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Cruise Ship Drifts In Gulf Of Mexico, Will Be Towed To Port

In a photo from 1999, the Carnival Cruise line Carnival Triumph, foreground, arrives in Miami. Measuring 893 feet in length, the ship has been adrift in the Gulf of Mexico for more than 24 hours, after a fire hit its engines.
Andy Newman
In a photo from 1999, the Carnival Cruise line Carnival Triumph, foreground, arrives in Miami. Measuring 893 feet in length, the ship has been adrift in the Gulf of Mexico for more than 24 hours, after a fire hit its engines.

More than 3,000 cruise ship passengers who thought they'd be heading home today have instead been told they'll remain in the Gulf of Mexico until Wednesday, stranded by an engine fire that set their ship, the Triumph, adrift. Onboard power and sewer system outages have been reported. The ship, which was 150 miles north of the Yucatan Peninsula when the fire struck early Sunday, has a crew of more than 1,000.

The Carnival cruise line says no injuries have been reported aboard the Triumph, which was scheduled to end its trip at its home port of Galveston, Texas, Monday. But after a fire that the Coast Guard says left it "dead in the water," the ship was forced to take on new provisions at sea, thanks to a rendezvous with another Carnival cruise ship, the Elation, Sunday.

This morning, the Cruise Critic website reported that portions of the Triumph's sewage system had been restored, but outages persist. The Triumph has been "operating on emergency generator power" since its automated fire suppression system extinguished the fire Sunday, according to the ship's cruise line.

The cutter Vigorous arrived to assist the ship early Monday morning, the Coast Guard says. Tug boats are now sailing to the Triumph to begin towing it to the nearest port, in Progreso, Mexico. The ship, which weighs a bit more than 100,000 tons, should arrive late Wednesday, Carnival says.

Passengers will be flown home from Progreso aboard chartered planes, Carnival said in a statement released at 11:25 a.m. ET Monday. The cruise line also said that "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."

Another cruise ship is scheduled to deliver supplies to the Triumph Monday, according to Cruise Critic, which also gathered information from its members' message boards to paint a picture of what's going on aboard the Triumph. Here's a sampling from last night:

"Cruise Critic member Clinty76, who says his wife and mother-in-law are onboard, posted this note from his wife on the message boards: 'We are about to get supplies from another cruise ship and apparently the tug boats should be here tomorrow around noon ... We have no power AT ALL, which means we can't use the toilets, wash our hands, or take a shower.'

"Another member, jgomila198101, said that her sister called and relayed the following: 'They have plenty of food. They are all fine, but doesn't look like they will be back until Wednesday night. Said they are still having fun and gave me the task to call her boss who seems to think I was lying LOL. OH WELL glad they are enjoying the extended vacation.'"

On the Cruise Industry News website, several readers wrote in to say that they had traveled on the Triumph, and that the ship had experienced propulsion problems during their journey, as recently as Jan. 28. One passenger noted that the ship was five hours late in arriving at Galveston.

"You're right, it doesn't sound like they fixed the problem after our cruise," one woman wrote. "Not good."

Carnival says that after the crew realized the Triumph wouldn't be able to make it to port under its own power, the company informed all the passengers' emergency contacts. It has promised a full refund to passengers, along with a credit for a future trip, and "reimbursement of all shipboard purchases during the voyage, with the exception of gift shop and casino charges." The cruise line has also cancelled the Triumph's next two planned voyages.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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