Families frustrated seeking info about stricken cruise ship




Posted on February 12, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 13 at 12:23 AM

Slowly but surely, a massive cruise ship with dozens of North Texas passengers aboard is being towed to the Alabama coastline.

An engine room fire knocked out propulsion systems on the Carnival Triumph, leaving it to drift about 150 miles off the coast of Mexico.

The original plan was to tow the boat back to Mexico, but the ocean currents forced the U.S. Coast Guard to change plans and instead head for Mobile, Alabama.

It's a longer trip, leaving passengers on the disabled ship an extra day — and that makes loved ones anxious.

Carnival Cruise lines posted a video apology from president and CEO Gerry Cahill on its Facebook page Tuesday. He conceded that his company failed to deliver on its promise of a great vacation experience and said the focus now is getting everyone home as quickly as possible.

North Texans whose families are aboard the Triumph are upset and frustrated with Carnival. They told us they've been having a hard time getting information.

"I can't stop thinking about him," said Allen resident Jamey Kenny, whose husband Rob is on the Triumph. "Everything I do, I am just so distracted because his safety is on my mind."

Kenney's husband is among 4,000 passengers and crew members aboard the disabled Carnival Triumph. So far, she hasn't been able to get much information from the cruise line.

"I wanted to know logistics of how they were going to get them flown home, and how they were going to do things, but no one would answer my questions," Kenney said.

Tim Wilson of Rockwall hasn't been to work this week. His wife Stephanie is aboard the paralyzed cruise ship, and he hasn't had any help taking care of their three kids.

"I understand the politics of it in trying to keep everyone as calm as possible," Wilson said. "At the same time, I need to know as much information as I can."

Carnival officials in Miami set up a toll-free phone number Tuesday to keep families apprised of any developments. Cruise line officials told us once the ship arrives in Mobile, passengers will be flown to Houston. They had started their journey in Galveston.

Carnival's Cahill praised passengers for doing a great job in dealing with a difficult situation. He said the Triumph is scheduled to arrive in Mobile on Thursday, and Carnival has reserved more than 1,500 hotel rooms in Mobile and New Orleans on Thursday night.

More than 20 jets have been chartered for Friday to return guests to Houston, and transportation will be provided for those who need to fetch their cars back in Galveston.

Carnival will give guests full refunds for the cruise, including transportation expenses. They'll also get a voucher for a future cruise and reimbursement for most on board expenses.

"Am I going to convince my wife to take advantage of that voucher?" asked Wilson. "Those vouchers probably are not going to be good for anybody on that boat."

Jamey Kenny talked with her husband on Monday. Tim Wilson received a few text messages from his wife.

Both say their spouses are in good spirits, despite very trying circumstances.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

Watch the Carnival news conference on February 12: