(NEW YORK) — The 4,000 passengers and crew aboard the stricken Carnival Triumph cruise ship will disembark after dark Thursday night from the fetid cruiser dubbed “the poop deck” on social media, according to officials.
“It will come in. It will not stop,” Alabama State Port Authority Director Jimmy Lyons said at a news conference Thursday. “We’re going to do everything we can from our standpoint to ensure that this is as smooth as possible.”
He estimated the ship would arrive between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday.
Delighted passengers waved at media helicopters that flew out to film the ship. Passenger Rob Mowlam told ABC News by phone Thursday that most of the passengers on board were “really upbeat and positive.”
Nevertheless, when he gets off Mowlam said, “I will probably flush the toilet 10 times just because I can.”
Mowlam, 37, got married on board the Triumph on Saturday and said he and his wife, Stephanie Stevenson, 27, haven’t yet thought of redoing the honeymoon other than to say, “It won’t be a cruise.”
Lyons said that with powerless “dead ships” like the Triumph, it is usually safer to bring them in during daylight hours, but, “Once they make the initial effort to come into the channel, there’s no turning back.”
“There are issues regarding coming into the ship channel and docking at night because the ship has no power and there’s safety issues there,” Richard Tillman of the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau told ABC News.
When asked if the ship could be disembarked in the dark of night, Tillman said, “It is not advised. It would be very unusual.”
Carnival Cruise Senior Vice President of Marketing Terri Thornton, however, insisted during a news conference at the port of Mobile Thursday, “Our understanding is it will be alongside this evening.”
Thornton denied the rumors that there was a fatality on the ship. He said that there was one illness early on, a dialysis patient, but that the passenger was removed from the vessel and transferred to a medical facility.
The U.S. Coast Guard is assisting now and there are multiple generators on board. Customs officials will board the ship while it is being piloted to port to accelerate the disembarkation, officials said.
After eight miserable days at sea, the ship’s owners have increased the compensation for what some on board are calling the vacation from hell.
All 3,143 passengers aboard the 900 foot colossus, which stalled in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine room fire early Sunday, were already being given a full refund for the cruise, transportation expenses and vouchers for a another cruise. Carnival Cruise Lines is now boosting that offer to include another $500 per person. Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, announced the additional compensation Wednesday.
“We know it has been a longer journey back than we anticipated at the beginning of the week under very challenging circumstances,” he said in a statement. “We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure. Therefore, in addition to the full refund and future cruise credit already offered, we have decided to provide this additional compensation.”
Carnival also said that it has canceled a dozen planned voyages for the Triumph and acknowledged that the crippled ship had been plagued by other mechanical problems in the weeks before an engine-room fire left it powerless in the Gulf of Mexico.
Passengers have been texting ABC News that sewage is seeping down the walls from burst plumbing pipes and the carpets are wet with urine. Food is in short supply and reports have surfaced of elderly passengers running out of critical heart medicine and others on board the ship squabbling over scarce food.
With the ship expected to arrive at the passenger terminal Thursday evening, a phalanx of EMT’s are set to triage disembarking passengers.
ABC News flew over the ship providing the first aerial views of the ship which showed curious passengers gathering at the rails, looking up at the ABC News plane. It also seemed from the air that deck chairs had been turned into beds.
“[There are] no showers. The smell’s terrible. We are camping on deck,” passenger Ann Barlow told ABC News.
Mary Poray, whose 12-year-old daughter Rebekah is traveling on the Triumph, teared up when shown images of the ship’s deck.
“I just need to know that she’s ok,” Poray said. “The worst part was when she said, ‘Mommy, I’m afraid I won’t ever get to see you again.”
Families of those on board say that Carnival is adding insult to the injury they already feel as photos of Carnival’s owner Micky Arison are now ricocheting across the web. Arison, who also owns the Miami Heat, was seen sitting courtside at a basketball game on Tuesday as the Triumph crisis unraveled and Cahill was trying to apologize.
“At Carnival, our promise to our guests is to deliver a great vacation experience,” Cahill said. “In this case, we did not deliver on that promise.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN
Samantha Beech, CNN
Ian Kerner, CNN