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CNN NEWSROOM

Carnival Triumph Inching to Shore

Aired February 14, 2013 - 14:00   ET

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


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: By air, land, and sea, we are covering the nightmare cruise ship as thousands of passengers get ready to dock.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. The news is now.

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Hi, everyone. What a day. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

In addition to, of course, the developing story, watching this Carnival Triumph going one mile an hour to get to Mobile to get these people to their families, to get them home, I want to also let you know we're monitoring breaking news on Capitol Hill. A big story there involving the fate of Chuck Hagel, President Obama's pick for defense secretary.

So, we are now getting word of these back room negotiations, all in efforts to get this former senator confirmed. We will take you to Washington. We will get to all of that.

But first, let's get you back to this story you have seen developing all afternoon here exclusively on CNN. Here are the pictures. This is the approach of the nightmare Carnival Cruise ship called Triumph. Live pictures as it is inching towards shore. Four tugboats. As I mentioned, one mile an hour. You will see this live feed and a couple of others here as we continue to talk through this hour on CNN.

We've been covering this. If you've been with us, we've been covering this for the past couple of hours and we are seeing all around this ship people have scrawled out messages on sheets, help us signs. Also we saw our first glimpse, which we'll how you in just a little bit, of some of these passengers wearing these bathrobes because, keep in mind, they packed for Cozumel and now they're inching along here off the coast of Alabama. They're cold. They've also been, as we've heard stories of mattresses soaked in sewage. They're sleeping on decks. Here are the pictures. One by one by one under sheets on the desks. It's surreal. Freedom now within sight for the 4,000 people on board. Here's what we're getting from Carnival. They say -- this time has really been fluid and it probably will continue to be -- that this cruise will dock sometime after 9:00 Eastern. Eric, hit me one more time in my ear. Who was that? All right. So we have a passenger on the cruise ship. This is Julie Morgan.

Julie, you with me?

JULIE MORGAN, PASSENGER ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH (via telephone): I am.

BALDWIN: Julie, let me just ask you, how you are doing?

J. MORGAN: We're OK. Our group is good.

BALDWIN: Your group is good. How do you mean good? Where are you standing right now here, as we're looking at some of these pictures of the cruise?

J. MORGAN: Curiously enough, I'm standing at our muster station on deck four.

BALDWIN: I'm sorry, Julie. I didn't hear your answer. I was hearing we may have a little surprise for you. Can you just reiterate what you told me so I can listen?

J. MORGAN: I said, it's ironic that I'm standing on our muster station looking out over the life boats.

BALDWIN: The muster station, oh, right, overlooking the life boats, because I'm sure you would love to hop in one of those boats and head toward your husband, Tim, who I hear is -- who I guess isn't too far waiting for you in Mobile.

Tell me -- I mean I understand you all were supposed to finish this cruise, what, five days ago. This fire broke out in the engine room. What in the world have these last couple of days been like for you?

J. MORGAN: It's been interesting. Actually, last Sunday, very early in the morning, about 4:30, we could hear a bunch of commotion. We're on the first floor, so just above the engines. We could hear a lot of commotion. I ran to the door and opened it and there were crew in jump suits. Some with tanks, like scuba tanks, on their backs. Some with just life vests running up and down the halls. And the far end of our hall was filled with smoke.

And just after us doing our muster practice, and the one thing they said was, the worst thing that can happen on a cruise ship is fire. Of course, we all kind of flipped out a bit and grabbed our vests and ran up to the muster station and we're standing where we belonged. And different crew members were telling us different things as far as where to go. Some of us wanted to go back into the interior of the ship, which I was having none of. In the end, we ended up on the top deck of the ship, where is where we slept for the past three nights until it rained and got very cold. And then we're now sleeping in one of the dining rooms. BALDWIN: I'm sorry, you're sleeping in one of the dining room. And how long have you been sleeping in the dining room, Julie?

J. MORGAN: Just last night. Prior to that we were sleeping under the sheets on one of the decks.

BALDWIN: And tell me why. I think I know the answer (INAUDIBLE).

J. MORGAN: Our room is on the first floor and there's no ventilation. So it's very hot, extremely smelly. We have no toilets, so things started to back up into our showers. And because the ship listed -- is listing so badly, if we shower, all the water flows into our rooms. So we don't really stay down there. We have our luggage up on the beds to keep it dry. We have two rooms with our group and one of the other rooms got completely flooded and a lot of things were ruined. But our room is OK and we've been living (ph) in and out of it, but only going down there to change clothes or grab a kind of shower if we can.

BALDWIN: A kind of shower, so says Julie Morgan.

Julie, I mentioned a moment ago we have a little surprise for you. Your hubby, Tim Morgan. We also have him here.

Tim Morgan, can you hear me?

TIM MORGAN, HUSBAND OF CARNIVAL TRIUMPH PASSENGER: I can hear you.

BALDWIN: Tim, you know your wife, Julie?

T. MORGAN: Can you hear me?

BALDWIN: Julie, can you hear him?

J. MORGAN: Hi.

T. MORGAN: Yes.

J. MORGAN: Yes, I can hear you, honey.

BALDWIN: Go -- I want you to just go -- go ahead. Have a conversation live on CNN. I'm going to -- I'm going to butt out of this.

J. MORGAN: How is Mobile? I wish I was there.

T. MORGAN: I'm glad you're doing OK. It sounds like your -- yes. It's a -- it's a little cold. We got you some jackets and some clean clothes for you. So we figure that --

J. MORGAN: Awesome.

T. MORGAN: It will be nice for you to get off the boat and then see us.

J. MORGAN: Yes. We are freezing. It's very cold.

T. MORGAN: Well, good, well, I'm glad you're OK and hopefully we will get you something to eat besides onion sandwiches. Whatever you want, we'll --

J. MORGAN: Oh, yes, fried onion sandwiches. I can do without those. Oh, and salmon sandwiches. I can do without those too.

T. MORGAN: I can imagine, yes.

BALDWIN: Guys, guys, let me jump in. Julie, I'm just curious, beyond the onion sandwiches that you've been eating and your lovely bedroom in the dining room, how have you been filling your days? What are you doing to pass the time?

J. MORGAN: You'll laugh, but we've spent the past two days, about four to five hours a day, charges our phones so we can at least have the opportunity to talk. The only time we get reception is if one of the other cruise ships comes close enough to us. So we've all been frantically charging and we've actually rigged charges stations from ship computers to try to rig -- I'm sure we're going to blow up the ship doing it, but we're trying our best to keep safe (ph) charged.

BALDWIN: Let's hope no. Let's hope not because the end --

J. MORGAN: Exactly. Exactly.

BALDWIN: The end is in sight here as you all are inching toward Mobile.

Tell me more about the charges stations. Whose idea was this and how did you figure out how to pull this off?

J. MORGAN: I'm not sure. Some of us have pulled (ph) surge protectors from behind our TVs and just linked them together. We have some pictures that maybe somebody will get to you soon of just hundreds of phones plugged into these. And then we've also figured out that those of us who have USB chargers can pilfer from the actual computer screens that have USB ports. So we're hording a USB port computer right now trying to keep our things charged up so we could speak to loved ones when we needed too.

BALDWIN: And just one --

J. MORGAN: But most of us had had no idea how we were getting home once we get off this ship. They haven't been -- that's the one complaint that I would have is -- and it's not with the crew on the ship. The crew on the ship has been phenomenal. Never a bad word. They've been working to the bone. They only get three hours of rest at a time and they've been working 24-hour shifts. All of our complaints would be with the head office in Miami.

BALDWIN: Well, let me -- let me, if I may, fill you in, because we've, of course, been listening to the Carnival end of things. And let me just tell you here on TV, it sounds like you have two options. Either you hop off this cruise and you can board a bus to New Orleans. They have all these -- something like 1,500 hotel rooms in New Orleans. You spend the night in New Orleans and then you fly on a charter flight, you know, to Houston or Galveston where this -- where this cruise originated. Or if you are in a time crunch, you just hop from the cruise to the bus and drive directly to Galveston or Houston. Those are the two scenarios that have been described to me.

And, Julie, I'm also just curious, because I appreciate your enthusiasm and I hear -- I hear your high spirits, but have you had any moments in these what I'm sure have been five very long, drawn out and smelly days, have you had any teary, teary moments?

J. MORGAN: Yes. Actually the first day that I was able to get through to Tim, I cried. And my -- one of my friends who was with me got through to her husband and we cried too. Just partly out of fear and frustration because at that point we still didn't know exactly what had happened and if it would happen again. I mean we don't -- we were very in the dark. So that was very scary times. And, yes, people are starting to lose it a little bit. Tempers are flaring. People are being very snippy starting midday yesterday through today. Basically because we would get the we're arriving at 9:00 on Wednesday. No, scratch that, we're arriving at noon on Thursday. They keep coming back and changing things. So people are getting frustrated with that.

BALDWIN: What about -- let me just take you back to the hygiene of all of this. I mean the sheer fact that you don't -- you know, you can't stay in your original room because of the smell, because of the shower water running into your room. You're sleeping on, you know, the decks. You're sleeping in the dining room. We're hearing stories of, you know, sewage-soaked mattresses. How --

J. MORGAN: Yes.

BALDWIN: Let me actually -- not how are you, are you able to stay at all clean?

J. MORGAN: Let's just say I'll have a pair of shoes that I will not be bringing home with me. I've just -- they're full of sewage, I'm sure. There's partly floors, the carpeting, like all the stairwells and walkies (ph) are carpeted and they're just saturated to the point that you step on it and it squishes up. Water and whatnot on you.

Yes, I mean a little bit, especially when the ship changes its list and then our water flows back the other way. We're able to get a little bit of showers. But we have no water or light down there. So it's like a group of three of us holding flashlights and things so the others can see. So, I mean, semi clean, but constantly trying to wash our hands and sanitize because we don't want to get sick. And the crew's doing the best they can. They're cleaning their railings and doing things like that. But, I mean, at this point we're all just doing the best we can.

BALDWIN: Can I ask you, as best as you can, to describe the smell.

J. MORGAN: I don't know that I can accurately describe it to you. It is revolting. It's a mixture of sewage and rotting food. Depending on where you are in the ship and sometimes you think you've found a non- smelly area and it will just drift in. Part of it is because some -- the toilet situations change so quickly. Some will work and then they'll be backing up fluid from floors below and it overflows. And the crew -- like I said, the crew is awesome. They are doing their very best to keep up. In fact, I went to the bathroom earlier and there was one working toilet and this poor woman had been in there for hours and she just continually dumps water down in an effort to keep it flushing. It's ridiculous.

BALDWIN: You brought up food. I know that you all ran out of/wouldn't want to eat any of the meat that might be leftover right now.

J. MORGAN: Right.

BALDWIN: What have you been eating the last couple of days?

J. MORGAN: Lots of fruit and vegetables. When the Coast Guard and our sister ship came to drop some food off, then we had some more stuff. They actually, just yesterday, got one of the grills working by rigging some power from a generator that the Coast Huard dropped off. So we were able to have some grilled chicken that the Coast Guard also brought. Lots of fruit.

It's not that they're not feeding us. I guess people's complaints would be it wouldn't be things you would necessarily choose to eat. But we're not hungry. They ran out of cereal and a lot of the dry goods, but a lot of that, and I have to say, that's another thing that's very agitating is, people are acting ridiculous and hoarding food and taking 10 and 20 of things and then it goes to waste. So we've been trying to just take what we need. And it's not that we've gone hungry at all. We are doing fine on that front. If everybody would do the same thing, everyone would be fine.

BALDWIN: That's what I've heard. We talked to different passengers though the week and they said they were frustrated that there isn't more of a rationing system. That people at the front of the line, they just put the food out and then people begin --

J. MORGAN: Right. They caught -- the crew caught on too late that that is what needed to happen. And they started it yesterday. And that made things run a little smoother.

BALDWIN: Julie, what's the worst example of anger you've seen break out on the ship, whether it's over food or something else?

J. MORGAN: I haven't seen so much about food. There's been a lot today with the flip flopping of information. And the things you said about our two choices, we were also told that, but then when we were given our departure information today, it was all wrong. And we were trying -- you know people, for the most part, have been very helpful sharing information back and forth. Oh, I've heard this or you need to go here and do that. And we were -- a friend and I, the one who we're here celebrating her birthday, were trying to impart that information to this other lady who just used some very foul language at us and lost her mind. And again, we're all in the same boat. And even the crew. I mean they didn't ask for this and it's likely not their fault that this is the way it is.

BALDWIN: Right, 1,086 crew members, 3,143 passengers here on board this Carnival Triumph.

Julie, let me bring your husband back in. Tim, happy Valentine's Day to you two. Tim, what's your plan once you finally --

T. MORGAN: This is one for the books, yes.

BALDWIN: What's your plan once you finally see your wife?

T. MORGAN: I'm going to give her a big hug. I know that she's been through quite a bit. And then I think the next step will probably be to get her a proper shower and get her some food. I don't want her on that bus to New Orleans. So we're going to try and put her up here in Mobile and just get her to relax and hopefully she'll get her land legs back after being that long on a boat.

BALDWIN: Well, that's sweet of you that you're going to hug her and then have her take that shower.

I want to ask both of you -- I want to ask both of you to stand by here. Let me bring in our weather man/cruise tracker, Chad Myers, who's been watching this.

How -- here are these live pictures, and I'm sure Julie's listening with bated breath, how far out is this thing?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Still about 39 miles from the dock. You know, this has to go -- and I know they can see the shore and we're actually in Dauphin Island. That's where that shot is coming from, looking out and we can see the ship.

Now, that's not where the ship is going to dock. There's another 30 miles of travel for this thing to get to the Port of Mobile.

BALDWIN: At one mile an hour.

MYERS: Well, it's going to go faster than that. They're at one mile an hour right now because they're positioning the ship to get it in the channel.

BALDWIN: OK.

MYERS: This cannel is very long and it's very narrow.

BALDWIN: You have to aim it.

MYERS: Only 400 meters or 400 yards wide. And this ship is 300 yards wide, OK, or at least it is long. So you don't want it to be going in sideways. This has to go in nose first. And that's what they're doing now. That's why the ship has basically slowed down so much. Then it has to turn to the left. Then it has to turn to the right. Then it has to keep going straight. Hope there's no wind that can push it off course. Then it turns left a little bit again and then heads up -- right up into Mobile Harbor.

BALDWIN: All the while, as we're looking at these zigzags of turning left and turning right, this thing has no steering whatsoever.

MYERS: No.

BALDWIN: So explain to me the role of these different tugboats and that boat we see in front of it.

MYERS: The Resolve Pioneer is in front.

BALDWIN: OK.

MYERS: About 5,000 horsepower pulling this thing in a forward direction. At least most of the time. But during the night last night or the night before, the wind was so strong that it couldn't make much way, it couldn't get headway because the wind was blowing it backward 25 miles per hour. This Resolve Pioneer can only do about 14, 16 mile per hour full throttle by itself. So you're pulling a boat -- a ship so much larger than you are. All of a sudden, it almost didn't have a chance for a while. Now it's close. Now it's getting there. The issue is, it's going to get dark. And, I mean, this is -- it's --

BALDWIN: And colder.

MYERS: And it's going to get -- and they don't want to put this thing in that channel in the middle of the night.

BALDWIN: They wouldn't keep it out there --

MYERS: I don't think they would, but the cruise officials said that they would make sure it gets in tonight. And I've read some of the shipping manuals from Mobile Harbor. Don't move big ships at night.

BALDWIN: Oh, no.

MYERS: So we'll see who wins that fight. And maybe it's already decided. I'm not starting anything right there.

BALDWIN: OK.

MYERS: I'm just saying that that's what the typical Mobile Bay is. They don't like to move big things through that long channel, thirty miles long, at night. Especially with no power.

BALDWIN: Chad Myers, don't go too far.

MYERS: I won't.

BALDWIN: And I want to thank our guest there, Julie Morgan, who was gracious enough to talk to me for the last 15 minutes on board this ship, and her husband, Tim Morgan, who is waiting for her arrival there on the shores in Mobile.

A lot more coming up here as we continue to cover -- live pictures here of this Carnival Cruise Triumph supposed to be in Cozumel. Actually, by now, they should have been home. Now they are still out at sea. We are watching this head back to port. We're going to talk to another passenger. Have a surprise reunion live on the show after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: All right, back here live, looking at this Carnival Triumph ship slowly making its way toward port. I mean imagine being on board right now. All 3,143 passengers. You can see land. It's so tauntingly close here. They are 39 miles from Mobile, where this thing is supposed to dock in hours from now here. It could even be just late this evening.

We want to go to Mobile, to our correspondent whose been there, Martin Savidge, who has been in the thick of some of these families, helping us talk to some of these husbands and wives who are awaiting their loved ones who are stuck on this ship at the moment.

Martin, just do me a favor and set the scene. How many people are there at the moment?

I can't hear him. Can you guys hear him?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That was Tim's case, by the way.

BALDWIN: Here we go. Go ahead, Martin.

SAVIDGE: Can't hear?

I was just saying, Tim's case was that he arrived with his friend Mike there about two or three hours ago. There are families that continue to show up just about every hour on the hour here as they anticipate the ship's arrival. Many of them have driven from great distances. Tim came from Houston. I've talked to others who have come from Kentucky. There are people here that have come from other states as well. They feel it's important, I guess, that, you know, even though their loved ones may not give the sense of urgency when they talk to them, they feel, look, hey, I've got to be here as a husband, as a father, as a wife. You know, they are all coming here. And especially those that have children on board. So it's a gathering point. Many of them are caught off guard by the amount of media attention here. But, of course, we're all caught up in this because we've heard so much about this ship. We now can see it. And like so many of the family members, we also can't wait for it to come up and dock here.

So, right now, you know, there's an area that's been set aside. Some of the families, you can see, talking on the phone, updating loved ones, letting them know what they've heard from onboard ship. Letting them know, in some cases, what they've heard from the media. So it's a long, drawn out waiting game.

But for the most part, people seem to be in pretty good spirits. The families do have their complaints. Most of that is about, you know, the transportation. But right now they've heard from their family members as they get closer to shore. And that was the worst thing for them, those days when they heard nothing because they were only imaging the horrors that the families were going through, the rumors that were circulating wildly. Now they hear them. Now they know they're OK. And soon they know they'll be standing right here onshore with them. So a lot of smiling faces. BALDWIN: Smiling faces there. But we've heard from both Julie and Tim when they were talking about some of the frustration, the lack of the communication. They don't really know what their options are as far as once, you know, she's off this cruise. And I'm curious because I had heard earlier that the VP of Carnival was there in Mobile. I had heard Jerry Cahill, the CEO of Carnival, who had, you know, caught a little heat because there was some photographs taken of him, I believe it was Tuesday night, at the Miami Heat. He's a co-owner, co-manager of this basketball team, when they were playing Portland. You know, the fact that he -- he hasn't been there in Mobile, is he in Mobile yet?

SAVIDGE: You know what, we don't know. We haven't -- if he is, we haven't seen him. However, we have been told that there is a Carnival crisis team that arrived a few hours ago. Exactly what a crisis team does, I don't know. But we do know that, of course, there's a lot of people that have to be handled.

You know, just getting this ship to port is not the end of the problem when it comes to Carnival. They've got massive logistic issues that they have to deal with. Three thousand plus passengers, not to mention over 1,000 crew members. Most of the crew, we're being told, are going to be housed here in Mobile. Most of the passengers, as you've already been told, are going to be headed to other places. They'll be given options of getting on buses, going to New Orleans, where they could overnight there. Or they could also get on buses and begin to head to the final destinations. And then there's aircraft. Twenty aircraft reportedly have been chartered. They're going to go to New Orleans because they claim the airport here just simply cannot handle all those people, all of those planes, in the way they want to get things done.

BALDWIN: Right.

SAVIDGE: So, a huge logistics challenge. We're waiting for the buses. Over 100 buses are anticipated that you will need just to get the people from that ship when it docks directly behind us to where they head next.

And then the family members, of course, that will also be wanting to be reunited.

BALDWIN: Right.

SAVIDGE: And they want to get their loved one in their arms and get them somewhere right away. And a lot of them seem to be saying, look, we don't want to take that bus to New Orleans. We don't want to put them through that. We've got a hotel room here and we're going to get them first into a shower and then get them a hot meal. They've all got their plans as to how they want to -- how they want to greet their loved one. And it is Valentine's Day, so a lot of romance is going to bloom as well.

BALDWIN: Yes, happy Valentine's Day to all these people who are on board or off board this ship.

Martin Savidge, thank you. We'll come back to you. SAVIDGE: OK.

BALDWIN: I just want to point out one tweet. Thank you, Chad Myers, for pointing this out to me. We've been watching the Carnival Cruise line Twitter, which, at least, you know, to their credit, has been updating somewhat what's been going on. Says update on Carnival Triumph. A tug line broke and is being replaced. That's what we have from Twitter. You can follow them @carnivalcruise.

When we come back, as promised, we're going to talk to some more of these loved ones, both who are, you know, stuck on land waiting for their other halves, perhaps their better halves here on this Valentine's Day. We'll have some reunions live for you on CNN. And also, of course, other stories percolating today on this Thursday. Back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Want to bring in Jay Herring here. He has worked for quite a long time as a senior captain on board. Actually -- he's actually been on the Carnival Triumph.

Jay, you with me?

JAY HERRING, FMR. SR. OFFICER, CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: I'm here.

BALDWIN: Jay, first question -- and I tell you, I tweet while I'm anchoring here and everyone is asking the same question, which is, if these people have been on this boat for five extra days, why not bring in, I don't know, other ships? Get them out before now?

HERRING: Yes, it's all about passenger safety. I mean we've seen images on here of the smaller boats up against -- up next against the Triumph. And you see this tiny little boat bobbing up and down in the water next to a very stationary cruise ship. And so imagine you have -- you need to get on a rope ladder from there. Imagine having to send your three-year-old child on a rope ladder or an elderly person on a rope ladder to get there. It just wouldn't work. I mean even if -- let's say you put a gang way between this small, little ferry and the cruise ship, OK, now a small boat moving like this with the gang way bobbing up and down against a stationary boat, I mean that's -- that could be just disastrous.

BALDWIN: So it's kind of a rock and a hard place. Either you have that disaster --

HERRING: Yes, it's all about --

BALDWIN: Right, (INAUDIBLE) --

HERRING: Yes, it's -- yes, it's just all about the passenger safety. And, you know, when you talk about -- we've seen a lot of images here in conversations with the passengers. And, you know, the other thing here, the other flipside is the crew members.

BALDWIN: Yes. HERRING: You know, they -- I mean they're living in the same conditions. You know, in my book, "The Truth About Cruise Ships," I talk about how the crew have a lower standard of living than the passengers. The rooms are smaller. The food is different. A lot less privileges. Sometimes crew members can't even go out on the open decks if -- unless they're working.

Well, in this case, everyone is having a terrible time. So, you know, and you think about the crew members. Not only are they living in these same conditions, but they're still working and probably working double shifts, you know, on top of their already long 12 to 14 hour days that they normally work.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you this, because -- and it's a good point. We haven't talked enough about these crew members who, according to people we've talked to, have done really yeoman work on board. What about the cruise ship? When you hear these people describe the sewage running down the walls, the shower water running into their rooms, what do you do with the cruise ship once it's docked and presumably Carnival eventually would like to turn it around. It's disgusting right now.

HERRING: Yes, I mean we've heard that they've already taken it out of 12 cruises to both repair the engines and probably to disinfect and clean the entire ship. We may have carpets that are replaced. Who knows what the extent of the damage is going to be. I mean it's just a real mess out there.

BALDWIN: Jay Herring -- we're going to come back to this here in just a moment -- a senior officer, former senior officer with Carnival Cruise Lines. I appreciate it very much, talking to me about this.

HERRING: Thank you.

BALDWIN: We're going to continue this coverage -- live coverage of this cruise heading toward Mobile, to port, to their loved ones, finally, over the next hour and a half.