Carnival to evacuate passengers after cruise ship has problems

Miami, Mar 14 (EFE).- Carnival decided to evacuate about 5,000 passengers and crewmembers from its cruise ship Dream after they were stranded at the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, where the enormous vessel has been docked since Wednesday night after experiencing technical problems.

"We are making arrangements to fly all guests home via private charter flights and scheduled flights from St. Maarten," the world's largest cruise operator said in a statement, adding that passengers on the interrupted cruise "will receive a refund equivalent to three days of the voyage and 50 percent off a future cruise."

The Carnival Dream can carry 3,646 passengers and a crew of 1,367.

"Yesterday, during regularly scheduled testing of the ship's emergency diesel generator, a malfunction occurred," Carnival said in its statement. "At no time did the ship lose power and the ship's propulsion systems and primary power source was not impacted."

The firm went on to say that there were periodic interruptions to elevators and restroom services for a few hours Thursday night but "all hotel systems are functioning normally and have been functional since approximately 12.30 a.m."

However, in talking with local media and on the social networks, some passengers complained that they were not allowed to leave the vessel for a time and that some of the toilets had overflowed.

Because of the problem, the firm has decided to cancel the Dream's next scheduled cruise, which was to have set sail from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on March 16.

Carnival also owns the Triumph, a cruise ship that was sailing in the Gulf of Mexico in January with more than 4,200 people on board when an engine room fire left it adrift.

It was towed into port five days later, but passengers had to face dwindling food supplies, no electric power and terrible hygienic conditions that converted the incident into a media spectacle and resulted in a number of lawsuits against the firm.

In January 2012, the Costa Concordia, owned by the same company, ran aground and sank off the Italian island of Giglio in the Mediterranean Sea. Twenty-five people died in the accident and seven are still missing and presumed dead.