A dream vacation has turned into a living nightmare for more than 3,000 people. Two best friends from Houston are among those who are stranded at sea on the Carnival Cruise Lines ship Triumph.
Triumph set sail from Galveston Thursday and instead of arriving back in Galveston Monday it dead at sea. An early morning fire in the engine room early Sunday caused the power to go out. An emergency generator is providing some power. Limited electricity means not much food, no cell phone service and not many working restrooms. This is all happening in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico with no land in sight.
The ship is 150 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula broken down with a burned out engine, waiting to be towed by tug to the nearest port Progreso, Mexico. "Mexico is not one of the safest places right now," says Stephanie Hill Polk who's daughter Loren Hill is on the stranded ship. 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members are stuck aboard the broken down boat. "You feel helpless," says Polk. Polk was relieved to find out Carnival decided to tow the ship to Mobile, Alabama instead.
Loren and her best friend Bridgett Moss had been looking forward to their big Cozumel vacation for some time, since Bridgett won the Carnival cruise trip at work. The young ladies sent their parents a text message which reads "Stuck in the middle of the ocean. No service. No power. No food". "I just want them to stay together. I think being in a group will be better," explains Polk.
Carnival is instructing passengers to remain in public deck areas. When the power went, so did the wi-fi. Long before that text message arrived loved ones received an automated message from Carnival. "All I heard was Carnival Cruise Line and fire and I was like oh my God," says Polk. Polk tried for hours to call her daughter but couldn't get through. She finally spoke with Loren when passengers briefly got cell service when another ship dropped off food and supplies.
"I said oh my God Lowee and she was crying. She was scared and wanted to hear my voice," says Polk. Soon after that the phone went dead.
Carnival is expecting the towed Triumph to make it to Mobile Thursday. "I have strong faith and my heart says she's going to be ok. In that respect I'm ok. If I could hear from her one more time I'd be even better. It's difficult but I'm not frantic yet. Yet," explains Polk.
The U.S. Coast Guard helped transfer one woman from Triumph to another Carnival cruise ship. She is in need of dialysis and will begin treatment in Cozumel tomorrow. Fortunately there are no reported injuries. Carnival says all passengers will receive refunds and a discount on their next cruise. The next two trips for Triumph have already been canceled and those passengers are also receiving refunds.
Gerry Cahill, president and chief executive officer of Carnival Cruise Lines, released the following statement about the Triumph on Monday night:
The Carnival Triumph, while on a four-day cruise that departed Galveston last Thursday, experienced an engine room fire on Sunday morning and has been without propulsion in the Gulf of Mexico since that time. The ship's automatic fire extinguishing systems activated and the fire was successfully extinguished. Fortunately, there were no injuries to guests or crew members.
Earlier this evening, the first of two tugboats arrived and is tied up to the ship with the second expected in the early hours of Tuesday morning. We had originally planned to tow the ship to Progreso, Mexico, the closest port to the ship's location early Sunday. Since that time, the ship has drifted about 90 miles north due to strong currents. This now puts the ship nearly equidistant to Mobile, Alabama and given the strength of the currents, it is preferable to head north to Mobile, rather than attempt to tow against them. We now expect to arrive in Mobile sometime on Thursday, roughly the same time the ship would have arrived in Progreso given the distance the ship has traveled. From there, we will provide the necessary transportation to get our guests home. Mobile also provides simpler re-entry, particularly for the 900 guests onboard traveling without passports.
We have maintained constant contact with the ship's officers. All of our guests are safe, and we're doing everything we can to make them as comfortable as possible. The ship has maintained emergency generator power since the fire occurred and the technical team on board has been successful in gradually restoring auxiliary power to operate some basic hotel functions. 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.
All guests on the current Carnival Triumph voyage will receive a full refund for the cruise, along with transportation expenses. In addition, they will receive a future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for this voyage, as well as reimbursement of all shipboard purchases during the voyage, with the exception of gift shop and casino charges.
We're terribly sorry for the inconvenience, discomfort, and frustration our guests are feeling. We know they expected a fantastic vacation, and clearly that is not what they received. Our shipboard and shoreside teams are working around the clock to care for our guests and get them home safely.