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End in sight for nightmare cruise ship, expected to dock at 1 a.m. Friday

| Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, 9:15 p.m.
The cruise ship Carnival Triumph is towed to port past the Sand Island Light House near Dauphin Island, Ala., on Thursday, Feb. 14. AP

MOBILE, Ala. — Reeking of rotting food and sewage from overflowing toilets, a crippled cruise ship carrying more than 4,200 people was limping into Mobile Bay on Thursday as passengers awaited the end of a vacation voyage some described as hellish.

The Carnival Triumph was being towed into port by tugboats as the drama played out live on cable news stations, causing another public relations nightmare for cruise giant Carnival Corp. Last year, its Costa Concordia luxury ship grounded off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people.

Passengers described an overpowering stench on board the ship four days after an engine room fire knocked out power and plumbing across most of the 893-foot vessel and left it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.

After the mishap, toilets overflowed, soaking many cabins and interior passages in raw sewage.

“Let's just say that I had a pair of shoes that I will not be bringing home with me,” Julie Morgan told CNN.

“It is revolting,” Morgan added, referring to the smell aboard the ship. “It's a mixture of sewage and rotting food.”

But Terry Thornton, a senior Carnival Cruise Lines vice president, told reporters in Mobile that additional provisions were laid in on Wednesday and the ship was now “in excellent shape.”

Passenger Donna Gutzman said those aboard the ship were treated to steak and lobster for lunch on Thursday afternoon.

“Our basic needs are being met. For the most part, they are making us happy,” Gutzman told CNN.

The ship was expected to arrive in port about 1 a.m. Friday, Carnival said. A senior Carnival official said it could take up to five hours to remove all the passengers from the ship, which has only one functioning elevator.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said a tow line on one of four tugboats helping the Triumph get into port snapped. But the tug was later reattached to the vessel.

Operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, the flagship brand of Carnival Corp., the ship left Galveston, Texas, a week ago carrying 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew. It was supposed to return there on Monday.

A Coast Guard cutter has been escorting the Triumph on its long voyage into port since Monday, and a Coast Guard helicopter ferried about 3,000 pounds of equipment including a generator to the stricken ship late on Wednesday.

Carnival Cruise Lines Chief Executive Gerry Cahill said in a statement late on Wednesday that the company had decided to add payment of $500 a person to a refund of their tickets to help compensate passengers for “very challenging circumstances” aboard the ship.

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