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Cruise Ship Nightmare Described

Aired February 14, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Let me add another variable to the equation that we have now confirmed. The tug line has broken to the cruise ship. What does that mean? This thing is not being tugged? There is not any forward propulsion at the moment. Carnival working to get that fixed. That could add another multiple hours before these good people get to Mobile to dry land.

A couple of people I want to talk to here. Do we have Darryl?

OK, let's got to Martin Savidge. He's live with some of these family members who are waiting, waiting for their loved ones to get home or at least to get to Mobile.

Martin, just set the scene for me there.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, we are standing outside the Alabama cruise terminal. This is the final destination of the Triumph. That's where it's going to be hopefully dock before the day ends and it's also where a lot of family members have come.

Marissa Jinks is one of those family members. She's anxiously waiting, as so many people have been, as they have been coming here.

Why here? You had to come because this loved one was not going to get off the boat without you being there?

MARISSA JINKS, FAMILY OF PASSENGERS: Exactly. And I don't want them to ride a bus home. Six hours is far time there on a bus and then turn around to go around and go four more hours to get the truck. And it's not worth it.

SAVIDGE: Brooke, we should tell you her whole family practically is on board that boat, right?

Tell us who is there.

JINKS: My mom, my dad and my brother and my sister.

SAVIDGE: How are they doing? You have talked to them?

JINKS: My grandmother has been keeping in touch with them and they are just frustrated and ready to get off and hungry. They are hungry.

SAVIDGE: Yes. What's the plan? What's the family going to do once you get all together in your arms?

JINKS: Cry a little bit and then go eat a hot meal somewhere, because that's all they want is a hot meal.

SAVIDGE: You made a long drive. It was about a four- to six-hour drive to be here early this morning.

JINKS: Yes, sir.

SAVIDGE: What is the waiting like now as you continue to know the ship is just sort of inching its way here?

JINKS: It's very anxious and nerve-racking because I just want them to be back and just ready for them to be home. I'm tired of waiting.

SAVIDGE: We were talking about, Brooke, Marissa's dad. He's got a pretty good even temper, although you said that...

JINKS: He is getting pretty close to be just being long-gone. He's far from aggravated. He is just ready to be back and he's getting fed up with everything.

SAVIDGE: What are they describing from the boat today when you have had communication?

JINKS: They actually got a hot meal for breakfast this morning and they are actually starting to try to clean up a little bit for the first time since they have been gone. And he is pretty mad about that because he thinks it's just so nobody else sees how really dirty it was.

SAVIDGE: He thinks that somehow they are trying to make the ship better than it really was while they were all on board? That's interesting.

JINKS: Yes. He is pretty aggravated.

SAVIDGE: Yes. Was this a family getaway? This was supposed to be obviously a nice vacation. It all went horribly wrong.

JINKS: Yes. My little brother and sister's first cruise. They will probably never go on another cruise after this.

SAVIDGE: Brooke, you can just imagine.

Marissa, thank you very much.

For a lot of these families, they are gathering here now and they know the hours they are counting down. But they have had no sign of the ship. The only way they get to watch is when we show the piece coming from the aerials we have provided and also from that long lens looking from Dauphin Island.

They are very interested to see their loved ones, occasionally getting a glimpse maybe of someone they think they know up there on the deck waving toward the cameras. Right now we are the only real link they have got between the cell phone and the cruise ship and of course the longing to be back together. BALDWIN: We have sort of become this accidental conduit between these folks on board this ship and their loved ones there on land in Mobile or elsewhere through the country. Martin, thank you very much.

I want to bring in Bethany Nutt. Bethany is one of these 3,000-plus passengers on board this ship.

Bethany, can you hear me?


BALDWIN: Bethany, we have been talking, CNN has been talking to your husband quite a bit this week, your husband, Brent. Let me just ask you. Forgive me for being the bearer of bad news. Have you heard about this tug line breaking? Have you been told?

BETHANY NUTT: Oh, no, I didn't know about that. Is that why they are moving so slow?

BALDWIN: Yes, ma'am. Apparently, this tug line has broken, so you all at this moment are not being pulled along. And so Carnival according to their Twitter page says they are working on replacing it, but in the meantime, it may take you guys a couple more hours.

BETHANY NUTT: Yes. They said we were delayed, but we didn't know why. They didn't say why. They just said that we would pulling into the port between 8:00 and 11:30 tonight.

BALDWIN: OK. Well, that's the why. It's this tug line.

Let me ask you, beyond this news that I'm breaking to you, how are you doing?

BETHANY NUTT: We have been trying to keep in good spirits. We have had our breaking moments and we have had our panic attacks, but it is what it is. We can't change the situation. We have just been trying to ease our worry and we sure thought we were going to die on this boat, but we're holding up. We're keeping each to sane.

BALDWIN: I have to say I so appreciate the enthusiasm and the upbeat nature of you and two to folks I talked to in the last hour on board this ship.

It's impressive. Kudos to you. And I know a lot of the passengers are really giving kudos to the crew members who have done an amazing job. Let me ask you though when you talk about breaking moments, what was breaking moment number one for you these past five days?

BETHANY NUTT: The breaking moment was knowing there was a fire aboard. They take you to your muster station and they say the worst thing that could ever happen on a cruise ship is a fire and then we get woke up at 5:30 in the morning and saying we have a situation and then later on we get told it was a fire.

You could see the smoke from our balcony. We knew it was a fire. Right there was a panic and then the power going out was another breaking moment, and then the boat leaning as much as it did, I sure thought it was going to fall over. I was having a panic attack.


BALDWIN: What did it feel like when the boat was listing like that?

BETHANY NUTT: You're definitely walking sideways and it really does feel like it's just about to fall over at any time. I cried. I was just so worried about it. I think I asked repeated crew workers, are you sure this is OK, are you sure this is OK? And they are like, yes, yes, yes, it's just the wind, just the wind. But it really didn't feel like the wind. It just really felt like it was about to fall over.

BALDWIN: I have someone on the line, Bethany, who may lift your spirits even more, your husband.

Brent, can you hear me?


BALDWIN: Hey. I will just let you all chat for a moment, because I know these moments are rare. Let me butt out of this and please -- please talk.

BETHANY NUTT: I can't wait to get off this boat.

BRENT NUTT: What are you doing?

BETHANY NUTT: I'm standing on the golf course because it's warmer up here. And I don't know, we're just trying to pass the time so we can get off and then they told us the tug line broke and I didn't know that.

BRENT NUTT: Yes. We are seeing the tug line over the news. We're sitting inside here at the bar looking at the TV and stuff and that's what we just barely talking about.

BETHANY NUTT: Yes. There have been more tugboats here now than they have been the whole trip. We have only had two the whole trip and now there's a lot. I'm just ready to get off.

BRENT NUTT: Have you already packed up?

BETHANY NUTT: Yes, we packed up yesterday when they told us we were coming into the port today. We were like anxious. We just said get it out of the way. Get it put off the floor because the floor had urine on it.

BRENT NUTT: Oh, man.

BETHANY NUTT: And we had to do it during the day when there was light. It's pitch black at night. We have to use our cell phones and waiting two hours in line to go charge them. Then we wait four hours in line to eat.

I want a hot meal. I want ice. I really want ice. And I want ground, I want the ground. I'm just -- I'm tired of seeing water.


BALDWIN: Let me jump in because if you can just hang tight with me, I have Chad Myers, our meteorologist, who has been tracking the cruise. We broke the news here to Bethany that the tug line is broken.

Chad, I'm hearing you have more bad news.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It appears this boat is pointed to the right on that picture on the left. That's a live picture on the left from Dauphin Island showing the ship.

There is the little smokestack that looks like a little carnival tail. But the back of the boat, the stern is to the left and every time that we look at our camera, it has to keep panning to the left because the boat is backing up. Even though the stern is facing to the left, that's the way the boat is going.

I'm sure that all of these tugboats they are talking, that Bethany is talking about, is actually keeping the boat fairly stable at least in one direction, but now the current is pushing this away from shore. They are not getting closer. They are getting farther away.

BALDWIN: Bethany, had you heard that before?

BETHANY NUTT: No. I don't top the get further away. I want to get off.

BALDWIN: Are they making any announcements? What kind of communication are you getting in the last let's say hour, hour-and-a- half?

BETHANY NUTT: Just about immigration, how we need to go through customs and if you want to change flight arrangements and things like that and then they told us that the currents were keeping us from going as fast as we could and we would be delayed until between 8:00 and 11:30 tonight instead of 4:00 to 6:00 tonight.


BETHANY NUTT: But every time they come on, it's something different and something delaying us even more.

BALDWIN: I have heard a lot of frustration with some of the lack of communication, although a lot of people are praising the crew on board.

I'm sitting next to our chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, because we wanted to bring him in.

Sanjay, I just want to invite you into the conversation, we have heard -- Bethany, I heard there had been more and more people coughing on board, if we're talking raw sewage in the walls, soaking mattresses. Have you heard more coughing lately?

BETHANY NUTT: I have heard a couple of people down our hallways, they have been coughing a lot more and we have been coughing a lot more.

We wake up with sore throats and runny noses. We just attribute it to sleeping with our balcony open because that's the only airflow we have at night and during the day in our rooms. But we try to stay on the lido deck. And, yes, there are -- there were mattresses and sheets everywhere. They have been really cleaning up the last few days.

BALDWIN: Bethany, hold tight with me.

Sanjay, what do you make of that, waking up with sore throats?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it is probably is exactly what she is saying, probably more due to just the exposure to the salt air and sounds like much more continuously even at night.

Obviously, you always think about infectious diseases, but what you find typically as disgusting as the conditions are that are being described, it doesn't typically lead to wide outbreaks of infectious diseases. You want to make sure you have water, which they have, although not cold, as they're pointing out, refrigeration for medications if they're necessary, obviously food.

But you remember Katrina even? There was very unhygienic conditions for long periods of time. People worried about infectious disease outbreaks. Thankfully, they don't usually manifest. As disgusting as this is talked about, there is usually not the bacteria that cause these type of infections in the fecal material, all the disgusting stuff that we're describing.

That's not how infectious disease outbreaks occur. It's a collective misery, no doubt, and I'm sure it smells terrible. But from a health perspective alone, as long as they're good about washing their hands and sticking to those basic, it helps.

BALDWIN: Bethany, are you able to wash your hands at least?

BETHANY NUTT: Yes, I have been using my -- I had actually bought Dial body wash that's antibacterial. So we have been trying to keep our hands frequently washed and we have been using hand sanitizer repeatedly.

We don't touch the handrails. We kind of like clasp as we go up the stairs so we don't touch anything. But, yes, I have lots of pictures the way the boat has been and urine going up walls and floors flooded. It's been...

BALDWIN: Sanjay, do you want to jump in? You have a question.

GUPTA: Bethany, if you can hear us, it's Sanjay Gupta.

I'm curious, are there medical personnel around? You describe that maybe you heard more people coughing, but has there been anybody who has become quite ill and have there been medical personnel around to help? BETHANY NUTT: There's been quite a number of people going down to the infirmary, but I don't know what they're going down there for. But I don't know. They have been discussing the Sierra Team, which is medical, to just numerous floors. But we don't really go and examine what's going on. We kind of just kind of keep to ourselves so we can stay healthy to get off the boat.

BALDWIN: OK. Bethany Nutt, I thank you for calling in. Brent, thank you for calling in. I wish you a happy reunion whenever that happens, when it happens. I thank you both.

What a Valentine's Day for I know a lot of these couples who are waiting for the reunion. Thanks to you two very much.

I know some of you -- listen, we have been talking to the passengers on board this cruise ship and a lot of people are describing the conditions, but it's been difficult. Beyond this helicopter that we have had flying around this ship, we have not been able to see with our own eyes like tangible evidence of these putrid conditions.

So I am hearing now we have someone else who is calling in and we have photographic proof of the conditions inside the Triumph. That is next.


BALDWIN: Back here covering this breaking story, this Carnival Cruise Triumph very slowly, slowly heading toward Mobile.

These are live pictures on the left side of your screen from Dauphin Island, one of the coastal islands off Alabama. On the right-hand side, take a good long look with me as we are all looking at this sort of for the first time. This is one of the first of hopefully many pictures we will begin to get in here at CNN of inside the ship.

As we are looking at this, it looks to be some sort of a hall way. It looks like there is -- I don't know if that's mud. I don't know what that is that is on the right side of the tiling. This is from one of the passengers, Donna Gutzman, who sent us this photo.

And we have Darryl Malone on the phone with me now. He is a student at Texas A&M, probably was hoping for a good time on Cozumel on board this cruise. Instead, he is just hanging out at sea.

Darryl, can you hear me?

DARRYL MALONE, PASSENGER: Yes, I can hear you now. They are doing the announcement. That's why I couldn't hear you.

BALDWIN: All right. I almost want to pause just so you can hear it and you can me what they were saying.


MALONE: OK. I can hear you now.

BALDWIN: OK. Darryl, what was the announcement? Can you fill me in?

MALONE: They are telling us to go inside off the decks and not look overboard at the tow, because one of the tow's line that snapped. I guess they're trying to say it's like a safety hazard or something, but nobody is moving. Everybody is still up on the deck.

BALDWIN: Everybody is still outside. They're not paying attention. They want that fresh air.

MALONE: Yes, ma'am. Everybody is just tired of just sitting still. And that was our lead tow boat.


BALDWIN: That's right.


MALONE: Go ahead.

BALDWIN: No. That's right. We were just reporting here on CNN we had heard that it has snapped. I was talking to a passenger a couple minutes ago. And she had -- I broke the news to her.

Was part of that announcement, at least, was there that transparency from Carnival. They told that tow line has snapped?

MALONE: Yes, they just now told us that it snapped.

I was in the (INAUDIBLE) line are waiting to go through customs and everything. I saw -- it was like you could like a whipping, like a whip in the water. I was like, what is that? It got tight and it pulled the rope and the thing that the rope was attached to off of the boat, off of the towboat. And now that towboat is just like going, drifting back now.

BALDWIN: So you saw it rip?

MALONE: Yes. It looked like a whip in the water.

The rope, because you know it got tight. It went tight and then it got loose. And then it's like a little whipping move. You know how you strike a whip?

BALDWIN: Sure. Sure.

Darryl, I talked to so many different people and everyone said the same thing. When I ask you what your lowest point was, everyone said it was seeing the smoke from the fire on Sunday from that engine room.

Beyond the smoke on board this cruise, what has been the most tenuous and most difficult moment for you these last five days?

MALONE: It would be have to -- using the restroom, because they say we have plumbing, but our plumbing is pretty much just shut down. And most of the toilets, because the ship was leaning one way, if you are on the bottom side of the ship, all of your toilets came -- all of the feces and urine came out of your toilet to your room.

You couldn't go in there. They gave us red bags that said hazardous waste to use the restroom in. And I was like, what kind of stuff is this? Everybody is like -- at first, nobody wants to use it. But after a while, you have no choice. And then the rest room is around the corner, so they only have them open on some floors, because everything is not flushing.

BALDWIN: Darryl, we all feel for you.

And I'm just getting some news as we are finally getting some of the first photographs from inside the cruise. You talk about using the restroom. Here we go. We are looking at one of these red bags that you all have been describing that you have had to place in the toilet to then use the restroom to then take the bag, chuck the bag somewhere. Are you still using these red bags?

MALONE: Some people are and some people are just waiting in the line.

And the whole red bag situation, it got so bag that I was talking through the ship and a little girl is like, I need a red bag. I need a red bag. I can't find a red bag. I promise I will give it right back to you. It got that bad at one point.

BALDWIN: Wait. People are sharing red bags?

MALONE: I guess so. I was like, you can just have it. You can use it and you can have it. I don't need...

BALDWIN: Oh, my goodness.

Sanjay Gupta, I want to ask you about that in just a moment.

We have to sneak a break in.

Darryl, stay with me, if you can. Hang tight on the phone. Clark Howard is here, HLN money expert, because obviously the question is what can these people do in terms of if you want to be litigious, is this an opportunity for them after everything? Borrowing red bags? We have a lot to talk about. Quick break. Back in a moment.


BALDWIN: Where did we leave off? Ah, yes, the red bags.

This is a live picture here of this Triumph, just about 39 miles away from Mobile inching slowly toward port. That is the red bag we have heard so much about from these different passengers, because the sewage system has been kaput, for lack of a better word. They have had to place these red bags in toilets.

We just heard Darryl on the phone, student from Texas A&M, saying that he had heard from some folks they were actually sharing the red bags. Sanjay Gupta?

GUPTA: Yes. What do you say about that?

It's disgusting, no question. I think the question a lot of people are trying to figure out from a health standpoint, are these people likely to walk off the boat and be very sick as a result of all that has happened? And as surprising as it may be to people, the chances are not.

In fact, you find in a lot of these types of situations, natural disasters, even Katrina we were talking about earlier, you don't see those widespread infectious disease outbreaks. And again as disgusting as this is to think about, even when you talk about fecal material, they typically don't carry a lot of disease-causing bacteria that we worry so much about.

BALDWIN: Even if you're not -- these are pictures also. Donna Gutzman, thank you so much, Donna, for giving us these pictures. Again, this is an idea of the close quarters that some of these people are sleeping in.

These are the first photos we're getting inside the ship, as a lot of these people on those lower floors, because of the smell and because of the shower water and the sewage, et cetera, they are sleeping...

GUPTA: The close quarters are always more of a concern, because if you do have anybody who is sick, then everyone or many people are likely to get sick as a result. That's the case really under any situation, because if people are in close quarters overall that's going to happen.

But you look for the basics. Is there enough water? Obviously, you worry about dehydration. You want refrigeration because some people will be on medications that require refrigeration. And having food and those things still are trumping. You find that people, as long as they're diligent still about washing their hands, even with the alcohol-based hand sanitizers and stuff -- and sometimes people are more diligent in these situations because what they are seeing and experiencing.

Hopefully they can keep an infectious disease outbreak under control.

BALDWIN: And from health to suing, Clark Howard, HLN money expert, we were talking in the commercial break.

And I was basically -- let me ask you again. If you are getting off this boat, given all the conditions we have been hearing, what do you think? You think just sue Carnival. This is horrendous.


BALDWIN: No way?

HOWARD: No way. The cruise lines' contracts -- this is not just Carnival. This is all the cruise lines -- have contracts that severely limit what recourse you have.

In fact, Carnival's contract even deals with the mental anguish issues that people may have after this experience, that you have no rights for any things related to psychological damage. They are very thorough at saying they are not responsible for anything. Now, there are lawyers who specialize in cruise law. They're going to be testing...

BALDWIN: Cruise law.

HOWARD: Yes. There are lawyers that specialize in maritime law and they will be testing the limits of what the courts will permit for legal actions following this.

The most important, valuable thing though is what we are doing right now. Carnival is getting a commercial they don't want. What they will do for people -- what they have already offered is much more than they are required to do. Even giving people their money back and giving them the other cruise, who will take that, $500, free transportation home, these things are not things they are required to do, but the overarching publicity about this is why they are doing it.

BALDWIN: Gentlemen, stay with me.

I want to bring in Donna Gutzman, who has been amazing in sending us these pictures.

Donna, these are the first pictures we have had on CNN from inside this cruise ship. I don't know if you were listening to the last couple of minutes of our conversation. Were you aware before you took this lovely cruise to what should have been the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico that there was fine print that everyone on board the ship signed saying I won't sue?

DONNA GUTZMAN, PASSENGER: No, I'm really not aware of that.

Honestly, I didn't book my ship -- my cruise myself. Someone -- my travel agent did a lot of that for me. And, honestly, I haven't signed anything until I came aboard. And I don't think that remember seeing any of that as far as the liability of the cruise.

Now, I'm sure that they didn't expect that we would be in -- we're walking around in raw sewer, and we're having (AUDIO GAP) their own crew, that their employees will be having to pick the bags up from outside from our doors.

As far as fine print, I'm sure there is going to be lots of class- action people that are -- attorneys are going to come out of the woodwork to try and get everyone what they can. But there a lot of people that are in a lot of distress. And you will have the ones that really are suffering and the ones that are just going to get what they can get out of it.

I honestly -- I just want people to understand how we were treated. And up until the Coast Guard arrived, this ship was a wreck. It was disgusting. We were all sleeping on the floor. There's feces anywhere. It's disgusting. We are walking through urine.

Then, all of a sudden, the Coast Guard...


BALDWIN: Let me jump in.


BALDWIN: Let me, if I may, just jump in.

I am getting some -- this is good news, at least for you. I'm sure -- I know the announcement came on board the loudspeaker a couple of minutes ago about that broken tug line. The good news for you, Donna, is that the tug line has been replaced. So you should be moving forward closer and closer toward Mobile.