Conditions on a disabled US cruise ship were "extremely terrible" as it finally came within sight of land yesterday, one passenger said, and more complaints flooded in as the 4,000 people aboard came within mobile phone range.
Passengers have told of limited access to food and bathrooms, a strong stench and faecal matter on the floors after a week at sea. Many were sleeping on the deck for fresh air, but it was getting colder as the ship headed north.
Frustrated, some people hung bedsheets with angry or humorous messages for news helicopters closing in.
The Carnival Triumph, which had drifted for days after a fire in the engine room, was being towed to Mobile, Alabama, after its plan to go to Mexico failed.
Thelbert Lanier was waiting at the port for his wife, who texted him early yesterday.
"Room smells like an outhouse. Cold water only, toilets haven't work in over 3 days. Happy Valentines Day!!! I love u & wish I was there," she texted. "It's 4:00 am. Can't sleep...it's cold & I'm starting to get sick."
Renee Shanar, who was on board with her husband, said conditions were "horrible". There was food, but toilets weren't flushing.
"People have gotten food poisoning. Old people have fallen and hurt themselves," she said in a text.
Passenger Janie Baker called conditions "extremely terrible", with no electricity and few working toilets.
She described having to queue for hours to get food, and seeing a woman pass out in the line.
Ms Baker said she and her friends slept with their life vests one night because the ship was listing and they feared it would tip over.
Carnival has cancelled a dozen planned voyages on the Triumph and acknowledged the ship had been plagued by problems in the weeks before the engine room blaze.
Carnival boss Gary Cahill said: "We are sorry for what our guests have had to endure."
Robert Giordano said he last spoke to his wife, Shannon, on Monday, when she told him she waited in line for three hours to get a hot dog and that conditions on the ship were terrible.
"They're having to urinate in the shower. They've been passed out plastic bags to go to the bathroom," Giordano said.