Passengers from a disabled cruise ship have arrived at a hotel in New Orleans after a days-long odyssey in the Gulf of Mexico that was marked by overflowing toilets, food shortages and foul odors.
Buses arrived at the Hilton in New Orleans early Friday and were greeted by paramedics with wheelchairs to roll in passengers who were elderly or too fatigued to walk.
Many were tired and didn't want to talk. There were long lines as they waited to get checked into rooms.
For 28-year-old Maria Hernandez of Angleton, Texas, the hotel stay is only part of her journey home. Hernandez, like hundreds others, will have a brief reprieve at the hotel before flying home later in the day.
Carnival Cruise Line says the last passenger of a cruise ship disabled for five nightmarish days in the Gulf of Mexico has left the ship.
The company said in a tweet early Friday, "All guests have now disembarked the Carnival Triumph."
The cruise ship with some 4,200 people aboard docked late Thursday, with passengers raucously cheering the end to an ocean odyssey they say was marked by overflowing toilets, food shortages and foul odors.
About an hour after the ship pulled up at 9:15 p.m. Central, a steady stream of passengers began making their way down the gang plank, some in wheelchairs and others pulling carry-on luggage. Some boarded buses bound for New Orleans or Texas, while others settled into local hotels in Mobile.
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- Disabled cruise docking along Mobile port; passengers have hours-long wait to disembark.
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- At nearly 900 feet long, the 14-story Carnival Triumph is the largest cruise ship that has ever sought to dock at Alabama's only seaport of Mobile. Authorities said the Triumph's final leg required hours of cautious nighttime maneuvering as tugboats eased it up a 30-mile ship channel from a shallow bay.
The Alabama Cruise Terminal hadn't seen a regular cruise ship call on it since 2011.
A small group of tug operators was entrusted Thursday with guiding the disabled ship to safe harbor, the final phase of a nightmarish tow across the Gulf after an engine-room fire left the ship powerless off Mexico last weekend.
Carnival spokesman and executive Terry Thornton said an experienced crew was tapped to bring the hulking vessel in safely.
"Our tug operators are experienced; our ship team is experienced. We don't expect any difficulties with docking the ship at night," he said.
Hours later, he said the ship had made steady progress and was just five miles from the cruise terminal with final docking expected late Thursday night.
During daylight hours Thursday, the ship had entered Mobile Bay - a broad expanse of tepid, shallow water only 10 feet deep in many spots. Alabama's only seaport is at the mouth of the Mobile River and the head of Mobile Bay - an industrial complex of shipyards, paper mills, plants and refineries.
The ship channel is a safe entry point across the bay for big vessels, tankers and cargo ships. That navigation channel is about 40 to 47 feet deep and about 29 miles long, transiting part of Mobile Bay to the mouth of the Mobile River. Its width varies from 400 to 775 feet at points and there are various turning basins and feeder channels.
At its entry point, the ship channel is about 400 feet wide. The Triumph at its widest is 116 feet, leaving only so much room on either side as four tugs guided the ship - one at the front, one on each side and one at the rear.
State Port Authority Director Jimmy Lyons said the most difficult part of the last leg home came Thursday afternoon as the ship entered the lower, southernmost part of the bay. There the ship and guide boats had to negotiate several channel turns while dealing with the water's crosscurrents swirling from a nearby barrier island.
The terminal where the Triumph was headed was built for Carnival. But it hasn't had regular traffic since 2011, when Carnival stopped running cruises out of Mobile after using the complex several years.
The disabled cruise ship Triumph has entered Mobile Bay and is out of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Carnival ship entered the bay about 4 p.m. Central time Thursday.
The ship is still about 30 miles from the cruise terminal in Mobile. It's expected to arrive there late Thursday.
The bay is tricky to navigate because of turns and cross currents.
The cruise ship has been at sea for a week. An engine-room fire Sunday left the ship powerless. More than 4,000 people are on board the Triumph, and passengers face long bus rides or other travel hassles to get home once they arrive in Alabama.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)