Carnival Cruise Lines (www.goccl.com) said late Monday in a statement from Carnival President Gerry Cahill that the first of two tugboats arrived and is tied up to the stricken Carnival Triumph - without propulsion since an engine room fire on Sunday - and the second was expected to arrive early today.
In addition, the line said plans have changed and that Carnival Triumph will now be towed to Mobile, AL, rather than to Progreso, Mexico.
The statement said: "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."
The line said the ship's location is nearly equidistant to Mobile, Alabama and given the strength of the currents, it's preferable for the tug boats to tow the ship north to Mobile, rather than attempt to tow against them.
For those onboard, the saga continues, as the docking now will be Thursday in Mobile not Wednesday in Progeso as the line had previously stated.
However, due to the strong ocean currents and the ship's current position, Carnival said the trip to Progreso now would take about the same time. So when considering two relatively equidistant ports, Mobile provides a better choice for several reasons.
It's easier for the line to provide transportation for guests; the line can book flights directly from Mobile, and significant air lift is available from New Orleans, accessible from Mobile via motorcoach. In addition, the line can also utilize Pensacola for flights.
Plus, the line can arrange rail or other transport as needed. Many guests likely have their personal vehicles parked at the Port of Galveston, which is a big drive market for cruisers.
For this type of cruise, many guests would have arrived by car from Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, other southern states and even places as far north as Chicago.
One other plus for a Mobile arrival? Carnival said in its statement: "Mobile also provides simpler re-entry, particularly for the 900 guests onboard traveling without passports."
As an affordable choice with many home ports spread throughout the U.S., Carnival attracts first time cruisers or those who want to see a bit of the world but don't want to get a passport and don't want to fly overseas. For its Caribbean voyages, Carnival says either a passport or an original birth certificate is required to travel.
Many may be out of the country for the first time in their lives when they cruise on Carnival, and particularly on short cruises, designed to get consumers to try out a cruise vacation for the first time.
The current Carnival Triumph cruise was a four-day cruise that departed from Galveston, TX, last Thursday.
Cahill's statement said: "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 Cahill said the technical team onboard 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.
That said, cruisers onboard are texting, emailing and going on social networking sites to express their displeasure with the situation.
Carnival Triumph 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.
Carnival said 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," said Cahill. "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."