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Further Details of the Disabled Cruise Ship's Return to Port
Aired February 14, 2013 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I have Clark Howard here who has been -- covered the travel industry for years, knows about the one you're talking about, mental distress, et cetera. He has a question for you.
CLARK HOWARD, HLN: Yeah, my question for you, we've been talking about it here, so one of the things here being offered when you hit shore is you're going to be offered a free future cruise. What's the chance you're going ...
DONNA GUTZMAN, PASSENGER ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: A free what?
HOWARD: A free future cruise.
What are the odds you're going to want to take a cruise again in the future?
GUTZMAN: I'm not interested, not with Carnival, not knowing that this ship had problems when I got on it and they shipped us out anyway.
I'm not going to choose Carnival again, that's for sure.
HOWARD: But, Donna, you would go on another cruise? Because you love cruising or whatever?
GUTZMAN: I'm not sure at this point. I'm still in distress. I'm still pretty shaken up.
I haven't made it home yet, so I don't know that I would cruise again at all. Honestly, I can't give an answer right now because my emotions are pretty high right now.
HOWARD: Got it.
BALDWIN: Sanjay, you want to ask her on the conditions aboard the ship?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you know, when we're talking about -- obviously, it sounds pretty disgusting, Donna, what is being described there, just in terms of the smell, where you're having to sleep.
Have you seen any of the -- have people -- have you seen people getting sick. I don't know a tactful way to ask this, I guess, but what have you been seeing?
GUTZMAN: Here's the thing. If someone gets sick they take them down to the medical part of the ship, and they're keeping all that disclosed. I don't see people getting sick, now.
Now, we've had people falling and people slipping and things of that nature, but we don't have people on this ship vomiting and bad cases of diarrhea and all that, that I can see.
I don't think anyone is worried about us getting sick at this point. Right now, the situation is that we've just have been living in the situation that's really got bad yesterday.
So, if we're going to get sick, I don't know when that's going to happen. From a medical standpoint, that's going to be something that you're going to have to go to your doctor and be checked out and see if anything happened.
Right now, we're all for the most part -- the majority of us are still healthy.
BALDWIN: Thank goodness. Thank goodness.
I also just wanted to ask you, Donna, because it's cold where you are, right? I know a lot of people are wearing those bathrobes because a lot of people didn't pack with sort of -- I don't want to -- winter clothes because they were headed to Mexico.
How are people keeping warm?
GUTZMAN: Well, it was pretty cold and we were all staying in our robes.
Now, the sun has come out and it's a little bit warmer, so we're not all wearing the robes anymore. We're just -- you know, the temperature isn't bad anymore.
BALDWIN: OK. And, again, this is all because of this fire that broke out in the engine room on Sunday. You were supposed to finish with the cruise on Monday and here we are on Thursday and you're still trying to figure out when you all will get into Mobile.
From what I've been told and, Donna, I just want to ask you what you've been told as far as the options you have, whether it's being bused from Mobile to New Orleans and spending the night in New Orleans, and then hopping a charter flight back to Houston, Galveston or hopping a bus directly to Texas.
What have you been told and what's your plan?
GUTZMAN: Actually, I have someone waiting for me in Mobile for when I get there.
So, as soon as I found that out, I really -- I'm sorry. I didn't listen to all the other options.
But what I did overhear is that they are going to be charting people from Mobile New Orleans, stay the night, leave in the morning, or some people are going to fly from Mobile or New Orleans into Houston tomorrow. BALDWIN: Well, I'm glad you have someone waiting for you. You can forego either of those options.
Sanjay, jump in.
GUPTA: Donna, you know, it's interesting. Having covered similar situations in the past and you find these can bring out the worst in people and these situations can bring out the best in people, I'm just wondering how are people -- I mean, are people giving each other a hand?
How -- what's the interaction like between the passengers?
GUTZMAN: Definitely. Everyone onboard is sticking together. We're lending each other flashlights when we can. We're trying to help the elderly up and down the stairs. We're trying to help with the children.
Last night, they ran out of baby food and formula, so customer service asked that, if you had any extra baby food or formula, to bring it down.
Everyone is sticking together. Everyone seems calm. I personally haven't seen violence or any really bad attitudes. I think everyone right now is just excited that we can see land.
So far, the morale has been great. I went to a Bible study last night and everyone there seemed like they were in good spirits and that they felt like God was here to protect us and do his job.
And I think that everyone just kind of has their mindset that we're going to make it home OK and we're at peace. I know that's hard to understand, but we're all comfortable right now.
For the most part, we've been fed, even if it was a little cucumber sandwich and we've plenty to drink. Our major needs have been met. We have ate. We have water. We've had -- they're bringing out sodas. So, for the most part, they're keeping us happy.
They actually -- as I heard earlier, they're serving lobster and steak now. I don't know why now, but we've been eating all this crap food this whole time.
You know, I was told that when the Coast Guard got here, they brought on the Carnival VIP, the CEO, the president and all that of the company and I think that's why the ship got cleaned up overnight.
I woke up this morning and I was like, this is the same ship? Wow, it's clean. Where did it all go?
BALDWIN: Wait, hold on. Are you are saying that the CEO of Carnival was part of -- was on that ship with the Coast Guard? I missed that.
GUTZMAN: Well, I was told when I was down there in customs that when they came on -- the Coast Guard and the customs had come on -- that they also had people from Carnival came on, like the CEO and the president of the company, that there were people here to look at the ship.
Now, I can't quote that I know exactly who's here, but I can tell you that when I woke up this morning all the chairs on the deck were lined back up, all the sheets had been taken down, the water that was standing had been vacuumed up. All the toilets are now working. Miraculously, the toilets are worked.
It's just -- it's a little odd to me that we've been stuck out here for these days and now that we're getting closer to the media and closer to shore, we're getting steak and lobster, our toilets are flushing now, and all the water that standing in the dining room has been mopped up.
BALDWIN: I ...
GUTZMAN: They're just cleaning, miraculously.
BALDWIN: I had not heard that. I had not heard that, Donna Gutzman. Thank you. We'll work to confirm that, as well, from -- based upon what you're saying. Wow.
Well, I'm going to let you go and enjoy that surf-and-turf. It sounds much deserved. You're making me hungry just talking about it.
Donna Gutzman, thank you and thank you so much for providing us some of these pictures, these first pictures into CNN of the sleeping conditions and the bags in the hallways, just to give us a better perspective.
And we've been talking about it for days, but finally, there's tangible evidence, really, you know, pictures speaking a thousand words.
I want to -- Clark Howard and Sanjay, sitting here with me.
We're going to take a quick break. We're being told there will be a conference held in Mobile, live pictures as we await officials giving an update, potentially, on the arrival -- hopefully, the arrival time for the ship and, again, the good news on the fact that they have replaced this tug line, so the ship, once again, headed in the right direction, headed to port in Mobile.
Breaking news continues after this.
BALDWIN: Again, breaking news here on this Carnival Cruise Line that is heading towards shore -- I can't give you an exact time because, really, it's a fluid situation -- in a matter of hours, potentially nightfall.
The pictures on the right side of your screen, obviously, media crews getting ready to take this news conference which we will, live.
Local officials from Mobile will be speaking. Will an official from Carnival speak, as well? We don't know. We will just find out with the rest of everyone else.
I want to bring Chad Myers back in here because we've been reporting on this broken tug line. And, now, thank goodness for these -- all these people onboard this cruise, it has been replaced.
So, what does that mean?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Look at the channel marker now between you, me and the boat, the ship back there. That is a marker that we know is just not moving. It's into the ground.
But the ship behind it is traveling from right to left, going down the correct lane now for a change, not backing up, obviously hooked back up to some little tugboat, good news, and going, finally, in the right direction after at least an hour, hour and a half of just aimlessly drifting out there in the ocean when that tug line did break.
BALDWIN: And, again, your point about, depending on the evening hours, folks in Mobile saying, typically they do not allow ships in at night?
MYERS: Yes and, so far, it's heading up the channel. It looks like it's getting right there, right now.
Let's go to one of my graphics here and it actually has been showing you what this travel looks like now. I mean, we think that it's almost there.
Nope, not that one. Let's go to GR115. Let's show you what's going to go on. This is now getting into the channel.
BALDWIN: There we go.
MYERS: We think they are -- that's the one. They think they're going in the right direction and they are, finally, but look how far they still have to go, still almost 38 more miles being towed by a tugboat along to the left of the reds and to the right of the greens. They want to stay in that channel.
They have to make a little jog to the left, a little jog to the right, back into the Mobile channel. I've been corrected. That channel is only 400-feet wide, not 400-meters wide, 400-feet wide, and so, there's not a lot of room for error there.
You go one way or the other, especially off to the right, and you are aground. They don't want that.
They're going to have tugboats all along this ship as it comes in, keeping it in that channel, keeping it perfectly along the center line, because now they finally -- I think they feel that there's some light at the end of the tunnel.
This is now finally going in the right direction. We had a very tough time with winds earlier in the day, and also a tough time with currents early in the day. Clearly, you break a line from the tow boat all the way up here, the tugboat right back into the ship. That broke. That's now fixed.
We're going in the right direction. I think now it's just a matter of time as long as they allow this ship to come in at night because we're only a couple of hours from complete darkness.
BALDWIN: Chad, let's bring in Victor Blackwell. Victor Blackwell is onboard a boat very close to this cruise. We're looking for Victor's picture. Victor, are you with me?
OK, we're going to work to get his audio. I promise you, Peter Shankman, Peter Shankman, our go-to p.r. guy, are you with me?
PETER SHANKMAN, BRANDING AND SOCIAL MEDIA CONSULTANT: I am indeed.
BALDWIN: OK, Peter Shankman, I mean this is -- talk about a p.r. nightmare, what in the world do you do if you're Carnival?
SHANKMAN: It's amazing. OK, if you look at the difference, first of all, a lot of people don't know this. Carnival owns the subsidiary that owned the Costa Concordia, which was a ship that capsized, I believe, in Italy about a year and a half ago.
BALDWIN: That's still out there, by the way.
SHANKMAN: Yeah, it's out there. It's now -- you can actually see it on Google Maps.
They have made incredible strides. If you remember, when the Concordia capsized, Carnival came out and said, well, you know, we're going to give you a 20 percent discount on any future cruise, you know?
And everyone looked at them like, are you insane? What are you doing? They've made a tremendous amounts of strides, just in their p.r. in terms of saying, you know what? We accept responsibility.
If you heard the CEO this morning on the news, he was downright contrite. I mean, he was -- that was some serious emotion he had going on. So, they've definitely made a huge stride in that regard.
The biggest problem that they have to deal with in p.r. is what you're showing right. Every passenger is now in cell phone range, which means that within the next hour to two hours to three hours, anyone on that ship, you're looking at Facebook posts, you're looking at Twitter posts, you're looking at Pinterest posts, you're looking at Instagram posts, all being hash tagged something like "cruise from hell" or "Carnival hell" or "non-Carnival" or something like that.
They need to get a hold of that. There's nothing they could do to stop that, but if they're smart, they're going to get out there and they're going to say, you know what? We accept the responsibility for this. This was a mistake. This was mishandled.
But at the end of the day, look, no one's died yet. Thank God. That's number one. Number two, you have to prepare for these things. When you get on a plane, the same thing -- you have -- you sign that form and you buy that ticket, there's a possibility as remote as it is that that plane's going to go down.
These are electronics. These are machines. Machines break. And from what we are hearing from people on the boat and I've had people on the boat as well, they've said that crew has been nothing short of miraculous. They've really been coming together. They've been doing everything possible.
And, finally, here's a really interesting point. According to Liberty Travel, who I talked to this morning, and Discount Cruises, who I talked to this morning, DiscountCruises.com, cruise bookings are actually up in single digits this year -- this week and, more specifically, people want to be on this boat.
They're thinking they want to be on the first, maiden voyage of this boat once they fix everything because they figure everyone's going to treat them like royalty.
BALDWIN: That is ...
SHANKMAN: Is that incredible?
BALDWIN: That is incredible.
Peter Shankman, hold tight because I have more questions for you, but I'm told Victor Blackwell, onboard this boat near the cruise, is back with me.
Victor, let's try this again. Tell me what you see.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are coming just up alongside the shipping channel and this ship has just passed the first two markers entering this shipping channel going into Mobile Bay.
Now, our original plan was to wait at the edge of the bay as it came into the bay passing a lighthouse that's still eight miles from where the ship is now, but it took so long, inching along for hour after hour, we're now in the Gulf of Mexico at the start of the shipping channel.
And there is tension back into that line that broke at the front of this ship connected to the tug, so it is moving again.
We have some information about what Chad was discussing a moment ago about if this ship will be allowed to make it into port before darkness, before sundown.
Jimmy Lyons, who is the port manager, tells us that, if it makes it to the path which is (AUDIO BREAK) between Dauphin Island and Ft. Morgan Peninsula, if it makes it to the pass by 6:00 p.m., local, 7:00 Eastern, that it will be allowed to continue that journey into port.
Now, we are still about three hours out from that and moving along at six knots through the eight miles that is it has to go. It very well will make that if there is no problem with this line, with continuing to move it. But I can also tell you that, while it was out there just waiting for the repair, it did a 180. We were looking at the starboard side, perpendicular to the shipping channel. It then flipped. We were looking at the port side and they had to work to spin it around again to get back in line.
But it is now in the shipping channel, moving into the right direction, but so far, as far as the schedule we've been given hour after hour, they've had to come out several miles to meet it.
Now, this is as close as anyone will be allowed to get to the ship. The Coast Guard is enforcing a strict, 500-yard safety zone and there at the edge of that safety zone, not too far away -- actually, Donna, we can show them. This is the Coast Guard that is making sure that people stay within that zone.
And right in front -- I don't know how wide your shot is, there is a green marker that has to be on that starboard side. The right -- sorry, that's the port side. On the left side of the boat, that's the edge of the shipping channel that it's passing through.
So, yes, we are as close to this ship as anyone can get as it finally (AUDIO BREAK) to this channel, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Incredible. Incredible, there on that boat, 500-feet away, a safe distance from the cruise.
Victor Blackwell and crew, my thanks to you.
Wow. I mean, imagine, as we were reporting, Chad Myers said it. He said, this thing has flipped around. It was going backwards and, now, the good news, it's headed in the right trajectory.
And, as Chad just scribbled down here on this piece of paper, this boat is now going seven-miles-per-hour, so that is a good sign. That is a little bit faster than what it was before.
Hang tight, Chad, because I want to talk to you. We've got a quick break in. We're going to talk a little bit more about the direction of the ship, how fast it's going, and what happens to this boat next.
BALDWIN: Just about 30, 35 miles off coast here, this Carnival Cruise Line is finally heading seven-miles-per-hour, a little faster than before, toward Mobile, carrying all 3,143 passengers. Add to that 1,000-plus crew members here.
And, Chad, we're about to talk to a passenger on board this cruise who has now sent this video.
The thing is, and Peter Shankman was making this point, now that they're getting closer to shore, the cell service is improving. People are able -- they have made these makeshift cell chargers so people are able to juice up their phones and, now, the stories and the video is beginning to come out.
Darren -- excuse me. Darryl Malone, we talked to him a moment ago. He's a student at Texas A&M. He's now back on the phone with me.
So, Darryl, let's do this together. Let's look at this video together. I understand you sent us two different clips.
Guys, let's play the first one, which, from what I've been told -- I've been told is this sewage. So, we're looking at live pictures of the cruise ship. Let me know when we roll. Let's roll the sewage video.
OK. Here it is. Oh, where is this? Tell me where this is.
DARRYL MALONE, PASSENGER ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: This is on the fifth floor, like heading towards the casino, towards the casino and towards the casino bar.
And what happened was, I was just up one night, just walking around, you know, because it's Groundhog Day on the ship. It's the same thing every day. And I went upstairs and I started hearing like some -- like, I seen water coming down the walls and coming up through the tiles and like coming into the carpet, making it real like darker- looking color.
And I was like, well, what is that, you know? And, like, I could start to smell it and it smelled like -- like, I want to say sewage, you know, because that's how you explain it because it was like -- I guess it was leaking.
The toilets or something were leaking from the top to the bottom down the ship and it got really bad and it went into the elevator and it started dripping so bad it sounded like it was raining in the elevator.
And I was sitting right below that on the fourth floor in the breezeway because, you know, the rooms are terribly hot and everything.
BALDWIN: It sounded like it was raining. It was raining sewage, as we look at the first bit of proof that you all have been talking about, about the sewage running down the walls. Now, we're seeing it.
BALDWIN: We have more video from you, some of the water damage onboard the cruise. Tell me how bad this damage has been throughout.
MALONE: It's been really bad. People -- one lady -- I think like two ladies like slipped and broke their hips and like it's like really slippery around like the dining and eating area because the kitchen is smoking so bad in there that like stuff is like -- stuff is coming out, the grease and everything and they are putting cardboard boxes for us to walk on and those are getting wet.
So, it's just all bad. And now, today, they tried to clean it up to make it look better because customs and everybody came on board, but, I mean, it's been bad.
BALDWIN: Sounds like bad might be an understatement according to the stories that we're hearing from you all.
Our hearts go out to all of you. I know Carnival is trying to make good, giving you 500 bucks, plus a free flight home, plus reimbursing this cruise, plus sending you on another cruise, if you so choose.
Darryl Malone, thank you for sharing your pictures and your video here. I appreciate it. Best to you.
Jay Herring, let me bring you back in. Former senior officer with Carnival Cruise Lines.
Looking at your background, you've sailed through hurricanes. You've been on a ship that ran aground. You experienced the noro-virus outbreak.
When you see these pictures that Darryl sent us of sewage running down the walls, what do you make of this?
JAY HERRING, FORMER SENIOR OFFICER, CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: Oh, it takes me home to the days of working on a ship.
I tell you, I was on a ship where we would have pipes that would break and I've got similar pictures of carpets being flooded, you know, raining down from the ceilings.
When I sailed on the Triumph and we went through a hurricane, we had some pipes break and I've got pictures of water coming out of one of the a.c. vents in the ceiling.
So, yeah, this rings true. I mean, this doesn't surprise me at all.
MYERS: Hey, Jay, it's Chad Myers.
Let's talk that these guys are going to get home tonight. They're going to go home. They're going to do all this.
What happens to this ship now? They don't scuttle it, but how are you going to clean this?
HERRING: Yeah, so they are going to go in and we're probably going to look at replacing carpets, certainly vacuuming and steam cleaning anything that doesn't need to be replaced. Certainly. the mechanical issues are going to be addressed.
I mean, this is going to be major overhaul and that's why they've canceled the next 12 cruises.
MYERS: Maybe they just go 2.0 on it. Maybe they go all the way.
HERRING: There's a lost things you can do to a ship when it's in port. I was on the Triumph, specifically, when it was in dry-dock.
And they replaced a lot of the carpets throughout the passenger cabins and in the hallway. They took out an entire stairwell to make the floor solid to reduce some of the sound and noise complaints that they were getting from the disco.
BALDWIN: We're looking at these pictures, Jay and Chad, on the right side of your screen. We just continue to get them and we thank the passengers for sending them to us because, as we mentioned, as this cruise is getting closer and closer to the shore, the cell phone signal is improving. We're beginning to get a better picture.
I'm being told in my ear these are sewage buckets. Getting a better picture of what life has been like on this cruise ever since that fire broke out on Sunday.
I want to ask you, Jay, just about Carnival. Let me quote the CEO. And, again, this is from Tuesday.
Quote, "Let me assure you that no one here from Carnival is happy about the conditions on board the ship. We obviously are very, very sorry about what is taking place. There is no question that conditions on board the ship are very challenging."
If you are Carnival, how do you emerge from this?
HERRING: You know, the industry is bulletproof, and I don't think this is going to be any more than a blip on the radar for Carnival's revenue or their bookings or anything like this.
BALDWIN: How is that possible?
HERRING: Because only 20 percent of Americans have ever taken a cruise, and I think in general, as terrible as these stories are, passengers expect that it's a very rare incident and will not happen to them.
You know, it's the same reason you don't really see a decline in airline sales when a plane goes down. It just doesn't happen.
BALDWIN: Jay Herring, thanks for talking to me here, previously with Carnival Cruise Lines. I appreciate it.
In the remaining 60 seconds that you and I have, Chad Myers, again, just this boat, now, how is it that it's increased in speed? Is it because that tug line has been replaced?
MYERS: We don't know whether it is the original towboat or not because, as we look at on one of our vessel finders, we can actually see other tug boats in front of it.
BALDWIN: Hang on just a second. This -- forgive me. These are the charging stations. Look at all these wires. This is what these passengers have rigged themselves in order to call us, to call their loved ones. This is how they are getting juice on their cell phones. Forgive me. Continue.
MYERS: No, that's all right.
Hey, you know what? I'm leaving on a Carnival cruise ship next Saturday.
BALDWIN: Are you?
MYERS: And I'm still going.
BALDWIN: Are you?
MYERS: It's a six-day cruise out of Fort Lauderdale. It cost me $365 per person. OK?
At that price, stuff happens. I understand.
This -- they didn't expect this to happen, no matter what you pay, but I got a tweet from Carnival Cruise last week that the week of February 1st -- it was cold. Remember that?
They booked 187,000 people on their future cruises in one week. I think people are still going to cruise.
BALDWIN: To Jay's point, he says the industry is bulletproof. It's bulletproof.
Chad Myers, still seeing you tomorrow, but I guess, bon voyage.
MYERS: Next week.
BALDWIN: Next week. OK.
Chad, thank you so much. Listen, we're going to continue this coverage.
We are -- obviously, you saw Victor Blackwell on the boat in that sort of safety range, 500-feet out per the Coast Guard so we can see this cruise roll into Mobile, covering this by air. Have a helicopter up there for you.
Stay with CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks so much for being with me.
Let's send it off to Washington. Hey, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Brooke, thanks very much.