Passengers onboard the Carnival Dream, stalled at the dock in St. Maarten with a mechanical problem, will be flown home rather than completing the remainder of their cruise back to Florida.
"Since it is unclear when the Carnival Dream will be departing St. Maarten," Carnival spokesperson Vance Gulliksen said in an email to ABC News, "it only makes sense that we fly guests home and we are in the process of arranging both charter and commercial flights for guests to be flown to Orlando or their final destinations."
The ship suffered from a malfunction to its backup generator yesterday, the cruise line said, during regularly scheduled testing. The cruise line, which is still repairing the Carnival Triumph after a fire in its generator room stranded thousands of passengers at sea last month, disputed reports of widespread power outages and overflowing toilets on the Dream.
Gulliksen said only one public restroom was taken offline for toilet overflow and there was "a total of one request for cleaning of a guest cabin bathroom. Aside from that there have been no reports of issues on board with overflowing toilets or sewage."
But given the string of mishaps for the company, including the sinking of its Costa Concordia ship off the coast of Italy a year ago with the loss of 32 lives, confidence has been shaken.
"It's mind boggling," said Cruise Critic Editor in Chief Carolyn Spencer Brown. "Accidents happen but this isn't an accident anymore. Three times is something to be concerned about," she said, referring to the Dream, the Triumph and a 2010 engine room fire on the Splendor that left the ship without power.
Some of the passengers likely do not have passports, an issue that could slow down re-entry to the U.S. via flight. Passengers on a "closed loop" cruise -- that is, a cruise that begins and ends in the same U.S. port -- do not need a passport even if their ship calls on ports outside the country. However, a passport is required for all passengers returning to the U.S. from outside the country via air.
"All guests are safe and comfortable," the cruise line said in a statement today. "There were periodic interruptions to elevators and restroom services for a few hours last night. However, all hotel systems are functioning normally and have been functional since approximately 12:30 a.m."
The ship remains docked in the Caribbean island where it made a scheduled port call on Wednesday. The cruise line, the world's largest ship operator, suffered a public relations nightmare that played out in the media over nearly a week when the Carnival Triumph lost power.
Guests on the current Dream voyage will receive a refund equivalent to three days of the voyage and 50 percent off a future cruise. The next cruise, scheduled for March 16, is cancelled. Guests scheduled to sail on this cruise will receive a full refund and 25 percent off a future seven-day cruise. Guests who re-book will have their current rate protected on the future sailing. Non-refundable transportation related expenses will be reimbursed.
Steve Townsend and his new wife Kayce were booked on a honeymoon cruise on the Carnival Dream leaving March 16. "I don't have any idea what I am going to do," he said. I'm trying to find another cruise leaving next weekend, but they're all booked."
This is the peak season for cruising with students on spring break and chilly weather over most of the US and Canada.
He said it would be difficult for his wife to take more time off and that if they couldn't find another cruise for next week, they would probably just go to work. "I don't want to work next week," he said. "It's our honeymoon."
"We have reservations for a night at a hotel in Port Canaveral," Townsend said. "I don't know if we'll get the money back."
Brown said that some people scheduled for the March 16 cruise were already on their way to Port Canaveral. "For people who have a precious week of vacation," she said, "this is at the very least disappointing and in some cases devastating."
"We are very sorry for this disruption to our guests' vacation plans and extend our sincere apologies. We look forward to welcoming them back on another Carnival cruise," the cruise line said in a statement.
U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Sabrina Laberdesque told the Associated Press Thursday that Carnival Dream's captain notified the agency of possible trouble with the ship's propulsion system.
A person claiming to be on the ship posted on the popular Cruise Critic message boards that at 3 a.m., the ship was 10 hours behind schedule. "At first, no toilets or elevators. Those back on but 'mechanical' issues," wrote member herbanrenewal.
In remarks made Tuesday at an annual cruise industry conference in Miami, Carnival CEO Gerry Cahil said the cruise line had started a "comprehensive review of our entire fleet." That review, he said, focused on the prevention, detection and supression of fires; engine room "redundancies;" what hotel facilities might be provided and might run off emergency generators; and what "changes we can make from the first three items and how we implement those."
The Carnival Dream was on a seven-day cruise and is based in Port Canaveral, Fla. The ship was scheduled to call on Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands and Phillipsburg, St. Maarten before returning to Port Canaveral.
The 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, launched in 2009, is among the largest ships in the Carnival fleet, and can accommodate 3,652 passengers and 1,369 crew.
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