Carnival has drafted in 200 staff to an Alabama port to help 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew get off its stricken cruise ship Carnival Triumph.
The ship, which set out on a four-day cruise from Galveston last Thursday, had been drifting, without power, in the Yucatan peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico since an engine fire on Sunday.
Passengers on board have reported that the conditions were "hellish", with human waste overflowing into corridors, food and water being rationed, and fears of looting.
According to reports, passengers were heard chanting "let me off, let me off" as they waited to disembark.
Carnival Cruise Lines president Gerry Cahill issued a statement saying he was happy the ship was now back and everyone is safe.
"I am so appreciative of the efforts of everyone involved in bringing the Carnival Triumph safely to the Port of Mobile. I want to thank the United States Coast Guard, The Port and City of Mobile, Customs and Border Protection, and the countless other parties who have been incredibly helpful throughout.
"I'd also like to thank our shoreside teams for working around the clock to make this happen. And finally, I want to thank our crew for all they have done. We have seen and heard so many reports, online and in the media, from passengers praising the crew's hard work."
Cahill said he was personally going onboard to talk with guests and crew and to help get guests off the ship.
According to reports from passengers, many have been sleeping on deck since the air-conditioning failed and there have been reports of people using showers, sinks and plastic bags instead of toilets.
Passengers said the crew have been frantically cleaning the ship to make it look better on arrival and ready for all of the media attention.
As the ship arrived at Mobile, it was filmed by US news networks, adding to the public relations nightmare for Carnival. Last year its ship, Costa Concordia, grounded and capsized off the coast of Tuscany, killing 32 people.
Earlier this week, Carnival said all passengers on board the Triumph would receive $500 in compensation, as well as a full refund and a "future cruise credit" equal to the amount they paid for the cruise.
The cruise line has cancelled 14 voyages of the Carnival Triumph, running from 21 February through to 13 April 2013.
An investigation has now been launched into the cause of the engine fire.
by Bev Fearis
Friday, February 15, 2013