Families of Southeast Texas passengers await word from disabled cruise ship

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 9:40am

BEAUMONT, TEXAS (KBMT) -- The Carnival cruise ship that has been stranded in the Gulf of Mexico since Sunday morning is now waiting to be pushed to a Mexican port city by tugboat.

The ship left Galveston on Thursday for Cozumel and was returning to Galveston when a fire began in the engine room.

More than 4,000 passengers and crew members are stuck on the boat with very little electricity.

Willie Miller of Lumberton has been sitting by his phone waiting for a call from his wife who is stranded on the Carnival Triumph.

"She said it's worse than what they're (Carnival) telling you. The fire was worse. We smell smoke in the hallways," says Miller.

Miller got word there was an S.O.S. in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday afternoon, then received a short phone call from his wife.

"The phone connection was bad. So, I couldn't talk to her but like for a minute," says Miller.

His wife, who is on board with three friends, was only able to call when a second carnival ship, "Elation", delivered food Sunday to the stranded ship.

Once that ship departed, cell phone service again went dead.

During the brief phone call, Miller's wife told him there was minimal food, no electricity and no working toilets, forcing passengers to relieve themselves in bags.

"They were giving people little red hazmat bags to go in and then take hazmat bags and put into dump stations somewhere," says Miller.

"It's a little bit miserable. But, people are doing the best they can," says Christopher Plaunty who has a mother and aunt aboard the ship.

"They're all sleeping on deck in public areas because the ventilation system is down. All they have is vegetable sandwiches to eat," says Plaunty.

Plaunty says he's more at ease now knowing the Coast Guard is on scene. But, he says other family members are taking it hard.

"My grandmother is very concerned. She called last night and has been crying all morning," says Plaunty.

The cruise ship is expected to arrive in Progreso, Mexico on Wednesday. Passengers will be transported to the nearest airport for a return flight to Houston. Some passengers are expected to start arriving in the U.S. on Thursday.

Carnival says it will fully refund the passengers.

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