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THE SITUATION ROOM

Final Hours of Nightmare Voyage; Two Major Airlines Merge

Aired February 14, 2013 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Passengers can see land, but they still can't escape a crippled ship that has become a floating disaster area. Only CNN has been bringing you live pictures of the Carnival Triumph from the land, from the air, and from the sea.

It will be at least four hours before the ship docks in Mobile, Alabama. Passengers have been giving us gripping accounts of what's going on inside the ship. And they have been sending us pictures as well, many of them horrific pictures. We have seen sewage on the floors, on the walls. We're told it's even soaking mattresses. People sleeping in filthy halls. Passengers say the ship smells revolting.

We're staying on top of this story, until more than 4,000 trapped passengers and crew members are safely on land. You will hear their stories this hour. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This may have been the moment where the nightmare aboard the Carnival Triumph began. We just received this video taken by a passenger on Sunday. That's the day a fire broke out in the ship's engine room. She says she knew something was wrong when she saw the smoke, heard an alarm going off. She says she didn't find out from crew members about the fire until hours later and then passengers were told the situation was "under control."

These last few hours may be the worst for the desperate passengers. It's not too hard to understand that some may be losing their cool. Passenger Julie Morgan talked about that just a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIE MORGAN, PASSENGER: People are starting to lose it a little bit, tempers are flaring, people are being very snippy. It started 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is here. She's watching what's going on as well.

A horrific situation, Kate, hopefully it will come to an end shortly.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's absolutely right.

And estimates right now are that the Triumph will arrive in Mobile, Alabama, in the 10:00 Eastern hour, and that is at the earliest. And then, it will take another four to five hours to get passengers off the ship, only prolonging, really, the agony and the difficulty they have been suffering for the past few days.

Let's go straight to Mobile, where our Martin Savidge is standing by live.

Martin, what's the latest?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. We're standing here at the Alabama cruise terminal.

This is the absolute final destination for Triumph tonight. It's also the headquarters of all the families that have come from, as far away as Indiana, to be here in person to pick up their loved ones. Because quite frankly, they just felt that after all they have been through, they need to see a family face.

Let me show you and step out of the way, if you take a look over in that direction, you're probably going to see that gangway. That's the only gangway, by the way. This is the largest cruise ship that has ever come into Mobile, that according to Carnival officials. That gangway will pull up next to the vessel once it's tied up at the dock, and that's how people will get off, get on to the second floor building there, and it's inside that cruise terminal where the reunion with their families, at least those that have come here, will take place.

However, we have been told, this is going to be a long ordeal even after the ship gets here. And that's going to be late, if not early tomorrow morning. It's going to take four, maybe five hours, Carnival says, to de-board everybody. They will begin with children first and those with special needs, but four to five hours additionally. So you're talking 4:00 in the morning, maybe, by the time those reunions take place.

So a lot of families here have left for the time being, gone to take a break, and they will be back in a little while to begin that anxious wait. The other thing that's interesting here is that they have no way to tie up power. This is all going to take place in the dark. They brought in a lot of emergency lighting, you could say, to illuminate this pier, to make sure that the docking takes place smoothly.

They don't anticipate any problem, but keep in mind, they're navigating a very big ship up a tight channel, all in the darkness and eventually tying it up here. So you can't say that all the worry is over just yet, Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right. And we even heard during the press conference, Martin, when they finally get to the port, when they finally dock, they're going to have to use a luggage brigade to get the luggage off -- get the luggage down to the dock, so people can carry it off themselves. Clearly, the ordeal is far from over. We will be following this for hours to come, along with you. Martin Savidge in Mobile for us. Thanks, Martin.

BLITZER: Only one elevator, apparently, is working right now on that ship.

Rough weather has certainly been delaying the ship. Then that tug line broke. It's probably not going to get any easier when the Triumph finally tries to dock. And it will be very, very dark when it does.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

BLITZER: Let's get to the phone right now.

Julie Hair is on board the crippled Carnival Triumph. She's joining us on the phone right now.

Julie, how are you doing?

JULIE HAIR, PASSENGER: We're making it. Yes, sir.

BLITZER: What's it been like?

HAIR: Miserable and just probably the worst time in our life. We have had to put a lot of faith in God.

BLITZER: Have you had enough food, enough water, enough medicine if you need medicine?

HAIR: Yes, sir. We -- the first day, we had tomato sandwiches. And I hate tomatoes. But they have tried. The Carnival crew has tried their very best to take care of us. Right there. But we -- it's just been very hard, you know, to satisfy -- people are coming up there and just getting tons of food, just grabbing it, just because they're worried about getting food.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers -- Julie, we're showing our viewers pictures from the helicopter that's flying over. We have a helicopter flying over. They're sending out -- I don't know where you are. Are you on one of the upper decks? Are you outside? Are you inside?

HAIR: We're on the upper deck in the back left, back left corner. I have a pink jacket on. My sister, Robin (ph), she has a white robe on with a red bag. My niece Breanna (ph) has a blue jean jacket on. My niece Brooklyn (ph) has a white robe on, and my daughter Julianna (ph) has a pink coat on with a black skirt.

And we're all standing on the back deck, waving.

(CROSSTALK) HAIR: Back left corner.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to see if we can find you up there as well, Julie. How old is your daughter?

HAIR: She's 12 years old and she was on FOX News this morning.

BLITZER: How is she doing?

HAIR: She's doing fine.

(CROSSTALK)

HAIR: Well, she busted out crying yesterday. We were in the middle -- she's in a Bible quizzing tournament for next week, this coming weekend, and she busted out crying right there in the middle of quoting.

And I said, Julianna, let's just keep quoting. So we started quoting. And the next verse was cast your burden upon the lord, because he cares for you. And it's just neat, because she's never had a burden before. And now she's known that the lord can help through it.

It's been a trial. It's definitely been a trial. We have really had to face a lot of obstacles and things that we didn't know how it was going to end up.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Julie, let me interrupt for a second. I think we're seeing you now. You're wearing the red jacket. Somebody was just dancing in front of you, is that right?

HAIR: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: Who's dancing?

HAIR: That's Brooklyn. Brooklyn was dancing.

BLITZER: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: If you turn the other way Julie, if you will turn the other way, you will see a helicopter, you will see us. Keep turning. There we are. Now you're looking right at us.

HAIR: OK. Now we see you waving.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Who do you want to say hi to on shore? Because they might be watching you right now.

HAIR: OK. Who all do we have to say hi to? Everybody... John, I love you so much. Joe and Blake, I love you all, miss you all. (INAUDIBLE) We love you. We love you.

BLITZER: And I'm sure they love you too, all your friends and family, if they're watching CNN right now. Julie, they're seeing you and your entourage over there.

And thanks for the nice smiles, the nice waves. It's always good to see happy faces, even after an ordeal like this. Where's home for you guys?

HAIR: We are different places. Me and my daughter, Julianna, is from Louisiana, Lake Charles, Louisiana. Robin and her daughter Brooklyn are from Carthage, Mississippi. And my niece Brianna Atkins (ph) is from Indiana, Noblesville, Indiana.

BLITZER: So walk us through, what are you going to do, Julie, when you get off the boat?

HAIR: Kiss my big husband, because it's Valentine's Day. I'm excited about seeing him. I'm ready to see him.

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is here, Julie, and she wants to ask a question or two as well.

Go ahead, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Sounds like a very good Valentine's Day for you, getting off this ship at some point late this evening.

I want to ask you, because we have heard conflicting stories from some of the other passengers we have been talking to, Julie. What are you hearing about the process for you to get off this boat? Do you have clear plans for how you're going to get home?

HAIR: They're saying 11:00 p.m. Inside the boat, they're doing the debarkation. You can get the line. The line is so long. It's probably, I don't know, 200 or 300 people in the line. So we opted to just stay wherever until it goes down a lot.

But we will just wait until the line goes down, but they're calling everyone by rows. They're saying midnight, and we will probably be in the thing, and then someone said it's going to take four hours to get off. I don't know if that's true or not, but 4:00 in the morning.

BOLDUAN: It sounds like you all are in very high spirits considering the ordeal you guys have been through. What have you all been doing these past days to keep your spirits high?

HAIR: Charging our phones.

(CROSSTALK)

HAIR: I just told the lady that we talked -- she called me earlier and it was 18 percent. And so I went downstairs, because she told me to call her back at 5:00. I went downstairs and the charge was 18 percent. I sat there for an hour and 40 minutes, it got up to 42 percent.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It's the little things in life sometimes.

BLITZER: Who knew it was such an ordeal to charge a phone?

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It's the little things, especially, Wolf.

HAIR: I know. It was like 10 spots, and everybody's really nice and trying to get everybody in, and then we were using extension cords. So there's 10 spots in two different places. So I would say 20 spots to charge your phone.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Julie, tell me, what's the mood been like on the ship? I'm sure maybe it's changed over the past few days. But what's the mood been like for you, among your other passengers?

HAIR: I would say Sunday and Monday was more fear. It just seemed like people were just clinging to word, you know, good news. But since then, since we feel like we're making progress, after the tugboat finally got there and we started moving, it's a good feeling.

It's not miserable. People are working for each other. I brought Tylenol to a little girl that had a fever. Our neighbor across the hall, he had an interior room, he had a balcony room, he let us go inside and use -- fix our hair in his room or -- yesterday. And he let us do that. He let us go across there and just look out the window, just so we could have light, because it's pitch black in our room, I mean, black.

So it's very scary. And then we heard rumors of people going in rooms and stealing stuff. So that made us -- we have been sleeping in the hallway, and we have been sleeping with the door open, but that sort of scared us, so last night we shut our door.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Julie, you would you say the crew were polite? Were they helpful? How would you describe the crew?

HAIR: Oh, they have worked. The crew has worked nonstop. They have been from daylight to dark. I think one ship didn't even -- once they got a break, to take a break, it was too hot on their deck to go to sleep. They couldn't go to their cabins to sleep, because it was so hot and they had no airflow, and then the smoke -- someone said that the fire reached to 1,250 degrees in the fire room.

I don't know if that's true either. But that's what they said. So it was so hot down there, they couldn't even touch their feet to the floor. That's just rumors. That's not fact.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, Julie, we're glad we're speaking to you. Our viewers are seeing you and your friends and your family over there. You're waving to us. We have a helicopter flying over the Triumph right now.

So we not only heard you, Julie. We saw you. And I hope your family and your loved ones are watching you as well. You will be off that vessel in the next several hours. And we will look forward to catching up with you once you're on shore. Julie Hair, thanks so much.

HAIR: Thank you. Have a good day.

BLITZER: Thank you. You're going to have a much better day once you're off that boat.

BOLDUAN: No kidding.

BLITZER: We're going to continue to watch what's going on aboard the Triumph as it slowly makes its way to port. There's other important news we're watching as well, including the confirmation, or shall we say, non-confirmation, at least on this day, of Chuck Hagel to be the nation's defense secretary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're going to be speaking with more passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph as it makes its way to Mobile, Alabama. You're looking at live pictures from our helicopter flying overhead. Much more on this story coming up. But there's other news we're following.

BOLDUAN: Yes. As we talk about the cruise industry, also news in the airline industry. Airline passengers soon will have even fewer options to choose from, another merger announced today. Big news. American Airlines and U.S. Airways are joining forces in an $11 billion deal.

A decade ago, there were 10 major airlines in this country. Soon, there will be only four, if you can believe it.

Here's CNN's Alison Kosik.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf and Kate.

What everybody wants to know is, will fares go up? American and us U.S. Airways say no. And most analysts agree. One reason to believe fares will stay in check is there's very little overlap in routes between the two airlines. And you can see that on the map here. There aren't any shared hubs and they have very few individual routes in common. Heads of the two airlines told CNN there will be just as many flights available, so no reason to believe there will be an increase in prices. And I know it may be hard to believe, but if you look at fares, industry-wide, they're actually up less than 2 percent per year since 2004. And that's less than inflation, and despite a bunch of mega-mergers that have been happening in the industry.

As for anyone who's enrolled in the frequent flyer programs of the two airlines, one analyst told CNN Money it's probably a good idea to use your miles now to get the most value out of them, because, historically, it becomes tougher to book reward flights and after the merger, the value of those miles may change and flights will cost you more miles. You won't lose miles, but some of the benefits of the combined frequent flyer program are likely to change.

Here's an example. U.S. Airways dividend miles members can currently use reward miles for flights on United. They will use that benefit when they become American Advantage members after the merger. And, remember, this merger isn't going to be happening overnight. It more likely is going to take a couple of years for everything to combine.

Meantime, passengers can expect logistical headaches, messed-up reservations, flight delays, lost luggage, especially right after the computer systems are combined. Proof of that, in the first month that United and Continental operated as a combined airline, passenger complaints almost tripled from the year before, so get ready for a little turbulence -- Wolf, Kate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Get ready is right. Thank you, Alison.

BLITZER: Are you ready for a little turbulence?

BOLDUAN: I'm never ready for turbulence, but I think we will make it through this merger.

BLITZER: We will make it through this one.

We're also standing by, getting new information. A bad day for the president of the United States and the man he wants to be the next secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel. What happened in the United States Senate? We will update you on that.

Also, our top story, that cruise ship making its way slowly to port right now. You're looking at live pictures from our helicopter flying overhead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're continuing to watch the Carnival Triumph make its way to port in Mobile, Alabama. They're still about, I'm guessing, four hours or so. Some time between 10:00 p.m. Eastern, midnight Eastern, it's supposed to land in Mobile, Alabama. These are live exclusive pictures from our helicopter, our CNN helicopter, flying overhead right now. You see some folks just waiting it out on a chair there, and just relaxing a little bit. But others are anxious. Their cell phones seem to be working as they get closer and closer. You see a lot of people out there.

BOLDUAN: And look.

BLITZER: What is that, Kate?

BOLDUAN: It looks like a heart for Valentine's Day, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what it is.

BOLDUAN: See, when you have nothing to do and you're waiting around, you get a little creative.

BLITZER: You make a heart. We will have much more. We will be speaking to some of those passengers. You see those passengers waving at us. I think we will be speaking with some of them very, very soon. Stand by for that.

But I want to get to some other important news here in Washington. Democrats were unable to break the Republican filibuster of the former Republican colleague that they had, Chuck Hagel, for defense secretary. It looks like it will be another week or so before the Senate takes up the controversial nomination once again.

Our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is up on Capitol Hill.

Dana, not a good day for the president or the man he wants to be the next defense secretary.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not at all. There was some last-minute lobbying by the vice president, Wolf. I'm told he made some calls to Republican senators, but at the end of the day, he could not convince them of what the president said just a short while ago, that he needs his defense secretary at a time of war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote, the yeas are 58, the nays are 40.

BASH (voice-over): It was a moment for the history books.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is not agreed to.

BASH: Chuck Hagel fell short of the 50 votes needed to break a GOP filibuster of his nomination to be defense secretary. Only four Republicans supported their former Senate GOP colleague.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The filibuster of Senator Hagel's confirmation is unprecedented. I repeat, not a single nominee for secretary of defense ever in the history of our country has been filibustered, never, ever.

BASH: Republicans argued they need more time, saying Hagel is too controversial to be confirmed only days after getting through committee on a party-line vote.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has a right to appoint people in whom he has confidence, but we have a constitutional responsibility to consider the nominee. A number of the Republican senators have questions.

BASH: But Democrats see it another way, that Republicans are dragging their feet on Hagel in order to look for more information to bring him down.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Let's not hide behind a filibuster. Let's have the courage. Vote yes or vote no. Don't hide behind parliamentary tricks.

BASH: The White House knew from day one Hagel's confirmation would not be easy. Controversial statements on Israel, Jews and gays as well as his positions on Iran and Iraq put him in the crosshairs of senators on both sides of the aisle, but mostly fellow Republicans.

And a widely panned performance at his confirmation hearing, even by Democrats, didn't help.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: I misspoke and said I supported the president's position on containment.

BASH: But only in the last 48 hours did it become clear that Hagel did not have the votes to overcome a filibuster this week.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Senators have the right to have those questions answered.

BASH: Mostly because a handful of GOP senators who had said they would not block Hagel, including John McCain, reversed themselves, deciding to go along with the majority of Republicans demanding next week's Senate recess to study the nomination and ask more questions.

MCCAIN: I think that during the break, it's sufficient time to get any additional questions answered, and I will vote in favor of cloture on the day we get back, and I believe my colleagues would also -- enough of my colleagues would do the same.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, another vote to stop this filibuster is already on the schedule. It will be a little under two weeks from now, when the Senate returns from a weeklong break back in their states.

Several Republican senators I spoke to earlier today, Wolf, said that they were going to vote no today, but they would vote yes after they have that time to study Hagel's record and to ask more questions. If that is true, Hagel should be confirmed eventually, but after a very, very bumpy road at the hands, again, of his former colleagues here in the Senate.

BLITZER: It's an amazing story that's going on. Dana, thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: I want to go back live to the major story we have been watching all afternoon, the Carnival Triumph inching, limping its way into port in Mobile, Alabama.

We have another passenger calling in, Robin Chandler.

Robin, can you hear me?

ROBIN CHANDLER, PASSENGER: Yes, I can.

BOLDUAN: How are things for you?

CHANDLER: I'm really ready to get off of this ship.

Things have not been, you know, as bad as some people have had. We were on deck seven in a suite, and so we have had a balcony for the trip. So, you know, we have obviously had no power, no toilets. We were able to shower and, you know, wash up in our cabin.

But it's been a true nightmare for me. This is my first cruise, and I will probably not do another one.

BOLDUAN: We have been told that this was a birthday surprise, taking you on this first cruise. Quite a surprise.

CHANDLER: This was a surprise, my 50th birthday surprise.

And my birthday was Saturday, February the 9th, and on Sunday morning, we were awakened to this tragedy. And it was good up until then, as you can only imagine.

BOLDUAN: You're on the cruise with your husband, James. What have you been doing to pass the time?

CHANDLER: Playing cards, reading, and just really trying to focus on getting our mind off of being on this ship. I am a strong believer in God Almighty and know that he's the one that's getting us off of this ship. And so just been doing a lot of, you know, reflection and praying and just trying to make the best out of it.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and real quick, Robin. What are you going to do as soon as you get off this ship, late this evening?

CHANDLER: I'm going to take a warm shower and hopefully get a decent hot meal.

BOLDUAN: Sounds like a good idea. Well, take care. Thank you so much for calling in, and good luck to you and your husband. And happy birthday.

CHANDLER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: If that even helps at this point. Robin Chandler, thanks so much.

BLITZER: We've got somebody else who's on board. Another cruise passenger, Reagan Meredith, who's joining us on the phone right now.

REAGAN MEREDITH, CARNIVAL TRIUMPH PASSENGER (via phone): Thanks very much. First of all, how are you doing?

CALLER: I'm doing OK. Passing the time as best I can.

BLITZER: You're almost -- you're almost there. I know you sent us some photos, Reagan. I'm going to put some of them up on the screen. A wide shot, showing the outside deck -- desk (ph), if you will, of this vessel. People outside using sheets to shield from the sun. What's it been like over these past few days?

MEREDITH: It's been pretty rough. We had to move out of our room on Sunday, due to flooding and overflow. And the first night we didn't know how long we were going to be out here, so we didn't built a tent and that night was pretty miserable due to the wind. So the next night we got some rope, and that was a way to pass the time, is building a nice shelter out here, and helping others secure rope and putting up their sheets. And it was an adventure, to say the least.

BLITZER: I know you've made some makeshift beds from those lounge chairs out there. And we just heard Robin Chandler say people are playing cards to let the time go through. I assume you've been doing the same thing?

MEREDITH: A little bit of cards and then walking around and helping out anyone else we can. We have a rather large group with us, and so we've just banded together and tried to help out as many people as we can. Help to get people food and try to find anything to pass the time.

BLITZER: And you've been like so many others, anxious to get your cell phones, your iPhones, your BlackBerries charged. How's that working out? You're on the phone with us now.

CALLER: Well, my phone is about to die again. The charging stations, someone figured out if you unplug the ATM, those outlets are still working, and luckily, passengers had brought power outlets, or power strips with them, and so we had about seven hooked up at one time, and there were 40 or 50 phones being charged at the same time.

And luckily, one person would always step up and organize it, to make sure that it wasn't just chaos down there. And so we're all very thankful for that.

BLITZER: Do you think this is your last cruise?

MEREDITH: For a long time, yes.

BLITZER: I don't blame you. All right, Reagan Meredith, good luck to you, your friends out there. And it's only a few more hours, and then you'll be able to take that shower, have a good hot meal, and head home. Where is home, by the way? MEREDITH: Back in San Antonio, Texas.

BLITZER: All right. Good. You're not going to be too far away.

MEREDITH: No, sir.

BLITZER: Good luck.

MEREDITH: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Look at that; it's a beautiful sun there coming up, or going down, I should say. And hopefully the next two hours...

BOLDUAN: A lot of work ahead for everyone trying to get all those folks off that ship.

BLITZER: Amazing shots we're getting from our...

BOLDUAN: Beautiful.

BLITZER: ... helicopter camera that's flying over the "Triumph" right now.

After all this, you can't help but wonder if taking a cruise is a good idea. We're going to talk to two industry experts plus our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the health conditions on board.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're joined now by two experts on the cruise industry. You're looking at these live pictures of the "Triumph" as it slowly makes its way to port in Mobile, Alabama. These are exclusive pictures from our helicopter flying overhead.

Ross Klein has published four books on the subject, has a Web site, CruiseJunkie.com. Stewart Chiron is CEO of TheCruiseGuy.com.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in. Kate is here, as well. Ross, how common -- I mean, we've heard horror stories coming from some of these passengers over the past few days. How common is this?

ROSS KLEIN, CRUISEJUNKIE.COM: Well, I wouldn't say that it's common, but I wouldn't say that it's uncommon. There's probably, on average, about four ships a year where there's crippling fires, where ships have difficulties. And probably on average, about -- about ten ships a year that have disabling problems in terms of propulsion.

So in the grand scheme of things, in the number of ships that are out there, it isn't a huge number, so the chances of it happening to an individual are certainly somewhat scarce. But it's frequent enough that we know that they happen and it's not unheard of.

BLITZER: Stewart, how do you think Carnival is handling this crisis?

STEWART CHIRON, CEO, THECRUISEGUY.COM: Well, I mean, considering we've gotten much more information out of them on this incident than we've had on any, so you can definitely see a pattern that they've actually learned a lot from the last time, when this occurred, on the Carnival Splendor, I mean, we understand what's going on there.

Teams have been mobilized a lot -- a lot faster. Their reaction to passenger needs has been much greater. And, you know, they've done everything humanly possible under the circumstances to make them as comfortable as possible.

And also, do the best that they can to get them ashore as fast as possible, because getting them to Mexico would have created a logistical nightmare, considering 900 passengers didn't have their passports, and trying to -- logistically, trying to get people back to the United States out of Progreso would have been a nightmare.

BOLDUAN: We're continuing to look at the live pictures from a helicopter of the Carnival Triumph making its way into port. Ross, what should Carnival or can Carnival do in the future to better prepare for an emergency situation like this?

KLEIN: Well, I think they're prepared for emergencies when they happen near shore. I think where they're not prepared and where the industry needs to give some very careful thought to is how to deal with these accidents when they happen, when ships are at sea. This certainly would be an example. I mean, it took four days before people are brought back to port.

Similarly, the Costa Allegra, it lost power after an engine fire not even a year ago in the Indian Ocean and was adrift for several days.

I think where -- what the industry needs to be thinking about is how are they going to address these problems, when they happen at a distance, in order to try to minimize the inconvenience to passengers, and certainly, the difficulties that we've seen on this ship.

BOLDUAN: And Stewart, do you think Carnival will make these changes or make some changes going forward?

CHIRON: Well, they're always making changes, but let's keep in mind that three other cruise ships -- Carnival Legend, Carnival Elation and Conquest -- have been dispatched to the area. Tons of food and supplies have been transferred from ship to ship in some pretty awful weather, including rough seas and 30-knot winds, in order to try to make this as easy as possible, which is exactly why they were unable to move the passengers from one ship to another.

So, I mean, you could definitely see that lessons have been learned, improvements have been made. And every conceivable option has been undertaken to ensure that these passengers are taken care of. I mean, no one's minimizing the suffering that's been going on, but they are doing a very good job in trying to expedite their return home.

BOLDUAN: And we should say that depending on the passengers we've spoken to that are on board, they do definitely compliment the crew on board, saying they are doing the best they can. But definitely, there are lessons to be learned when something like this happens.

Stewart Chiron and Ross Klein, thank you, gentlemen. Thanks so much for your help.

BLITZER: Good information. We're going to have much more on the crippled Triumph coming in. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's standing by. He'll join us live. We'll talk about the health conditions on board.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Taking a look live at the Carnival -- at the Carnival Triumph, inching its way towards the port in Mobile, Alabama. You're seeing exclusive live pictures from our helicopter that's been watching this ship inch its way, inch its way, through the Gulf of Mexico, and now into the port in Mobile, Alabama. We're staying close to this story, obviously.

And when you hear passengers talk about raw sewage everywhere, you can't help but wonder about the health risks, potentially, for people on board that ship. So let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

I know people have a lot of questions about this, Sanjay, because it's such an unusual circumstance. Do you have any concerns about health risks on this ship?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I get a little bit of good news here. I don't have significant concerns about health risks. That may surprise a lot of people, given just how disgusting the conditions have been described, not hygienic, obviously, not sanitary, but there are basic things that you want to look for. Certainly, is there enough water? Is there refrigeration for medications, for example? Food.

And you know, what we're hearing is that those things have been made available. There are medical personnel. I was talking to one of the passengers earlier. They say that medical personnel has been wandering around the ship. There's an infirmary. That's obviously all important.

People that are going to be at risk, obviously, Kate, as you might guess, is people who have already had some underlying medical conditions. We've heard about a couple of patients who needed to be -- needed to be taken off the ship because of those things.

But I think that, for the most part, you know, you always talk about the possible outbreak of infectious diseases. But thankfully, we hardly ever see them. We didn't see them after Katrina, for example. My guess is we're not going to see them here.

BOLDUAN: Now, as we're watching live pictures, we're also seeing some of the pictures that passengers are sending into us of the conditions on board the ship. Sanjay, we've heard from one mother who said she was going down to Mobile to meet her daughter at the dock and was brings antibiotics with her. Do you think that's necessary? I'm guessing not, at this point.

GUPTA: No, I don't. And you know, let me say, I understand the sentiment. I mean, look, if I had a family member on the ship, I would, you know, try and do anything I could to try and help, and maybe that's where this is coming from, as well.

But, again, keep in mind, there are -- there is an infirmary on the ship, and -- and if antibiotics were necessary, they may have already been given. But also, you know, you don't want to give these medications prophylactically. They can, in fact, make people sick, and they can create an antibiotic resistance in the community. So that's no small problem. So I, you know, I just don't think that that's necessary.

COOPER: Now, when these poor folks get off the ship, we keep hearing over and over the first thing they're looking for is a warm meal and a warm shower. So waiting for that.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks, Sanjay.

BLITZER: You can see lights now. All of a sudden you see some lights over there on the ship.

BOLDUAN: They did get a generator on that ship, so they're working with limited power.

BLITZER: We know, Kate, people are charging their cell phones too. Which is good news. They're only a few hours away from arriving in the port of Mobile. We've got those exclusive pictures coming in from our CNN helicopter flying overhead. So we'll keep on top of this story. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office has just announced the charred human remains located in the burned-out cabin in Seven Oaks have been positively identified to be that of Christopher Dorner.

Let's get the story from CNN's Miguel Marquez. He's in Los Angeles. He's been covering it from the beginning. Case closed, I guess, right, Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, sort of, Wolf. Case is closed, at least on that aspect of it. The sheriff's department confirmed that they are Christopher Dorner's. They did that by dental records.

But there are many, many questions into the investigation and the search for Dorner. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Jim and Karen Reynolds did what investigators couldn't. They found Christopher Dorner.

KAREN REYNOLDS, HELD HOSTAGE BY DORNER: He talked about how he could see Jim working on the snow every day.

JIM REYNOLDS, HELD HOSTAGE BY DORNER: He'd been watching us shoveling the snow, and that was Friday.

MARQUEZ: That very afternoon, last Friday, a full-blown news conference, so close to the condo Dorner was in, he could watch, armed with assault weapons, he could have killed on national television.

CHACE RICHWINE, RESIDENT: A lot of us all pretty much had the feeling that he was still in the area. There are so many vacant houses up here that he could really be anywhere.

MARQUEZ: San Bernardino Sheriff's Office said it searched hundreds of empty cabins but never confirmed they were actually empty. Several law enforcement agencies told CNN they offered resources to San Bernardino, but were told thanks, but no thanks.

Law enforcement officials say in the hours after Dorner abandoned and burned his truck, the area should have been flooded with officers, 500 to 1,000, necessary to search so many homes in an area so wide.

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: I was a little bit surprised last Thursday that when the sheriff's office indicated that they had maybe 125, 150 officers, given that they had such a large mountainous area.

MARQUEZ: Sergio Diaz is chief of Riverside Police. Detectives from his department didn't arrive in Big Bear until Monday, the day before Dorner was discovered.

(on camera): Did you offer anything on Thursday?

CHIEF SERGIO DIAZ, RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA, POLICE: I don't know. I really don't recall whether -- what every conversation might have occurred between our people and San Bernardino.

MARQUEZ: But it wasn't until Monday you actually got boots on the ground or shoes on the ground?

DIAZ: We had a couple of detectives that were following up, yes.

MARQUEZ: On Monday?

DIAZ: On Monday.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The San Bernardino sheriff and his office have only said the area was searched and the condo in question had not been rented since February 6. Two, maybe three days before Dorner moved in. He tied up the rentals when they discovered him on Tuesday, but they managed to call 911 minutes after he left.

K. REYNOLDS: We're very happy to be alive and that the rest of our family is safe.

MARQUEZ: Lucky to be alive, going back to that condo. Never the same.

J. REYNOLDS: Just get a feeling, emotion sometimes just comes over me, and I look at that unit and think about going back in.

MARQUEZ: Two ordinary people caught up in a life-or-death situation. Did it ever have to happen?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, we asked, e-mailed, and called San Bernardino Sheriff's Department for more comment on this story. So far, they have said nothing -- Wolf.

Guys, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Miguel. Thanks very much -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead, an asteroid half the size of a football field. You won't believe how close it's going to come to the earth in less than 24 hours.

And yes, we're still watching the Carnival Triumph inching towards port.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Less than 24 hours from now, a massive asteroid will pass very close to earth. We sent our own Brian Todd to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where they're keeping a close eye on what's going on.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're inside the Deep Space Network Operations Center at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA's facility in Pasadena, California. It's at the Jet Propulsion Lab where NASA will be monitoring that asteroid.

It's called 2012 DA-14, because it was discovered last year. That's an artist's rendering of it, but they're going to be looking at the real thing when it passes very close to earth on Friday, mid-day.

It's going to pass within about 17,200 miles of earth. That's a lot closer than the moon is to the earth. It's also within the satellite ring. About 5,000 miles inside the ring of satellites that hover above the earth's surface.

What can we really expect from this asteroid has it passes close to earth? I'm here with Paul Chodas. He is a research astronomer with NASA's near-earth object program.

Paul, let's get this out of the way. Does this threaten earth? Is it going to impact earth?

PAUL CHODAS, RESEARCH ASTRONOMER: No, we've been tracking this closely for a year, and we know it will not hit the earth.

TODD: And what about the satellites? Could it threaten the satellites out there? It's going to be tough flying in and among them, right?

CHODAS: It is coming within the ring of TV satellites, but it's fairly far away from the majority, the beehive of satellites close to the earth, so we think that hitting a satellite is a very rare opportunity. We don't think this will happen.

TODD: All right, Paul. Good luck monitoring it, and we're going to be watching it closely.

What Paul and the others here tell us is that you're not going to be able to see this with the naked eye. You're going to need a telescope, at least in the northern hemisphere, to see this. And you have to wait until after sunset on Friday, because the asteroid is going to be moving away from earth at a very rapid rate of speed.

And what they're also going to be doing is using that Goldstone antenna -- that's kind of a tracking antenna -- to actually get a visual of the asteroid and measure its depth and its length. They only know it's about half the size of a football field, but they don't know how long it is, how deep it is, or the chemical composition of it. So that's what they're going to be tracking after this thing passes earth -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

And take a look at this. Our exclusive live pictures of the Carnival Triumph slowly, slowly making its way to Mobile, Alabama. Stay with CNN throughout the night for continuing coverage of this dramatic and important story.

BOLDUAN: A busy night ahead. That's for sure.

BLITZER: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.