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Massive cruise ship adrift after fire

Passengers aboard a cruise vessel stranded in the Gulf of Mexico have limited access to bathrooms, food and hot coffee as they wait to be towed ashore.

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Passengers aboard a cruise vessel stranded in the Gulf of Mexico have limited access to bathrooms, food and hot coffee as they wait for two tugboats to arrive to tow them to Mexico, Carnival Cruise Lines says in a statement.

The Carnival Triumph has been floating aimlessly about 241.35km off the Yucatan Peninsula since a fire erupted in the aft engine room early on Sunday, knocking out the ship's propulsion system.

There's water and faeces all over the floor. It's not the best conditions. 

No one was injured and the fire was extinguished. The ship has been operating on backup generator power since the incident, the statement said.

The Carnival Triumph is adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Carnival Triumph is adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Reuters

The ship, which left Galveston, Texas, on Thursday and was scheduled to return there on Monday, will instead be towed to Progreso, Mexico, and the 3143 passengers on board will fly back to the United States. There are also 1086 crew members aboard the ship. They are to arrive in Mexico on Wednesday.

The tugboats were expected to arrive later on Monday, Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said in an email. One is coming from Mobile, Alabama, and a second is from Mexico, he said.

When another Carnival cruise ship, the Legend, rendezvoused with the stranded vessel on Monday, supplying Triumph passengers with food and supplies, Texas resident Brent Nutt was able to briefly chat with his wife, Bethany, who could draw a mobile phone signal from the visiting cruise line.

Without power, the ship's stabilisers are apparently not working, Nutt told The Associated Press, and the massive liner had been leaning to one side on Sunday. By Monday afternoon, the ship seemed more upright, he said.

Passengers were also given food, Nutt said, and some of the bathrooms are working. But the ship is dirty, Nutt said his wife told him.

"There's water and faeces all over the floor," Nutt relayed. "It's not the best conditions. You would think Carnival would have something in place to get these people off the ship."

Passengers also are getting sick and throwing up, he said, adding that his wife told him: "The whole boat stinks extremely bad."

Melinda Ramos, meanwhile, said her father was laughing when she briefly spoke to him on Sunday.

"He might be completely joking, but he said they're sleeping in tents outside," the 19-year-old daughter of Mary and Matt Ramos told The Houston Chronicle.

AP