Carnival contrite after crummy cruise

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MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Passengers who finally escaped the disabled Carnival cruise ship Triumph were on the move this morning, some checked into the comfort of hotels, others on buses or headed to charter flights home after five numbing days at sea on a ship paralyzed by an engine-room fire.

The vacation ship carrying some 4,200 people docked late Thursday in Mobile to raucous cheers from passengers weary of overflowing toilets, food shortages and foul odors.

“It was horrible, just horrible” said Maria Hernandez, 28, of Angleton, Texas, tears welling in her eyes as she talked about waking up to smoke in her lower-level room Sunday from the engine-room fire and the days of heat and stench that followed. She was on a “girls trip” with friends.

Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill apologized at a news conference and later on the public address system as people were disembarking.

“I appreciate the patience of our guests and their ability to cope with the situation. And I’d like to reiterate the apology I made earlier. I know the conditions on board were very poor,” he said. “We pride ourselves on providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case.”

Passengers were supposed to get a full refund and discounts on future cruises, and Carnival announced Wednesday they would each get an additional $500 in compensation.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said passengers had three options: take a bus straight to Galveston, Texas, to retrieve cars parked at the ship’s departure port, take a bus to New Orleans to stay at a hotel before a charter flight home or have family or friends pick them up.

While the passengers are headed home, the Triumph will head to a Mobile shipyard for assessment. Carnival has canceled a dozen more planned voyages aboard the Triumph and acknowledged the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before the engine-room blaze. The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation.

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