After eight miserable days at sea, the 4,000 passengers and crew aboard the stricken Carnival Triumph cruise ship are set to reach Mobile, Ala., today as the ship's owners increase the compensation for what some on board are calling the vacation from hell.
All 3,143 passengers aboard the 900 foot colossus, which stalled in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine room fire early Sunday, were already being given a full refund for the cruise, transportation expenses and vouchers for a another cruise. Carnival Cruise Lines is now boosting that offer to include another $500 per person. Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, announced the additional compensation Wednesday.
"We know it has been a longer journey back than we anticipated at the beginning of the week under very challenging circumstances," he said in a statement. "We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure. Therefore, in addition to the full refund and future cruise credit already offered, we have decided to provide this additional compensation."
Carnival also said that it has canceled a dozen planned voyages for the Triumph and acknowledged that the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before an engine-room fire left it powerless in the Gulf of Mexico.
Passengers have been texting ABC News that sewage is seeping down the walls from burst plumbing pipes, the carpets are wet with urine. Food is in short supply and reports have surfaced of elderly passengers running out of critical heart medicine, and others on board the ship squabbling over scarce food.
The ship is expected to be at the passenger terminal sometime this evening. A phalanx of EMT's are set to triage disembarking passengers.
ABC News flew over the ship providing the first aerial views of the ship shows curious passengers gathering at the rails, looking up at the ABC News plane. It also seemed from the air that deck chairs had been turned into beds.
"[There are] no showers. The smell's terrible. We are camping on deck," passenger Ann Barlow told ABC News.
Mary Poray, whose 12-year-old daughter Rebekah is traveling on the Triumph, teared up when shown images of the ship's deck.
"I just need to know that she's ok," Poray said. "The worst part was when she said, 'Mommy, I'm afraid I won't ever get to see you again."
Families of those on board say that Carnival is adding insult to the injury they already feel as photos of Carnival's owner Micky Arison are now ricocheting across the web. Arison, who also owns the Miami Heat, was seen sitting courtside at a basketball game on Tuesday as the Triumph crisis unraveled and Cahill was trying to apologize.
"At Carnival, our promise to our guests is to deliver a great vacation experience," Cahill said. "In this case, we did not deliver on that promise."