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Tug boats to reach disabled cruise ship Monday

Tug boats to reach disabled cruise ship Monday; fire leaves toilets temporarily disabled

Associated Press
First of 2 tugboats reaches disabled cruise ship
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File - This July 27, 1999 handout file photo provided by Carnival Cruise Lines shows the MS Carnival Triumph departing New York harbor, on her inaugural voyage. Carnival Cruise Lines said Sunday an engine room fire had disabled the cruise ship Triumph about 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula with 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members on board. The U.S. Coast Guard says tug boats are scheduled to reach Triumph about noon Monday. The cruise ship with 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members will be towed to Progreso, Mexico. (AP Photo/Carnival Lines, Andy Newman, File)

HOUSTON (AP) -- Passengers aboard a cruise vessel stranded in the Gulf of Mexico had limited access to bathrooms, food and hot coffee on Monday as they waited for two tugboats to arrive to tow them to Mexico, Carnival Cruise Lines said in a statement.

The Carnival Triumph has been floating aimlessly about 150 miles off the Yucatan Peninsula since a fire erupted in the aft engine room early Sunday, knocking out the ship's propulsion system. No one was injured and the fire was extinguished. The ship has been operating on backup generator power since the incident, the statement said.

The ship, which left Galveston, Texas, on Thursday and was scheduled to return there Monday, will instead be towed to Progreso, Mexico, and the 3,143 passengers on board will fly back to the United States. There are also 1,086 crew members aboard the ship. They are to arrive in Mexico on Wednesday.

The tugboats are expected to arrive later Monday, Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said in an email. One is coming from Mobile, Ala., and a second is from Mexico, he said. The Coast Guard has informed Mexican authorities of the situation in their waters, a spokesman said.

When another Carnival cruise ship, the Legend, rendezvoused with the stranded vessel Monday, supplying Triumph passengers with food and supplies, Texas resident Brent Nutt was able to briefly chat with his wife, Bethany, who could draw a cellphone signal from the visiting cruise line.

Without power, the ship's stabilizers are apparently not working, Nutt told The Associated Press, and the massive liner had been leaning to one side Sunday. By Monday afternoon, the ship seemed more upright, he said.

"She sounded a whole lot better today than she did yesterday," Nutt said about two hours after chatting with his 32-year-old wife.

Passengers were also given food, Nutt said, and some of the bathrooms are working. But the ship is dirty, Nutt said his wife told him.

"There's water and feces all over the floor," Nutt relayed. "It's not the best conditions. You would think Carnival would have something in place to get these people off the ship."

Passengers also are getting sick and throwing up, he said, adding that his wife told him: "The whole boat stinks extremely bad."

Melinda Ramos, meanwhile, said her father was laughing when she briefly spoke to him on Sunday.

"He might be completely joking, but he said they're sleeping in tents outside," the 19-year-old daughter of Mary and Matt Ramos told The Houston Chronicle.

A similar situation occurred on a Carnival cruise ship in November 2010. That vessel was also stranded for three days with 4,500 people aboard after a fire in the engine room. When the passengers disembarked in San Diego they described a nightmarish three days in the Pacific with limited food, power and bathroom access.

Carnival said in a statement that it had cancelled the Triumph's next two voyages scheduled to depart Monday and Saturday. Passengers aboard the stranded ship will also receive a full refund, the statement said.

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Plushnick-Masti can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RamitMastiAP

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