Families Wait Impatiently for Loved Ones at Dock in Alabama; Mother Waiting for Daughter says 'All I Can Do is Pray'

When the crippled Carnival Triumph limped toward port here at 10:15 p.m. Thursday, passengers and their loved ones on shore cheered, knowing the smelly, nasty nightmare at sea was nearing an end.

Pictured: A small boat from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous patrols near the cruise ship Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico on Monday. (Courtesy/U.S. Coast Guard / February 13, 2013)
"You just don't want to imagine what I've been through, just to know that my daughter is on that ship with all that water and nothing I can do," said Nellie Betts, mother of Nicole, one of the Triumph's passengers. "There's nothing I can do but pray. Nothing but pray."
Family members had been hoping for a reunion with the passengers early Thursday, but as the day wore on, it became clear the anticipated happy moment was being postponed. As the cruise ship bobbed toward shore, a line attaching it to a tug boat snapped, causing several hours' worth of delays.

The ordeal in the Gulf of Mexico began on Sunday when an engine-room fire essentially incapacitated the Triumph, knocking out the electricity and propulsion mechanisms. The vessel, supposed to return to Galveston, Texas on Monday, was instead being pulled by the tugs at about 6 mph toward Mobile.

On board are 3,131 guests -- two others had to be evacuated for health reasons -- and 1,086 crew.

Not all of the toilets have been working, leading the crew to hand out bags to passengers for disposal of human waste. There's been no warm water for showers. Food has been limited and there's been little communication with the outside world.

The Triumph's foul odyssey, which has become the subject of 24/7 cable TV channel bulletins and other media reports, plunged parents, spouses and other relatives and friends of the passengers into a state of great anxiety.

"I realize that Carnival can't help the weather situation, and Carnival can't help if the tug line breaks," said Lani Corbett, whose daughter, Shannon, was also is aboard the ship. "I get all of that, but you can't help but be angry and frustrated when the timeline gets pushed back and back."

Corbett started a Facebook page, Carnival Triumph, where family members and passengers with access could post photos and messages. It had received more than 2,500 "likes" by Thursday afternoon and featured posts from frustrated and anxious family members as well as people on the boat.

Originally, waiting family members were told the ship would dock early Thursday, but then the ETA became late afternoon and finally, sometime Thursday night or even early Friday morning.

Thoughout the day, family members who converged on this Gulf port city milled around the Alabama Cruise Terminal trying to glean any information they could get from city officials, reporters or volunteers from civic organizations such as the American Red Cross. They even attended news conferences alongside reporters, hungry for updates.

SOURCE: Kathleen Haughney
The Sun Sentinel
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