Carnival Ship Towed to U.S. Amid Passenger Complaints

Carnival Corp. is towing its stricken Triumph cruise ship, which suffered an engine room fire two days ago, to Mobile, Alabama, instead of to Progreso, Mexico, as passengers complain about conditions onboard.

When the first tugboat arrived last night, the ship had drifted about 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of its previous location off the coast of Mexico because of strong currents and was almost equidistant from Mobile, Carnival said in a statement last night. Towing the ship with the current to Alabama was the preferred option, the company said.

Brent Nutt, in an interview with CNN today, said his wife, who is a passenger on the Triumph, told him the toilets are overflowing and people are getting sick. He also said his wife told him the ship had been listing and passengers weren’t getting enough food.

The ship, with more than 3,100 guests, left Galveston, Texas, on Feb. 7 on what was to have been a four-day voyage with a stop in Cozumel, Mexico, ending yesterday. The fire was put out by the ship’s automatic extinguishing systems and no injuries were reported to guests or the 1,086 crew members, Carnival said. The U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board said today they’ve started an investigation into the cause of the fire.

The Triumph has maintained emergency generator power since the fire and the onboard technical team has been gradually restoring electricity to some basic hotel functions. The company has said toilets are operational in certain sections of the ship.

‘Terribly Sorry’

“We’re terribly sorry for the inconvenience, discomfort, and frustration our guests are feeling,” Miami-based Carnival said in the statement yesterday. “We know they expected a fantastic vacation, and clearly that is not what they received.”

“The ship was listing 4.5 degrees earlier due to 25 mile-per-hour winds with no impact to the ship’s safety,” Vance Gulliksen, a spokesman for Carnival, said in an e-mail today. “Since the towing got underway the listing has been reduced significantly and is now 2 degrees.”

Carnival, the world’s largest cruise operator, said it expects the ship to arrive in Mobile some time on Feb. 14 and will provide transportation to take passengers home.

All passengers will receive a full refund and credit toward another cruise, the company has said. The Triumph’s next two voyages, set to leave yesterday and Feb. 16, have been canceled. Those guests will also receive a full refund and 25 percent discount on future sailings.

Lost Revenue

The incident will cost Carnival 5 cents to 10 cents a share in earnings in the fiscal first quarter, accounting for lost revenue, passenger reimbursements and repairs, Timothy Conder, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, said in a report yesterday.

“We note that historically, incidents such as this have not had any noticeable impact on bookings,” Conder said. He rates the stock a buy.

There have been more than 90 fires aboard cruise ships since 1990, according to Jim Walker, a South Miami attorney who writes a blog about cruise industry-related law. They included an engine room fire on Carnival’s Splendor more than two years ago, which also cut short a cruise.

Costa Concordia, a Carnival ship, ran aground off the coast of Italy on Jan. 13 of last year, leaving 32 people dead. The company faces at least 11 lawsuits in connection with the accident, according to a regulatory filing.

Carnival shares rose less than 1 percent to $39.02 at the close in New York. They have gained 6.1 percent so far this year, compared with a 6.5 percent advance in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

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