The holiday ship carrying some 4,200 people docked in Mobile, Alabama on Thursday night after six gruelling hours navigating the 30-mile ship channel to dock, guided by at least four tugboats.
Passengers raucously cheered after days of what they described as overflowing toilets, food shortages and foul odours. They then had the option of a seven-hour bus ride to Galveston or Houston, a stay in Mobile, or a two-hour trip to New Orleans.
Galveston is the home port of the ill-fated ship, which lost power in an engine-room fire on Sunday about 150 miles off Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.
“Sweet Home Alabama!” read one of the homemade signs passengers affixed alongside the 14-storey ship as many celebrated at deck rails. The ship’s horn loudly blasted several times as the crippled ship neared shore.
“It was horrible, just horrible” said Maria Hernandez, 28, of Angleton, Texas, as she talked about waking up to smoke in her lower-level room on Sunday and the days of heat and stench to follow. She was on a “girls trip” with friends.
She said the group hauled mattresses to upper-level decks to escape the heat. She managed a smile and even a giggle when asked to show her red “poo-poo bag” – distributed by the cruise line for collecting human waste after the toilets failed.
Thelbert Lanier was waiting at the Mobile port for his wife, who texted him Thursday.
“Room smells like an outhouse. Cold water only, toilets haven’t work in 3½ days. Happy Valentine’s Day!!! I love u & wish I was there,” she said in the message. “It’s 4:00 am. Can’t sleep...it’s cold & I’m starting to get sick.”
The company disputed the accounts of passengers who described the ship as filthy, saying employees were doing everything to ensure people were comfortable.