Carnival Cruise Lines cancelled 12 additional voyages of the cruise ship Triumph after an engine fire disabled the ship and stranded thousands of passengers.
The cancelled cruises, which include sailings from Feb. 21 through April 13, are in addition to two previously cancelled voyages departing from Galveston on Feb. 11 and Feb. 16.
A third tugboat was dispatched to the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday to help tow the ship to Mobile, Ala. The Triumph was being towed at 8 mph and is expected to arrive in Alabama on Thursday. Carnival officials said the ship does not have propulsion.
The Carnival Triumph left Galveston on Thursday and was supposed to return on Monday, but a fire broke out in an engine room on Sunday morning when it was about 150 miles away from the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The ship's automatic fire extinguishing systems kicked in and the fire was extinguished, officials said.
None of the 3,143 passengers or 1,086 crew members were hurt.
Once the ship gets close to shore, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers plan to take a boat out to the ship to begin processing passengers to avoid long lines when the ship docks.
Carnival said guests were given the option of boarding buses to Galveston or Houston or to spend the night in a hotel in New Orleans, where they could rest before flying out on private charters the next day.
Carnival has reserved approximately 100 motor coaches, more than 1,500 New Orleans hotel rooms, multiple charter flights from New Orleans to Houston on Friday, and transportation from Houston to the Port of Galveston so that guests may retrieve their cars if they drove to the port.
The head of Carnival Cruise Lines said his company was working hard to ensure the thousands of passengers stranded on the disabled ship in the Gulf of Mexico were as comfortable as possible while the vessel was being towed to port in Alabama.
The reassurances made by Carnival Cruise Lines President and Chief Executive Officer Gerry Cahill were in sharp contrast to what some passengers have told relatives about dirty and hot conditions aboard the ship, including overflowing toilets and limited access to food.
Cahill said the ship has running water and most of its 23 public restrooms and some of the guest cabin bathrooms are working. He downplayed the possibility of an outbreak of disease from unsanitary conditions, saying the ship hasn't seen an abnormal number of people reporting to the infirmary as being ill.
"No one here from Carnival is happy about the conditions onboard the ship," Cahill said at a news conference in Miami. "We obviously are very, very sorry about what is taking place."
Officials originally planned to tow the ship to Progreso, Mexico, but the ship drifted about 90 miles north due to strong currents.
NTSB to investigate cruise ship fire
The National Transportation Safety Board is headed to Mobile to investigate why the fire started and work to find ways to prevent it from happening again.
"Because the Carnival Triumph is a Bahamian flagged vessel, the Bahamas Maritime Authority is the primary investigative agency," a statement from the NTSB read. "In accordance with international guidelines, the U.S. will participate in this investigation as a Marine Safety Investigative State."
The ship has been operating on generator power. The Carnival Elation rendezvoused with the Triumph on Sunday to provide dinners, and the Carnival Legend did the same thing on Monday.
Passengers are sleeping on the deck. Some of the toilets on the ship are functional, but there is no hot water for showers.
Kim McKerreghan said her 10-year-old daughter and husband are on Triumph. She last heard from them on Monday.
"She was hysterical," McKerreghan said about her daughter. "'Mommy, I love you. I want to come home. It's so scary. Please come get me.'"
McKerreghan drove to Mobile from Texas to pick up her family when the ship finally gets back to land.
Passenger Donna Gutzman said living conditions on board the ship are becoming unbearable.
"The worst part is the bathrooms," said Gutzman. "(There's) no water and you can't flush, so everyone is going in little plastic baggies and putting it outside their room."
Gutzman also said the ship is leaning, so she is worried it could flip over.