"I just hope that she comes back safely and sound," Colby Barlow, 11, said of his mother.
U.S. Coast Guard officials say the passengers are safe, if somewhat uncomfortable.
But the destruction aboard the ship, the compensation to passengers, the costs of returning them home, the towing and other expenses could hurt the Doral, Fla.-based cruising colossus, at least temporarily.
"The financial cost to Carnival is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars, some estimates as high as $80 million," ABC News travel and lifestyle editor Genevieve Shaw Brown said. "It remains to be seen how badly this will hurt their brand."
If all goes as scheduled and tugboats nudge the ship into port in Mobile Thursday, Alabama Cruise Terminal general manager Sheila Gurganus said, the disembarking passengers will be met by a medical triage center and extra security in case they need it.
The cruise line said it has been busily making arrangements for the ship's passengers when they reach the shore.
More than 1,500 hotel rooms have been reserved in Mobile and New Orleans and more than 20 chartered flights have been booked to fly passengers back to Houston Friday after they have had a chance to rest, Cahill said. For those wishing to get home sooner, the company is organizing charter buses to Houston and Galveston.
The Carnival Triumph departed Galveston last Thursday with 3,143 guests and 1,086 crew on board for a Mexican cruise, which was due to return Monday.
The Triumph has had a past electrical problem with an alternator, but Carnival says that is not connected to the fire or the current situation.