Passengers on a cruise ship that was disabled for five nightmarish days in the Gulf of Mexico are glad to be back on land after a sea odyssey marked by overflowing toilets, food shortages and foul odors.
The Carnival Triumph cruise ship carrying over 4,000 people finally docked late Thursday in Mobile, Ala., as passengers cheered the end of a "horrible" cruise.
By 2 a.m. ET Friday all 3,143 passengers had exited the ship, NBC News reported.
Shortly before midnight, first buses with cruise ship passengers started pulling out from the port in Mobile, Ala., for New Orleans and Texas.
Gerry Cahill, the CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines was at the Mobile port and said that he was eager to go aboard and apologize to the 4,229 passengers and crew members that have been stuck on the ship since an engine room fire blew out power Sunday, transforming the luxury liner into a steaming trap.
"I know the conditions on board were very poor," Cahill said before heading to the cruise liner. "I know it was very difficult and I want to apologize again for subjecting our guests to that. We pride ourselves in providing our guests with a great vacation experience and clearly we failed in this particular case."
The ship was expected to reach dry land earlier Thursday, but another setback delayed it even further. One of the tow lines dragging the massive vessel snapped, leaving it drifting once again.
Throughout the day, frustrations with the cruise line were simmering on and off the ship, as passengers and their relatives questioned why it was taking so long to get back to dry land after an engine-room fire disabled the ship Sunday.
Television images from CNN showed passengers with signs of "Help" and "I love you" hanging from their cabin rooms. Others walked around the deck, some waving to the helicopters flying above.
"Sweet Home Alabama!" read one of the homemade signs passengers affixed alongside the 14-story ship as many celebrated at deck rails of the ship.
It was supposed to be a fun trip with girlfriends for 28-year-old Maria Hernandez of Angleton, Texas. But Hernandez said instead, "It was horrible, just horrible."
Twenty-four-year-old Brittany Ferguson was a passenger on the Carnival Triumph and says it felt good being able to see land and buildings.
Joseph Alvarez says some passengers passed the time by forming a Bible study group that drew about 45 people.
"Get me off this ship!"
Passengers like Donna Gutzman and Gloria Hoagland sent NBC 5 photos from the crippled Carnival Triumph at sea.
"Get me off this ship!" Hoagland posted to NBC 5's Facebook page. "Reporting from my 7th floor balcony! I want back to Dallas."
Hoagland spoke with NBC 5 Friday morning via phone, describing the "ordeal" on the cruise.
Hoagland said passengers didn't believe the power would be out for long initially after the fire, but that the situation continued to deteriorate as toliets and air conditioning stopped working.
With water all around the boat, Hoagland said, for the first 36 hours, "We had no concept that we had moved at all."
Throughout the five day ordeal, passengers have been dealing "extremely terrible" conditions, according to passenger Janie Baker.
Speaking by phone Thursday to NBC's "Today" show, Baker said there has been no electricity and few working toilets. She compared life on the ship to being in a hurricane evacuation.
Baker says one night, she and her friends slept with their life vests because the ship was listing and they feared it would tip over.
Baker echoed other accounts in which passengers have to use plastic bags to go to the bathroom and wait in line for hours for food. Baker said she once saw a woman pass out while in line.
Hoagland did have some praise for Carnival staff, including CEO Gerry Cahill, who Hoagland and her mother met as they were leaving the ship.
She says Carnival crews did the best they could under the circumstances and thanked Cahill for being present when the ship finally docked in Mobile, Alabama.
More accounts of conditions aboard the ship are expected as passengers begin the process of getting back to their normal lives on land.
NBC 5's Greg Janda, Ben Russell and others have contributed to this ongoing story. Associated Press writers including Jay Reeves, Brendan Farrington, and others have also contributed to this ongoing story.