A cruise ship disabled for five days in the Gulf finally docked with more than 4,000 people aboard late Thursday, passengers raucously cheering the end to an ocean odyssey they say was marked by overflowing toilets, food shortages and foul odors.
"Sweet Home Alabama!" read one of the homemade signs passengers affixed alongside the 14-story ship as many celebrated at deck rails lining several levels of the stricken ship Triumph. The ship's horn loudly blasted several times on its final docking approach as some gave a thumbs-up sign and flashes from cameras and cellphones lit the night.
About an hour after the ship pulled up at 10:15 p.m., a steady stream of passengers began making their way down the glass-enclosed gang plank, some in wheelchairs and others pulling carry-on luggage.
As the ship pulled up, some aboard shouted, "Hello, Mobile!" Some danced in celebration on one of the balconies. "Happy V-Day" read one of the homemade signs made for the Valentine's Day arrival and another, more starkly: "The ship's afloat, so is the sewage." A few dozen relatives on the top floor of the parking deck of the terminal were waving lights at the ship as it carefully made its way alongside. Those about were screaming, whistling and taking pictures.
It took six grueling hours navigating the 30-odd-mile ship channel to dock, guided by at least four towboats. Nearly 900 feet in length, it was the largest cruise ship ever to dock at Mobile.
It was to take four to five hours for all the 3,000 passengers to be off, said Carnival senior vice president of marketing Terry Thornton
Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill apologized. "I appreciate the patience of our guests and their ability to cope with the situation," he said.
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.