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Cruise Ship Nightmare Nearing End

Aired February 14, 2013 - 21:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone, I'm Erin Burnett in for Piers Morgan.

We have breaking news for you tonight. You are looking live at the crippled Carnival Triumph, the ship that at this moment is just a few miles away from where I'm standing at the port in Mobile, Alabama. It has literally been hell on the high seas for 4,229 people -- 3,144 passengers and 1,086 crew members.

And it's not over yet. Carnival says it's going to take four to five hours to get those passengers off the ship, once they actually arrive. The ship will be directly behind me. Children and those with special needs will disembark first.

And it's a ship which I'm sure I don't have to remind you, has been described as a floating toilet. Some of the conditions that passengers have been telling me about have been disturbing. Now, passengers are going to be carrying their own luggage, And that's part of why it takes a lot of time. You've got luggage for more than 4,000 people that has to get off the ship.

In terms of what passengers will receive for this, Carnival says they're going to get $500, they're going to get a free flight home. They're going to get a full refund for their trip and they're going to get a credit towards a future cruise.

Now we're going to be talking to some passengers waiting on board. They are at this point just watching shore and trying to -- you know, trying to wait to land. And they're worried families are back here on shore, there are some here who are waiting to meet them. Others on ship, of course, will be getting on buses and going to New Orleans or Galveston, Texas.

Meanwhile, back in New York, Donny Deutsch is going to weigh-in on what these pictures that you've all been seeing mean for the Carnival brand. I don't think I need to tell you, Carnival is the biggest cruise company in the world.

Donny is joined by New York One anchor Pat Kiernan, who just took a cruise himself a few weeks ago. Bloomberg anchor Stephanie Rule on all things business. And Attorney Ricky Klyman on what's likely to be a whole lot of lawsuits.

And that's a big question when you look at the contract. When you sign a cruise, everybody, do you literally sign your rights away. Right now, though, I want to go to our Sandra Endo, she's in a helicopter. She's been exclusively following that disabled ship.

And, Sandra, tell me what you're seeing now. You know, some people may look at it and say, look, there's a lot more light on that ship that I'd expect from a ship that has no power.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, exactly, Erin. What you're seeing right now is the emergency generators powering some of the safety lights, some of the emergency lighting necessary to keep this boat afloat. And right now we are looking at the ship in a very different sense because of nightfall.

We've been monitoring, as you mentioned, these live aerial pictures of the progress of Triumph all day long. And now that it's night, a very different sense off the ship. The passengers have all gone down to lower decks, obviously it's colder now. Before they were on the upper deck waiving to cameras, to helicopters, to vessels that were coming to help.

They were dancing when they saw the land and the shore, but now obviously a very quiet sense in the ship. And obviously if you look at the middle decks, you see it's very dark, showing the loss of power internally in that ship. And I have to say this has been a tremendous task for Carnival, for the Coast Guard to tow this 100,000 ton ship. That is nearly three times the length of a football field through this waterway.

And obviously, it's slow going. This is a ship that normally goes about 26 miles per hour, now it's being towed at about six miles per hour, so obviously, that's why it's taking so long. Carnival is saying this is the largest cruise ship that will enter this channel and actually dock at the port of Mobile. But I want to remind viewers and remind everybody that actually Carnival was contracted -- three of its ships were contracted right after Katrina to house some evacuees and one of their ships actually docked right at the port of Mobile.

So this is not the first time Carnival has had to dock in this area. And obviously, again for another unfortunate event -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Sandra, thank you very much.

And we're going to check back in with Sandra as that ship gets closer and closer to where we are. And I want to talk to the people now who are waiting most eagerly for this ship to finally come ashore. Betty Pribyl and Rob Kenny are each calling now, they are both on board the ship.

And I appreciate both of you taking the time. And let me just ask you, what's it like right now as you're almost here.

Betty, you're almost finally through this.

BETTY PRIBYL, CARNIVAL TRIUMPH PASSENGER: We are just elated that we can see life, we can see land. Well, we can see where the land is, anyway. We haven't seen land in five days. So needless -- ROB KENNY, CARNIVAL TRIUMPH PASSENGER: Hello? Hey, for me --

BURNETT: And, Rob, I -- go ahead.

KENNY: Yes. Sweet home, Alabama.


KENNY: USA, I mean getting on land is just going to be awesome. It's -- I think as the other caller said and my fellow passenger, elated. Just to get us off, we're ready to be done. And be back, we're back on land here shortly.

BURNETT: Now, Rob, I understand that you're on the ship with some work colleagues. Your wife isn't with you. I mean, what has been the hardest part of the past few days for you?

KENNY: Probably the hardest part is -- I guess you realize how connected we are, and, you know, over the last four days not having any connectivity whatsoever. You know, the only connection that we're able to maintain was when we had sister ships come across to drop supplies and, you know, we were able to actually tap into their Wi-Fi and get text messages.

I mean, it was a frenzy. You can imagine, you know, we're all anxiously awaiting, we see the ships coming over, and then all of a sudden, everybody to the top deck, and, you know, we're trying to text and some, you know, got calls through. And so I think that's the -- that was the hardest part, is not being able to let everybody know that, hey, you know, we're doing OK. Obviously the conditions aren't great by any stretch.


KENNY: And, you know, that was probably the hardest part.

BURNETT: And, Betty, I don't know if you can still hear me. I know you were on a cruise with your -- with your family, with your youngest daughter, with some of your grandchildren. What has been the hardest part for you?

It sounds like Betty literally lost her connection.

Rob, that's -- sort of along the lines of what you said. Going days without having --


BURNETT: You know, no cell phone, now you're finally within service and having to plug in -- plug in your phones. Will you go on a cruise again, Rob? That, I think, is a question for so many of you.

KENNY: Yes, you know I think I would -- I would consider it. I mean, I don't know if I would use Carnival. And I can say that by, you know, just kind of hearing what some of the issues that maybe the company -- or with this ship, in particular, that I've learned about. That is concerning to me. So you know -- I wouldn't maybe go with Carnival, but I would definitely consider other carriers for sure.

I think it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing, hopefully.


KENNY: You know, seeing a fire on board your ship. And I think the one thing that stands out in my mind is when you're going through the, you know, safety drills at the front end, and you hear that well, you know, one of the worst things that can happen on a ship is a fire, and you -- it kind of sits in the back of your mind, OK.


KENNY: You know, there's smoking going on, people smoke on the ship. Great, you know, but -- you know, this -- if that unfortunate event happened and of course --

BURNETT: You don't think it will happen to you?

KENNY: Exactly, you don't.


KENNY: And we get -- you know, you get call it --


BURNETT: All right.

KENNY: Well, unnerving.

BURNETT: All right, well, Rob, it certainly is. And thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Good luck. I know it's going to be a really -- a really rough few more hours that you have left.

And joining me now is Mike Padilla and Tim Morgan. They gave this cruise to their wives as a surprise for Carrie's 40th birthday party. Obviously this is not the kind of surprise that you all hoped that you would be giving to your wives. But you're here, you drove here to come and meet them, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did. We figured a face they recognized would be fun to see when they got off the ship.

BURNETT: Well, that's a pretty nice thing to do. I mean, a lot of people weren't able to do that. Right? And a lot of people are getting off here and getting on buses. And you're -- your wives are going to have a hotel right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's one of the things we looked at was that, you know, it's a friendly face, it's Valentine's Day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that it would be back on public transportation and granted they've got 3,000 new friends, but I don't think they would want to ride on a bus for two hours in New Orleans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With those friends. They'd rather be off here, just getting a shower, relaxing, and then just trying to unwind a little.

BURNETT: Well, I like your point, it's Valentine's Day, right? At least there's something --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's another surprise that we're here so.


BURNETT: At least. All right, so what have your wives been telling you about how conditions have been on that ship? I know at least at the beginning, right, you couldn't talk to them at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. We didn't -- I didn't talk to Carrie until Monday -- well, last time I talked to Carrie was Monday at 12:30 and although she said the first 20 hours were a little bad, a little tougher.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She says since then it's been really good. Their spirits are high. They're a great bunch of women and they -- they're just having a good time. They've met a lot of people on board that they're having a good time with. And they said it's not as bad as some people have said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But when you're on a boat and there's an odor, depending on how the wind blows, you're going to get it. And they have.

BURNETT: And -- and did she talk to you about how the boat has been listing? I mean -- I was talking to a passenger earlier tonight who said, you know, they've been told there's a 16 to 19 list, which was not just terrifying but also of course made things like sewage, you know, run across the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they did mention that, that as the wind would change, that the boat would lean one way or the other. And then the water would come pouring out so (INAUDIBLE) on the direction. So I think it's probably -- they're probably going to have a hard time adjusting back to land. Getting their land legs back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With that motion. But they didn't really mention it's being too difficult. I think a lot of times they're just kind of spending -- they're relaxing, they're laying down, they're trying to make the best of it. And of course they're all together. And the pictures that we have seen of them, and what we've heard from them, they're in good spirits. So that's really good.

BURNETT: Well, let me bring in Carrie because she's on the phone now.

Carrie, thank you for taking the time. Tell me what it's like right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now I would say the majority of the ship is almost home.


People have been talking to loved ones all day, ever since we got reliable phone service. And everybody (INAUDIBLE), there are people dragging suitcases around getting ready to de-board as soon as we can.

BURNETT: And how excited are you to see Mike?. I don't know if you just heard. I mean, he was talking about -- you know, you wanting to see a friendly face and having him here but also of course it's Valentine's Day, he was excited to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it will be nice to see him. We're --


We're laughing because we laugh at everything. But it will be -- it will be fun this time to (INAUDIBLE) over. Very nice.

BURNETT: And do you want to say anything to your wife?


BURNETT: To Carrie.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just see you when you get here. I mean, we'll be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got clean clothes for you.



BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to all of you, really appreciate your taking the time. And I know it will be -- it will be really nice to see her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will. It'd be great.

BURNETT: Your wife, too. All right.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. BURNETT: OK. Well, thanks again.

And now I'm joined by Jaymie Lamm, just one of the passengers on the Carnival Triumph, and joins me on the phone.

And, Jaymie, can you just tell me, I've been trying to get an understanding from everybody about just how bad it's been on the ship. You know, I've heard from so many people that the crew members have been simply heroic, but obviously we have all been hearing some terrible things about the sewage, about having to go to the bathroom in bags or in the shower.

What's it been like for you?

JAYMIE LAMM, CARNIVAL TRIUMPH PASSENGER: You know, I think there have been some exaggerated tales. Everyone is saying that, you know, toilets are falling off the wall. It's absolutely true. I mean there are --


Unsanitary areas. But for the most parts, there are still some clean places for us to sit and lay down and eat. We're just trying to make the best of it.

BURNETT: And did you -- were you able to sleep in your room? I know we were talking about some rooms on the inner part of the ship, you know, without windows that there was -- there was sewage issues, it was too hot, people had to sleep outside. Did that happen to you?

LAMM: Yes. We haven't been in our room in four days. So we've been sleeping out on the decks every night on the -- by the lounge chairs that you lay out in, and then last night we pulled them into restaurants. So we haven't been in our room on the second floor in four days.

BURNETT: And have you -- what has it been like with other people? You know, another thing we've heard is, you know, someone told me tonight that they've had to spend literally three and a half hours in line waiting to get a hamburger. And that people at the back of the line couldn't even get hamburgers, they were gone, they had to -- they had to just get a bun.

Were you ever worried about getting food?

LAMM: Yes, I mean, I think so. There definitely -- some of the food has run out, and there has been a line for absolutely everything. I mean, the lines just don't stop. Carnival has done a good job of making sure ships are coming by with provisions. About halfway through they started rationing the food. So before people were just being greedy and taking loaves of bread. So, you know, the first day we literally -- I ate a piece of bread with jelly on it, that's all I had all day. But they have been running out of certain food. But we have been eating. I mean, we've got place and eating.

BURNETT: And what is the first thing you're going to do when you -- when you get home. And also, Jaymie, let us know, I mean, are you getting on a bus and going to New Orleans or Galveston? Are you staying here in Mobile? What are you going to do when you finally get off that ship in the early hours of this morning?

LAMM: I mean, to be honest, I really don't know what I'm going to do. I'm supposed to be in Houston covering the all-star game. And all the events so I just need to get back as quickly as possible. And I'm hoping to pull kind of one of those scenes from "Home Alone" and needing somebody would let me jump in their car or something. So I'm a little undetermined at this point.

BURNETT: Well, Jaymie, thank you very much. And good luck.

LAMM: Thank you.

BURNETT: And on that ship, of course, there are more than 4,000 stories of people who have gone through this over the past few days. And the question is, what comes next. Rusty and Bev Atkins' 18-year- old daughter Brianna is on the ship tonight. This trip was a present for Brianna to celebrate her high school graduation. John Harris' wife and daughter are on board with Brianna and thanks very much to you.

You know, when I first arrived here today, I -- one of the first things I saw was your sign. And, you know, I think our viewers can see just a little bit of it. But, you know, you have this made for them, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. To be ready. Thank God it's over.

BURNETT: Yes. How worried were you -- I'm sorry, I'm just going to have to share my microphone with all of you. But how worried were you when you first heard about this? I mean, and did you not hear from her for a while? And was that how it started?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we heard from them on Sunday. That there's actually a fire that broke out on the ship. That was our first initial contact with her.

BURNETT: That was your first -- and were you scared?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And feel like our hands are tied, we can't help, we can't assist. You know. And they're stuck out there, and we're all -- you know, where we're at, so definitely very scary situation.

BURNETT: What are some of the things you've heard about the conditions on the ship?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the facility is not working. And the smell. And overflowing of those facilities and no air conditioning. And then limited food and no power. So it's been definitely a scary ordeal for everybody, I think.

BURNETT: Are you worried that she could be sick or that there could be -- are you feeling comfortable about that despite the conditions?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I am worried about the sickness. I'm worried about E. coli and, you know, this all this stuff that can -- that can set in when you have a situation like that, where you're using the restroom and no place to wash your hands basically.

BURNETT: Right. Right. All right. Well, thanks to all three of you. We're going to be talking to you as the night goes on. And -- and good luck.


BURNETT: Because I know it's going to be a special night for you.

Coming up, the port of Mobile has actually never seen a cruise ship of this size. And when we come back, I'm going to talk to the mayor. Because a lot of you may be saying, look, after all of this, people are disembarking here in Mobile, why are they getting on buses and going three to seven hours away from here when there's hotels right here?

And we're going to go back to New York where Donny Deutsch and his all-star panel are ready to weigh-in. We'll be right back on PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.


BURNETT: All right. We are awaiting a news conference with Carnival Cruise Lines. The CEO of the company is actually here in Mobile. And there's going to be a press conference that's happening about 15, 20 feet from where I'm standing right now. We're going to let you listen to that live. Because there are a lot of very serious questions for Carnival tonight. It is a pretty desperate situation on board their ship, the Triumph, which is approaching the dock where I'm standing right now in Alabama.

And a lot of passengers have got to be holding their breath to -- about what's going to happen and about where they're going to go from here.

I'm Erin Burnett, and I'm in tonight for Piers Morgan. And joining me now is Mobile Mayor Samuel Jones.

And, Mayor Jones, thank you so much for taking the time.


BURNETT: We've been reporting on how this will be the biggest cruise ship to come into the port here. Obviously not the biggest ship, but cruise ships haven't been coming here for a while. Is Mobile ready for this?

JONES: Oh, yes. The cruise ship came here until October of 2011.


JONES: And since that time, we keep the terminals staffed so that the terminal -- we got word of this Monday, so --

BURNETT: So you had time to prepare?

JONES: Well, by Wednesday we were about ready. And one of the things that happens during crisis like this, sometimes there are a lot of communication breakdowns, we bridged all that now and we are prepared.

BURNETT: You're prepared. And one thing that I don't really understand, though, is that, you know, there's about 100 buses that are going to come here and people are going to get off the ship. It's going to take a couple of hours, and then they're going to get on buses and drive three hours to New Orleans, or seven hours to Galveston for a hotel room.

And I see hotels right here across the street.

JONES: Well, you know, that's different -- that's about 50 percent of the people.


JONES: There are some other people who will be staying here. A lot of people actually requested to be bussed back.


JONES: They wanted to be bussed bark. We didn't understand that initially until we talked to the CEO of Carnival and some of the top management who come. That's the communication breakdown I was talking about.

BURNETT: I understand. OK.

JONES: But we are ready to accommodate any others. Also, we are ready to accommodate any charter flights that might come in here. We're capable of handling.


JONES: I think there was an assumption made about what could happen in Mobile and what couldn't.


JONES: And once we got a chance to talk to them, I think they quite --

BURNETT: They understood.

JONES: They understood.

BURNETT: All right. Mayor Jones, thank you very much for taking the time. Really appreciate your --

JONES: My pleasure.

BURNETT: Your doing that.

And of course we are awaiting the press conference with the CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines. They're going to be answering some questions in a few moments. And as we said there are a lot of questions for Carnival.

And I want to go to Donny Deutsch, obviously, who's in New York on that.

You know, Donny, you've spent an entire career building one of the biggest advertising and marketing companies in the country. You know, earlier I was talking to a cruise ship expert who said, that in -- from her poll so far, there's a bigger impact from this cruise ship disaster on people's willingness to take a cruise in this country than there was from the Costa Concordia, which of course went aground off the coast of Italy.

So how big of a problem do you think this is for Carnival?

DONNY DEUTSCH, ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE: You know, the good news for Carnival is, three months from now, six months from now, it's not going to be a problem for them. You know, we live in a world where people are used to things going wrong. You know, we've seen such horrific tragedies that -- you know, nobody got hurt here.

Carnival, by anybody's measure, has been doing everything possible to make it right. They're going to give refunds to these people, the crew has been acting, you know, wonderfully. And, you know, obviously we took a poll tomorrow, are people taking cruises, no? This will be fine for Carnival.

And the question is not just Carnival, the whole cruise line industry. When some people look at this they don't just go, ooh Carnival, they look at what does this mean for cruise lines. And cruises offer things for people they can't get other places. Very cheap vacations, safe vacations most of the time as far as for elderly people. So they will be just fine. I know it's hard to believe right now as we stare at these pictures.

I want to actually just --


BURNETT: And, Donny, if I interrupt -- yes, OK, go ahead.

DEUTSCH: Are we --

BURNETT: I wanted to ask you, Donny, just -- as we're waiting for this press conference, just one other quick question. You know, we've reported that they're going to give everyone on this cruise, Carnival will, $500. They'll refund the cruise and they'll give them a discount on a future cruise. Is that good from a PR perspective? Do they do enough? Should they have done more? What do you think?

DEUTSCH: That's certainly more than they have to do legally. I think they should give these people a discount for life. I think in a strange way those will be a badge of honor for a lot of these people. And if they come back on future cruises telling their story, they survived it. So I actually -- strange as this is, they could turn it futuristically into a positive. Make these 4,000 people ambassadors believe it or not for Carnival cruise.

I know that sounds crazy. But for a lot of these people this will be a story of a lifetime for them.

BURNETT: I think that's interesting, Donny, when you say ambassadors. Because a lot of people would think anything but. But I mean, that's the whole -- that's what you're an expert at doing. Right? Spinning something that's negative into something that really could be a positive.

DEUTSCH: You know, things go wrong. You know, there have been -- there are fires, that planes crashed, terrible things happen. We know that. The reality is this is a big brand with thousands of cruise ships. As long as they were treated right during this problem and Carnival does right.

Carnival has got to bend over backwards and say, we're the kind of company that we take responsibility, we're standup people, things go wrong, and we are going to make it right for these -- these people and we're actually going to turn them into ambassadors.

BURNETT: All right. And the press conference right now with Carnival Cruise executives is beginning right next to me. Let's listen.

TERRY THORNTON, SENIOR VP, CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Triumph and its arrival back in the port of mobile. The ship is approximately five miles away from the cruise terminal at this point. The ship is making -- it's about six knots of speed. Our current estimates are that the ship now will be alongside at the cruise terminal between 9:30 and 10:30 tonight, 9:30 and 10:30 tonight.

As I talked about before for those of you who were here before, once the ship arrives, the debarkation process will start shortly after that 9:30 to 10:30 window. And we would expect that the because of the lack of power aboard the ship, that the debarkation process could take four to five hours. So we're still in that time frame for completion of the debarkation.

In the terminal, we have two of our teams fully deployed. We have our guest care team and our guest logistics team ready to receive our guests and make all the arrangements and help them through the process. Inside the terminal there's also warm food available. There are blankets, there are cell phones and refreshments available for the guests that need that or want that assistance.

Our biggest focus, very honestly though, is to move the people as quickly as possible on to the roughly 100 motor coaches that are awaiting their arrival and move them quickly as we talked about for the options earlier on their way, motor coach wise, to Galveston or on their way to the hotels. They have scheduled and they've elected to do.

The -- our plan for Friday is that the ship will move physically from the current cruise terminal to the repair facility here in Mobile, for us to begin the assessment of the repairs. We've had a lot of questions about our crew and what is going to happen with our crew. So beginning tonight after the last guest debarks, our hotel operations crew will have the option of, you know, staying aboard the ship or being moved to a hotel.

And then continuing with what's going to happen to those crew, the crew that -- the hotel crew that is very close to concluding their contract with us will actually go on vacation early, but Carnival will make them completely whole on the compensation for the whole contract. For the crew that has recently joined the ship on contract, we'll be transferring them to other Carnival ships over the -- over the coming days.

Deck and engine crew will remain with the vessel. And they will help us tomorrow move the ship to the repair facility. And then they will then also have the opportunity to be in a hotel. But will probably stay with the ship for a period of time as we assess and complete the repairs.

That's all the information we have tonight. And we appreciate your time and interest.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can I ask you, once the ship is alongside and it's tied up, how long will that process take before the first passenger gets off?

THORNTON: We're expecting that first passenger is off once the ship is tied up alongside will be roughly 15 to 30 minutes afterwards. The ship has been fully cleared by Customs and Border Protection, so that will not slow the process down. Assist the process of just finalizing everything and getting people off. So it will be a relatively short period of time once the ship is secure alongside.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How long will it take to secure the ship?

THORNTON: We have not -- done this -- for a very long time. So we're not exactly sure how long it will take to tie up the ship. We don't have all the normal power that we have aboard the ship in terms of the little wenches and organizing the lines, but we believe that we can complete that process within that 9:30 to 10:30 time frame.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you talk about the investigation, the legal investigation? (INAUDIBLE).

THORNTON: I don't have that information. As I mentioned, we're focused completely tonight on our guests and getting them on their journey home. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There are people saying they should be compensated for lost wages (INAUDIBLE). Is Carnival looking into that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We actually need to get back, I'm sorry.

THORNTON: I'm sorry.


BURNETT: All right. Well, you just heard a press conference there. That was Terry Thornton, he's a vice president of Carnival Cruise Lines.

And here's a couple of the quick headlines. So that ship is going to dock between 10:30 and 11:30 Eastern Standard Time and he said it's going to take up to hours then so -- to disembark all the people on board. So it'd be 3:30 in the morning Eastern Time, 2:30 here Central Time, before that ship is actually fully disembarked.

One other thing I wanted to highlight because we've been talking a lot about this before I go back to Donny, is that they answered some questions about the crew, they have more than 1,000 crew on this ship. This company is not headquartered in the United States. They don't have to abide by U.S. labor laws. They don't have to abide by U.S. minimum wage. They have limited liabilities when it comes to their crew.

But they said that they're going to give vacation early to crew near the end of their contract, and for those in the middle they're going to assign them to other ships. Two things they didn't necessarily have to do. So they did address both those questions.

And, Donny, I'm wondering whether you think they did a good job.

DEUTSCH: I'll tell you my big problem with it. That was the vice president. Where's the CEO? You know, it is very simple. When you are disaster control, and this is something that, you know, has affected a lot of people, has caught the nation's attention, why is the head guy not there saying I'm in control?

So to put a vice president of marketing out there, that's not the way I would be telling a company to do it. So shame on the CEO. He should be on the ground the same way the president of the United States is on the ground in times of very distressed time. So I think they missed a big opportunity there.

BURNETT: Yeah, I know we're waiting. Jerry Cahill, we've been waiting for him -- he's here on the ground. We were hopeful he would be at this press conference, but we haven't yet seen him. I can tell you, Donny, he's here. I know you have a great panel there with you, right?

DEUTSCH: Yeah, Erin, I'm here. We have a great panel, Pat Kiernan, anchor at New York One, Stephanie Ruhle of Bloomberg TV and Ricki Klieman, criminal defense attorney. Also joining us is Dr. Dalilah Restrepo. She's an infectious disease specialist.

You know, we've seen these terrible images of human waste in bags on the floor. No running water. We've seen urine on the floor. How serious are any of the potential health risks to these people?

DR. DALILAH RESTREPO, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Well, definitely even on a normal cruise, there's always a potential risk for gastrointestinal diseases. You have an opportunity where you have 4,000 people together in one ship. In these situations, it certainly is much more so.

What I would say is, you know, we have a condition as far as a medical situation.

DEUTSCH: What should I be looking -- I'm getting off that ship. I've been exposed to all this. We see the pictures. Specifically, what should I be looking for? And should every one of these people automatically go to their doctor?

RESTREPO: Not necessarily. I would say prudent caution. Stay home and try not to run to the doctor unnecessarily. However, you do need to have a lower threshold to seek medical attention at this point, because a lot of times you may not have symptoms right now, but you will have symptoms in a couple of days, after you're home even. So definitely have a low threshold to seek medical attention.

DEUTSCH: OK. Ricki, I'm curious. On a lighter note, I wonder if there are a bunch of ambulance chasing attorneys waiting on the dock for this ship to land. Is there any exposure for Carnival? I know on the tickets, there's a lot of disclaimers. So do any of these people have a case for any type of mental anguish they've gone through? Any kind of physical anguish?

RICKI KLIEMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Not for mental anguish. But what the doctor says is very interesting. You know, I've been looking at this ticket. This ticket is the smallest print. This is seven pages of print that you would need a magnifying glass to go through. You have to get to paragraph 11 to learn about liability.

And what it tells you is that if you have a physical injury or if you were in a situation where you actually have been with the possibility of a physical injury -- so if the doctor is correct and these people go to get tested and people actually get sick, is that a physical injury? I say yes. And if that's the case, they are in the district of Florida.

And if I go to Florida, if I'm representing these people, I'm saying, hey, wait a minute. Let me look at punitive damages here. Let me go further. And I may get tossed out of court, but maybe I shouldn't.

PAT KIERNAN, NEW YORK ONE: Mostly this is uncomfortable for people. That's all it is. It's a horrible vacation. It's a nightmare vacation, but they're uncomfortable right now. They're bored. They're up there on the decks waiving to the CNN helicopter. DEUTSCH: To put this in perspective, with the atrocities we've seen, with little children being murdered, we've got to remember these are people on vacation that are inconvenienced.

KLIEMAN: It's a disastrous vacation. It's not a disaster.

DEUTSCH: On that, we're going to take a break. When we get back, Erin Burnett is waiting the arrival. Everyone in the country is watching tonight, including over 3,000 passengers on board who, believe it or not, are actually Instagramming their cruise from hell. That just says it right there, Instagramming their cruise from hell.


BURNETT: I'm Erin Burnett here in Mobile, Alabama. And the Cruise ship Triumph -- the Carnival Cruise ship Triumph, you're looking at a live picture right now. We have a helicopter flying over, so you're able to see it. It's about 2.21 miles exactly from where I'm standing right now at the Port in Mobile, Alabama.

We just heard from Carnival Cruise lines that that ship is going to dock between 10:30 and 11:30 eastern time. But it could take three to four hours for them before people on that ship, more than 4,200 of them, are actually going to be off the ship.

Joining me now is Karen Jackson and her husband, Travis, along with Doug Briskow. Their family members of a Jazzercise group on board the ship. Your daughter Karley is on board the ship. We're going to talk to her in a moment. And your wife Angie. Tell me what happened? When Angie told you this happened, what are some of the stories she told you that really stuck with you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when she first called me -- she called me Sunday night. I heard about it. And I didn't believe it, because it was her first cruise. It was her first cruise, yes. She called me Sunday night and she said, honey, the ship broke down. She was in good spirits, you know, Light mood.

And then she called me Monday about 1:00, and she said -- I asked her, have you eaten? Because we didn't know. We hadn't talked to her. She said, yeah, I had an onion sandwich and a bowl of water, but we're going to make it. You know, she said it's just a bad situation. She said, they'll get us going.

BURNETT: So she has a good attitude. There were 11 people from where you're from in Paris, Texas. You all drove more than 10 hours to come here and pick up Angie and Karley. Karley's on the phone. Carly, what's it been like? You're able to teach Jazzercise. You're ready for almost anything. But what's it been like over the past couple days?

KARLEY JACKSON, STUCK ON CRUISE SHIP: It's been a little rough, you know, without toilets. That's always going to be rough on a big old boat. But it's been OK. Everyone's kind of come together on the boat. And we've been really safe. And we've never felt like we've been in any kind of trouble or danger. We've just kind of all come together as like a big old family.

And everybody's doors were open, letting people sleep on other balconies. So it's been rough, but the crew has been amazing. And they have bent over backwards just to whatever we needed. So that's been amazing. But -- sorry --


BURNETT: Your mother is sitting here looking a little shell shocked.

Are you -- and you're tearing up.

K. JACKSON: They're announcing something on the boat right now.

BURNETT: Your 20-year-old daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seeing her picture on the screen, I think got the both of us. We've seen the picture. We just see it there with the ship.


BURNETT: Karley, what are they announcing? Have you heard the full announcement?

JACKSON: Oh my goodness, we see land. That's all we see. No, I wasn't even listening to the announcement. I should have. We went out on our balcony. Oh, that's all what it was, was just people needing to receive travel information, that's what the announcement was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's having a good time.

BURNETT: OK. And have you been able to clear customs and all of that?

JACKSON: I'm sorry, what did you say?

BURNETT: I was just staying, did you clear customs already?

DEUTSCH: Yeah, yeah, that went so smooth. It was amazing. It didn't take any time. They gave us the form ahead of time. And we got -- they called us by floor, and then we all went through. And yes, that was really good. Really smart to have them come aboard and do that. That would make the disembarkment so much faster for us.

It was good. It was really good. So --

BURNETT: Well, all right. Karley, thank you very much. And thanks very much to all of you, I know it's going to be an emotional and special night for you. The headline, of course, Donny, from Karley was, we see land. We see land.

DEUTSCH: I'm back with the panel, Pat Kiernan, Ricki Klieman and Stephanie Ruhle. Stephanie, it's very interesting. Carnival owns almost 50 percent of the cruise ships. They own Kunar (ph). They own Carnival, Costa, Seaborn Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruiseline. Between the three, they own 75 percent of all cruises in the world. We see -- later on, we've got an airline merger today. We're down to four or five airlines in this country, four or five banks. Is this a good thing for people or bad? Does this make cruises better or less accountable?

STEPHANIE RUHLE, BLOOMBERG TV: I think it's neither here nor there. I mean, Costa Concordia, the big issue that there was in Italy last year, that's a Carnival Cruise. So even if you see people say, I'm comfortable going on cruises but maybe not a Carnival, they're probably going to end up on a Carnival Cruise either way.

But one thing to think about here is Americans are consumers. They love deals. And Carnival, as you said, is going above and beyond to compensate these people. So the likelihood that they're going to be comfortable with it -- it will be a badge of honor. They are going to get back on a cruise ship -- it's very high.

Think about unemployment in this country, yet on Black Friday, millions of people go out to ship, because Americans love deals. That's what the cruise business offers. It's a Teflon business. Disney calls their cruise business analyst Banks on Boats. It's a great business for making money.


DEUTSCH: Pat, I want to bring in you actually, who were on a cruise recently. Does the average person on a cruise know that basically they don't have to abide by U.S. labor laws? They don't have to abide by U.S. health rules? That basically it's kind of a foreign floating company that you're getting involved with?

KIERNAN: I think it's been pretty well publicized that they are existing under these foreign flags. But I was on a Panama Canal Cruise with my parents and my sister and my kids over Christmas. You get -- we were on a Princess Ship. You get on there and you see these people who are -- the employees working 12, 14 hour days, seven days a week. You understand that they're not playing by the usual American rules.

But there's a sense that the ship is a brand new, well built ship and they know what they're doing. They do this every day.

DEUTSCH: I want to bring up the point that Pat touched on. Do you think the average American is sitting at home watching going, oh, I so feel for these people? Or contextualize it in a way like, come one, this was kind of an inconvenience, nobody wants to be in that situation, but we're going to turn on news tomorrow --

RUHLE: More than inconvenience though.

DEUTSCH: But is this -- is the average American staring in right now --

KLIEMAN: I think the average American is less cynical than the four of us. I do. I think that the average American really thinks that traveling on a place that should be -- this should be a lifesaver on the ocean. The ship is supposed to be the place of safety. This is the place where you're allowed to vacation and things are fine.

And you're in the middle of sewage and urine everywhere. And we think of pestilence and disease. The reality of the situation is, many of these people who have spoken on your network today who are on this boat seem so acknowledging of the crew, even of Carnival Cruise Lines, and saying, it's great that they're going to give me 500 dollars, and yes, I am going to --

DEUTSCH: We can put up with the screw up. We can't put up with people not handling it the right way. We've got to take a break, guys.

KLIEMAN: For the most part, people are safe, though. We're not hearing any major injuries. So people aren't devastated.

DEUTSCH: Going to take a break. Coming up, more from that cruise from hell. Now they're Instagramming.


BURNETT: Welcome back. I'm Erin Burnett in Mobile, Alabama, where the Carnival Triumph is getting closer and closer to the dock, just about two miles away right now from where I am.

Joining me on the phone now is Jacob Combs (ph). He's on board. Jacob, obviously just a couple miles away. I know it's going to take more time than you want it to, perhaps another hour and a half to get here, and then to disembark. But you can see land right now, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think that's the best thing about all this. We haven't seen land since Saturday. We've seen buildings on the water, instead of birds and fish and other boats. It's actually a nice thing.

BURNETT: I know that -- I can't say I know, because I don't know how it feels. But I can imagine it feels pretty wonderful, second only to how you're going to feel when you're actually here standing on land. I wanted to ask you, Jacob, we've just been hearing from Carnival officials. They're saying, look, they're going to take care of the crew. They were answering some questions from the media.

I know that they've offered you discounts on cruises. They're refunding your cruise and they're giving you 500 dollars. Do you feel that they've treated you fairly and well?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so far. I feel pretty okay with the job they've done. I'm more impressed with the crew here on the boot. The compensation that's going to come afterwards, I think it's kind the last thing -- I'm sorry about that. I think that's the last thing in my mind. All I really care about right now is getting off the boat. I think at that point I'll kind of assess whether or not I feel the compensation is adequate. BURNETT: Jacob, thank you very much. And good luck to you. I want to go to Brenda Cologne now. She's also joining me on the phone. Her aunt was airlifted off the ship on Tuesday. And she's there with about 30 members of her family. I know, Brenda, far from what you expected.

But tell me about your aunt. Is she OK? Did you feel that that was handled well? And my understanding, it was a Dialysis issue?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, ma'am. She -- they were trying to get her off the ship from Sunday evening. But the waters were too rough. They were unable to do it. They tried again on Monday evening. And that's when the Coast Guard was finally able to get her on another ship her. And they took her into Cozumel. And she did her treatment there. And they flew her back home. And she is at home as we speak. .

BURNETT: All right. And just in a word, will you go on a cruise again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will have to think about it. I think so, but not right away.

DEUTSCH: All right. Well, I understand that it may be too early to ask, but Brenda, thank you very much. And we will see you very soon, because you are less than a mile away right now. I can tell you that from how we are monitoring it. So less than a mile away from coming back on land.


BURNETT: You feel great. Yes. All right, thank you, dear. And less than mile away. We are obviously going to be having that ship right here behind me in our sights in not very much time. Donny, back to you.

DEUTSCH: Pat, I want to throw a theory out for you, because it is very interesting when you listen to all of the people. Everybody seems OK.

KIERNAN: Shrugging their shoulders, yes.

DEUTSCH: Do you believe that five years from now, as each one of these people are telling the story, it is going to be so elevated that collectively they put the line of the boat in their teeth and they tugged it in. This is going to be a badge of honor for all these people.

KIERNAN: And a lot of cruise passengers are repeat visitors. So they'll be out there again. They'll be, yes, I got a free cruise. They gave me 500 bucks. I was drinking for free. Not to minimize the inconvenience for them right now. But almost everybody Erin has talked, she has asked them will you come back.


KIERNAN: And they've said, probably or maybe, well, I'll have to think about it. But they will be back.

RUHLE: And Donny, think about tragedies where lives are actually lost. Plane crashes, people still get on planes. People still get on cars. The night of Hurricane Sandy, I watched Erin Burnett in thigh high deep water stand in front of my building, and I still moved home. Life goes on.

DEUTSCH: Ricki, in a strange way, have we become so resilient as a culture to that point, with all of the really terrible things we go through, that we as a culture have a tremendous threshold level now? And I don't think they are going to lose one customer as a result of this.

KLIEMAN: We do have a tremendous threshold. And I also think that there is something in the collective. You have 3,500 or 4,000 people here who have now become a primary community. The only thing that is going to change all of this is if, heaven forbid, as the doctor talked about before, if there is an outbreak of some infectious disease, if there is really a sickness, an injury that occurs after this, well, then that changes everything.

DEUTSCH: Yes, Stephanie. Is there -- I'm curious -- and I know this is a little bit in my territory. I think this is an opportunity for Carnival. If I was advising, take out full page ads, use this to say that we have millions and millions of people come through this. It is so rare, but we take it so seriously. This is what we are doing going forward.

So I think there's an opportunity here. And I am going to go back. I am really disappointed that the CEO was not there.

RUHLE: The fact that the CEO wasn't there really was a misstep for them. It made me think of what's happened with Boeing and the Dreamliner. And during all of these issues, we didn't hear from Jim McInerney (ph), the CEO, who had been waiving the flag during the building and marketing of these planes. And when things went wrong, we heard from marketers. We heard from the chief operating officer.

And they want to see the man, no pun intended, at the helm. You want to see the CEO of Carnival at the helm right now.

KIERNAN: It didn't help that the top man at Carnival, Mickey Harrison, who owns the Miami Heat as well, was at the basketball game this week. He owns the team, but I would have stayed home.

DEUTSCH: Maybe stay home You don't have to be courtside looking at Lebron.

RUHLE: It will be interesting to know how big of a financial hit this will be to Carnival. But given how massive the company is, it is going to be a blip. From the cruise industry standpoint, move on.

DEUTSCH: You saw the market research tonight in front of you. I have no problem going back. OK, we have more with Erin from Mobile when we come back.


DEUTSCH: All right. You are seeing images of the Triumph 0.6 miles away. They can taste it at this point. This is the network that's going to bring it to you when they really hit shore. It's moments away.

Quickly around the table, Ricki, as we watch this kind of event happen, just net takeaways about the people, about the way people conduct themselves, about cruise ships? Anything coming to mind?

KLIEMAN: Well, I would not be taking a cruise. That is for certain. But the reality of the situation is, unfortunately, there is going to be nothing -- I say from my lawyer's point of view, there is nothing that a lawyer is going to do for any of these people that's going to make a wit of difference to this industry.


KIERNAN: Keep the complaints in perspective. When you go on Tripadviser, there is always somebody who hates the hotel. A lot of people like it. I think we have to put it through that filter, that a lot of people are content with the way they've been treated.

DEUTSCH: Stephanie?

RUHLE: It's about crisis management. And will this end up being an extraordinary branding opportunity for Carnival out of a disastrous vacation situation. But from a business perspective, I don't want to call it a humorous. I mean, it's disgusting, because it is just a story. Carnival will move on and it could end up being this amazing, you know, cruise tall tale.

DEUTSCH: Erin, back to you. What's the latest? What's going on there?

BURNETT: Well, basically, we are just waiting here. It's less than a mile away now. And as you have heard all of the people on board tell us, they can see the land. That was the big moment. But it's less than a mile away. And that means it is slowing down.

So it could come and dock here any time within the next 30 minutes, as soon as that. It could take a little bit longer. Then another four to five hours to get everybody off of the ship.

But I have to say, one of the hardest things here is going to be the actual docking. To give our viewers a sense, it is 10,000 tons, I think, to be exact, two and a half football fields long. It doesn't have a stabilizer working and it doesn't have any brakes.

So you can imagine that parking that ship, which essentially is what it is going to do when it docks, at this -- at the Mobile port, which has never had a cruise ship of this size dock here, is going to be a difficult and dicey situation. So they want to make sure they get that exactly right.

But that is why it isn't going to be as quick as you might think. It could take 30 minutes. It could take another 90 minutes before people really are able to start getting off of that ship.

We are here and we are waiting. More and more families are gathering around. And you can just see the excitement on their faces as they are waiting. So we're going to be covering that. I will be here as the ship comes in, along with our own Martin Savidge.

But "AC 360" starts right now.