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CNN NEWSROOM

Carnival Answers Questions in News Conference; Cruise Ship Passengers May Have Legal Recourse; 1st Live Pictures of Cruise Ship; Passenger Speaks About Cruise.

Aired February 14, 2013 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


TERRY THORNTON, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING, CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: Let me address one question at a time, please. I'll address your question relatively to Mobile. The question was, why didn't we stage all of this hotel operation and air transportation from Mobile? The answer to that is, when we had our logistics expert look at what the air charter requirements were going to be and the number of people we're going to move and the size of the aircraft that we were going to need, it was not feasible for us to do it here in Mobile. The New Orleans Airport was the best facility for us to arrange that and to make that happen. And it was not feasible here in Mobile. Here in Mobile, we will have a lot of ongoing commerce for the city in the sense that we're going to have hotel needs for our crew. We're going to have suppliers and other things that will be need to be accommodated here in Mobile. There will be commerce related to this operation for Mobile. It was not logistically feasible for us to do the air charter operation from Mobile.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So has there been any injuries or fatalities on board? There's one report of a fatality on board the ship. Is that true?

THORNTON: There has not been any fatalities aboard the ship.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Injuries or illnesses aboard the ship?

THORNTON: There was one illness aboard the ship early on and that was a patient that had a preexisting condition with dialysis. That patient was taken off the ship on one of our sister ships, the "Elation," and transferred to a medical facility and taken care of.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, that's -- one more question. One more question.

(INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: No information --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why the ship went out to start with -- UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: About -- (INAUDIBLE -- any response to that?

THORNTON: I'm sorry. The question again, please.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Families waiting, for their loved ones to come in, have had no information, unable to get information? (INAUDIBLE)

THORNTON: OK. We have a care team, we call it a care team, with Carnival Cruise Lines that's going to be here on-site very shortly to provide assistance to the families, to provide them with more information and to take care as best we can of their needs. And they'll be on site shortly. They're dressed in a Carnival Care Team shirt logo and they'll be visible and helpful for the families.

(CROSSTALK)

THORNTON: Thank you very much.

(END LIVE FEED)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Wow. Talk about being on the hot seat while standing in front of the press. That was Terry Thornton in marketing for Carnival Cruise Lines trying to answer as many questions as possible.

Here are the headlines. Port authority president going to speak about the logistics but I think we got the big headline from Mr. Thornton, and that is this. That ship, no matter whether it is light or dark, is going to be alongside the dock come rain or shine in about anywhere from seven to 10 hours. Originally, we had heard if it gets to the mouth of the channel, it can't -- it can't cross that channel or at least go through the channel in the dark. According to Mr. Thornton, doesn't matter. That will be alongside shore in about seven to 10 hours. Not only that, but they said that they're sending Customs and Border Patrol agents out to the ship now to try to clear all of these passengers just to stop that from slowing the process once they actually get onshore. Carnival reps are heading out to sea to join and board that ship as well. He said this is going to be a very long day. I think that's the understatement of the day.

But did mention that picture that we showed you of the generator being brought on to the deck by the helicopter, the generator getting on ship actually provided for hot meals that were dropped off as well. He said this ship is in excellent shape now, regarding the food provisions and even hot food because of the generator you're seeing in the air being dropped on board. No fatalities, important to note.

When we come back, it may be partial steam ahead for that ship, but steaming mad passengers who get off may be headed for the courts. Do they have any recourse? That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: We are following the odyssey of a disabled Carnival cruise ship as it tries to make its way to safe haven in Mobile, Alabama. It is called "Triumph" and it has more than 4,000 passengers and crew on board. It's being towed to port five days after an engine knocked out power. And even worse the ship's sanitary systems, many of that, all in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship's ETA has been pushed back. Carnival said still seven to 10 hours from dry land. You can bet when the passengers get their land legs back some will use them to head straight to the lawyers' offices.

I'm happy to be joined by Mitchell Proner here in New York, the lead attorney representing the victims of the "Costa Concordia." That was that disaster ship in Italy that nearly capsized and there was a number of deaths in that case.

The reason I wanted to ask you to join us on this story, you have been an expert in Mariners law which often times is the guide when it comes to what the rights are of passengers on board ships and I can't imagine these people will not want to sue somebody or get something.

MITCHELL PRONER, ATTORNEY FOR CONCORDIA PASSENGERS: Well, in the "Costa Concordia" case, we sued Carnival for over half a billion dollars, including the punitive damages that we're requesting on behalf of the victims and the families of those that perished in that terrible tragedy. In this case, I think we should end up asking for a billion dollars. There has to be something done to protect these passengers. These people save their money to GOP go on the drips --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: This is less serious than the "Concordia." There were deaths on the "Concordia." There's just inconvenience and discomfort on this ship.

We've got some live pictures. These are the first live pictures coming into CNN of the ship under tow by I think now four tugboats that have been dispatched to try to get that ship back to Mobile, Alabama. And may I just say that you cannot tell from the picture, but the speed they're going is about the same as your home lawn mower. So that is a laborious effort, at best, to describe how that ship is coming back into shore. And seven to 10 hours until it makes its way past the 50 plus miles it still needs to go.

Mr. Proner, again, I just want to touch on this issue. With "Concordia," when you have wrongful deaths, as alleged by those who are suing, it's a different story than those on board this ship in this picture. It's a terrible inconvenience, very uncomfortable, but they have tickets with small print that say you can't sue us for anything, effectively, don't they?

PRONER: OK. Just to be perfectly clear, I'm actually representing family members who lost relatives on the "Costa Concordia," and so I don't mean to minimize their losses.

BANFIELD: Sure.

PRONER: 32 people died.

BANFIELD: Right. PRONER: It was a horrible tragedy. Nonetheless, it's the same parent corporation, Carnival Cruises. Carnival is the parent corporation of the "Costa Concordia" and they do have limitations they seek to enforce in these cases. The limitations include form selection causes where people can sue and they also include limitations on damages. And I believe, and we alleged in our lawsuit, that there's a fraud involved in these tickets. What happens is people nowadays, when they purchase these tickets, they don't talk to an agent from Carnival directly. They typically go on-line and they click different windows or they go through an agent and the agent, the travel agent, will then go on-line and they'll click different windows, and everybody who has purchased anything on-line knows there's a series of limitations and you have to click "I agree" to go ahead. When we analyzed that web site after the incident involving the "Costa Concordia," it turned out the limitations weren't included on their web site.

BANFIELD: There is a loophole. I'm fascinated for you to say that because that may be something that is exercised in this case as well. Again, very different cases, but effectively Mariners law, tickets with limitations, perhaps web sites without them.

I have to wrap that.

Mitchell Proner, thanks so much. I appreciate it.

As we watch the live pictures coming in and the breaking news happening.

I also want to alert our viewers to turn in this weekend. We have a program set up for you, "Cruise from Hell, Stranded at Sea," a CNN special that will air Sunday night at 7:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m. on CNN. As we continue to watch the live progress of the Carnival "Triumph" and all of those people on board who cannot wait to make it back.

Nike -- Nike dropping an ad featuring an Olympic runner who is now charged in the shooting death of his girlfriend. The ad featuring Oscar Pistorius reads this, "I am the bullet in the chamber."

Next, we're going to look at how companies protect their brand in times of trouble. Our panel will weigh in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Live pictures coming in to us, some of the first pictures of the Carnival Cruise "Triumph" as it rolls into 60 miles away from port. You can see some of the passengers who are out on their balconies, now wrapping themselves in what looks like some of the bedding, because while they were in tropical temperatures, those temperatures have dropped precipitously as they get closer to shore in the gulf. Look at that. You can see them all wrapped up on deck. The temperature in Mobile, Alabama, I think the low today was somewhere around low 60s. It could be somewhere around 63 degrees as the tugboats tug the "Triumph" in all of its 900 feet and 14 stories into shore.

Again, these are some of the first pictures live coming in to CNN from our helicopter. CNN exclusive for you, to see the progress of this ship as it makes it into shore. And the headline, it will make it into shore, no matter what has been reported prior. The company has made a decision, dark or not dark, it is going to be going through that channel with those tugboats to make it dockside, hopefully between seven to ten hours. Those tugboats working laboriously but it is a sluggish pace, make no mistake. They are going as fast as a lawn mower, about six to seven knots. If you know knots, that's not much more than miles per hour, somewhere around seven miles an hour. It is slow. And some of the signs that have been hanging off, they're not in your image right now, but some of the signs that passengers have been hanging overboard have read, "Please help us." So that's quite something.

The Carnival Corporation is sending its representatives out to sea to meet up with these tugs and the ship. You can see the supplies on these tugboats and the workers also alongside that ship. But the Customs and Border Patrol agents will be meeting up with the ship and Carnival executives. "Please help us," help is coming. It's just slow and painful, and clearly the darkness is falling upon them.

So as we watch those pictures, we'll take a quick break and we will be back with you shortly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Live pictures of the helicopter hovering aboard one of the tugboats that is pulling that cruise ship that's been stranded the at sea, the Carnival "Triumph," stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. It left a week ago on what was supposed to be only a few days at sea. But for five days, they've had no power, very little air conditioning, if any, very little sanitation. Food has been at a -- you know, a pretty tough get. Some people hoarding it. And terrible stories that have come from passengers who have been on board. It is getting close to land, though.

As it is under tow, let me go live out to the ship and I believe that Larry Poret, who is traveling with his daughter, Rebecca. And we actually interviewed Rebecca's mom yesterday.

Larry, can you hear me?

LARRY PORET, CARNIVAL CRUISE PASSENGER (voice-over): Yes, I hear you fine.

BANFIELD: How are you doing out there? How are things on board?

PORET: It's pretty chaotic right now. We're trying to fiend out what the plans are and what time we're actually going to be on land.

BANFIELD: And what are they telling you?

PORET: Well, at first they told us about 6:00 this afternoon. And the last word we just got was 11:00 tonight. We don't know.

BANFIELD: And we're told that you're being -- being supplied with additional food and that a generator was on board heating up the food, in fact, one of the vice presidents of Carnival just held a news conference saying that the conditions are improving. Is that what you're seeing as well on board, Larry?

PORET: Well, after six days, yes, it's finally improving. But we just got hot food yesterday.

BANFIELD: And what about the sanitation? There have been horrible reports. Even one from your daughter, Rebecca, and Allie as well, who is Carmel Taylor's daughter. We talked to both of their moms yesterday. They said that their daughters reported that they were being asked to use plastic bags to go to the bathroom and there was sewage on the hallways and the walls. Is that what you witnessed as well, Larry?

PORET: Yes, we were told to use plastic bags and tie them up and put them in the hallway and they'd pick them up. And then, once the commodes got full to use the shower. And, of course, when they got full, the boat would tilt one by or the other with the wind, it would slosh out on the floor and then run out in the halls and soak up into the carpet.

BANFIELD: We know the stabilization system, you know, it's got to be powered, so when the power went out, the stabilization system was compromised and the ship was listing, and that's what you're saying, as the ship continued to tip and list, that the sewage would -- would slosh about -- is it just the cabin? Is it the hallway? Is it everywhere? Is it just in small areas?

PORET: Well, I mean, it runs down the wall from one floor to the next. It's running out of somebody's bathroom out into the hallway all the way across, and because we're sleeping in the hallway, you know, you've had to -- my friend, Carmel, actually had to change his mattress out for another one because it was laying in raw sewage.

BANFIELD: Oh, lord.

PORET: It's not been good.

BANFIELD: Larry, I'm seeing passengers -- we're seeing a live picture of the ship you're on right now as you're speaking with us. And some of the passengers are wrapped in blankets. Some of them are hanging signs off of their balconies, one report a sign said, "Please help us."

PORET: Yes.

BANFIELD: It sounds like you are really and truly in a desperate situation. Is that what you're feeling as well?

PORET: There have been times when it was just so scary. You know, we did all we could to keep our daughters calm.

BANFIELD: Are your -- are your daughters OK?

(CROSSTALK) BANFIELD: Larry, one of them reported -- Larry, one of your daughters reported to her mom that she was truly terrified and that was the last communication. I don't know if it was your daughter, Rebecca, or whether it was Carmel's daughter, Allie, but that was the last communication they had. And that was I believe Sunday.

PORET: Well, they were both crying they were so scared. And, you know, we're trying to tell them, there's nothing to worry about. And as soon as we get them calmed down, the electricity goes off and the doors start slamming shut locking all sections and it's, like, everybody gets scared then. Why did the doors wham shut? They are huge heavy doors, and nobody tells us until later that, you know, electricity malfunction. You know, the emergency electricity went out.

BANFIELD: Larry, we're watching --

(CROSSTALK)

PORET: All of a sudden, it went from bad to worse.

BANFIELD: We're watching as one of the helicopters is hovering above your ship where you are right now, dropping something on deck to some of the crew who are up on deck as well. And it looks as though a lot of passengers are in the background watching all of this. Have you been able to witness some of these emergency operations when they bring food and supplies and the generator via these hovering helicopters to the ship? Have you witnessed this?

PORET: Yes. Yesterday, we saw the helicopters, you know, land, you know -- drop bags full of supplies and they would go out to a cargo ship and fill it up again and drop back nets full of supplies. We've had several Carnival boats that would drop food by, stop by, and it would take four hours. And another couple of ships that would give us food. It was because one of those ships had cooked it on theirs and transported it to us so we could eat it warm over here.

BANFIELD: So, Larry, it sounds at the very, very least, despite the desperate conditions that you're having to endure there, that you are getting information or you're at least able to see some of these rescue operations.

I'm not sure what I'm witnessing right now, there's a basket being lowered from a helicopter onto the deck of the ship you're on. I don't know what's in it. I don't know if it's medical or if it's something else, but you're at least getting some kind of information from Carnival, is that accurate? Are or do you feel like -- I hate to say left in the dark given the situation you're in, but do you feel adequately informed?

PORET: We're definitely not adequately informed. We'll get information and all of a sudden telling us by 6:00 this is going to happen or, you know, seven miles away be got a tugboat. And it's hours and hours late, the information they tell us hey, you know, 6:30 this is going to happen or it's midnight before something happens. Here we are looking for hope, hey, 6:00 it's going to get better and 6:00 comes and goes and all of a sudden an announcement at 8:00. Well, we're running a little behind schedule. It's, like, no joke, you know? So -- and then, you know, there was a scare yesterday or the day before -- that they were fixing to run out of water and, you know, people were starting to get concerned as to, you know, hoarding water. We may not have water so it's been not --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: I can tell you this, this literally happened live on our airways just before I came to you. We are looking at the shim and signs being hung after the aft of the ships hung over the balconies, signs I cannot read, but you can see them waving at our CNN helicopter that is hovering live over this ship.

By the way, Larry, where on the ship are you? Are you at the stern, are you midship, are you at the bow, where are you in the roughly 14 stories?

PORET: We're right in the middle in the casino area and that's where all the information's been given out. And you have to line up to sign up for this, or sign up for that. This whole cruise has been about getting in line and waiting for something. We just got out of the line about how we're going to get of the boat. And there's another line about anything that you purchased and you got to run through customs, you got to go through that line. And every time there's food, there's a two- to three-hour line there. Go to the bathroom there's a line. It's just ridiculous.

BANFIELD: Well, we got word from Terry Thornton, who is with the Carnival Cruise Lines, the V.P., who say it may not be until midnight. You may get relief before then. He said leave on our air that it should be between seven and 10 hours before you get dockside in Mobile, Alabama, that you will be landing dockside sometime between the next seven to 10 hours, so hopefully that's a bit of a relief.

Can you tell me about the temperatures? I know it was very hot, and now you're going into some colder temperatures. What's that like right now for you?

PORET: Right now, it's cold. You can't go out on to the deck. We're all outside and everyone is forced inside. When we broke down Sunday night when the fire and everything, everybody went outside because it was so hot inside because you couldn't stand to be inside. You couldn't stand in your room. You couldn't stay inside. Everybody went outside. And whenever the cold -- you know, we got here to the cold where it's forcing everybody inside and they're wearing bathrobes to try to stay warm, you know? So, it's tricky.

BANFIELD: I'm speaking live with Larry Poret, who is a passenger on board the Carnival "Triumph." He is speaking with me live as a helicopter, one of the contractors, hovers over above the top deck of the ship.

Larry, is there any possible way -- I know you said you're midship, is there any way that you can get to an upper deck that we may be able to see you as we speak to you? How far away are you -- I know it's 14 stories. That's not an easy request. Are you close to one of the top decks?

PORET: We'd have to climb five decks to get up there to the closest one. It would take, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: I'm not going to ask you to do that. You've been through enough. That's for sure. What do some of those signs say? Have you seen any of the signs that your fellow passengers have been hanging outside on balconies?

PORET: We got our phone and took pictures of them yesterday, they say, help us, you know, we are in need of help, you know, we need food, you know, that kind of thing. So, yes, they're all kind of help and distress signals. Some of them are kind of lighthearted, you know, but most of them are sincere.

BANFIELD: Larry, at the very least are you feeling as though you are at the end of this really awful odyssey knowing that you're now within view of land at least and that you are just hours away finally from getting off of that disabled ship?

PORET: Yes. And I think that I can probably speak for most people, I don't know how much more we could have took. I mean, it was really getting to be stressful and, you know, really taking a toll on everybody just, you know, it's, like, we're counting the days. And, you know, when you get up in the morning the first thing you're thinking about is how many hours before I can go to sleep and get this day behind me and get closer to home.

BANFIELD: Larry, I wish you the best of luck. Good luck to you. That is just really, really difficult. I can't imagine what you are dealing with, what your passengers are dealing with. We have a bead on this ship as the tugboats continue to take it into land.

I do want to ask you this, Larry. The company, Carnival, has told us that a number of their executives and their staff will be coming out to meet you on board as well as members as members from Customs and Border Control agents.