary during the fire evacuation... She said that they were allowed back down into the cabins after awhile, but it is so hot that you cannot sleep down there. So they had set up a makeshift tent over deck loungers to sleep in. At the time I spoke to here, there was no toilets. They were using little red bags. And no running water, no lights, except emergency lighting."

"She said it was already pretty miserable. No hot food and no alcohol being served. There was still ice being served in soft drinks. None of the shops were open."

LynnA (February 11, 4:28 p.m.) – We just got a text from daughter-in-law. She said she was miserable but no worries."

Wmiller86 (February 11, 10:14 p.m.) – I just rec'd a text from my wife. - NO POTTIES ARE WORKING! That was all it said."

One passenger also reported being told they might not make landfall until Friday.

In a statement released Monday night, Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill said, "Currently, public and cabin toilets are operational in certain sections of the ship, power has been restored to a limited number of elevators, and some power in the Lido dining area is providing for hot coffee and limited hot food service."

As we reported yesterday, the Triumph has been resupplied by other Carnival cruise ships. And as news spread of its woes, former passengers who had recently sailed aboard the ship commented online that their trip had been marred by engine problems, forcing a five-hour delay.

The decision to reroute the Triumph to Alabama was spurred by currents that pushed the 100,000-ton cruise ship "nearly equidistant" to Mobile and Progreso, according to Carnival officials. The cruise line had earlier said the ship would arrive in Mexico late Wednesday; instead, it's on a 270-mile journey across the gulf that will end late Thursday.

The change in destination is expected to simplify the return process for passengers, 900 of whom were not traveling with passports.

The Triumph has operated on emergency generator power since early Sunday, but the 3,143 passengers have been confronted with toilet outages in at least half of the nearly 900-feet-long ship, even as they saw three extra days added to their Caribbean cruise. No injuries have been reported on the Triumph, which sailed from Galveston, Texas, last Thursday.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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