Troubled Waters: The Carnival Triumph

After the latest cruise calamity, Matt Gutman puts the whole industry under a microscope.
9:49 | 02/15/13

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Transcript for Troubled Waters: The Carnival Triumph
Here is david muir. Good evening. So many family, couples just getting home tonight after days trapped at sea on the carnival cruise ship, "triumph" finally docks after five days after engine failure turned it into what some people call a floating petry dish. Tonight, we put a microscope on the industry as a whole. Why was a rescue so late in coming and why are the rescues too little, too late. Matt gut plman is getting answers. Reporter: The passengers, this morning, pouring out of the ship. Standing on andn cases, kissing tera firma for the first anytime days. You can talk to you. Come over. I am speechless. Some angry. The doctor on the staff can excuse my french, can kiss my . It was the worst experience i have had. We thought we with going to dinchts I'm just happy to be alive. Quite on ordeal but we are here. They ran, many wearing bathrobes against the cold and kisses with loved ones, holding on to each other. But the hundreds, they were stuffed on buses, before they could even shower or change their gritty clothes. Among the first out, stephanie stevenson and rob malom. Not just your regular cruisers, a romantic cruise at sea. Bit early sunday morning, three days into the cruise. I looked over the side rail and I could see billows and billows of smoke coming out of the top of the stacks. Were you scared? I was pretty freaked out. A fire erupted in the engine room and some go into panic mode. They said, cold alpha, engine room. People take it pun themselves to strap on life jackets. I saw the smoke, I knew there was a chance the ship could be sinking. The fire had burned out the main engines. And the ship you see in these carnival ads was a 100,000 ton cork bobbing in the gulf of mexico. Carly and nan are jazzer size instructors. I was like, oh, my gosh. The lower decks fill with smoke and engulf the cafeterias. They even see it billows from the stacks. The smoke has gotten worse. The air conditioning goes out. And still, the crew ensures that everything is under control. Kuwait on the leisure deck. It's lovely up there. The ship is still dead in the water. Monday, they decide to tow the ship to not mexico but mobile, alabama. That added an extra day of hardship for passengers. I'm not liking this. By this time, two other carnival cruise ships had diverted to bring food and water. And helicopters were deployed to bring generates. They came and dropped off water but that didn't stop babies from going hungry, people hoarding food. Not electricity, no running water and almost no cell phone service, leaving parents and loved ones panicked. I just need to know she is okay. The ship, 300 yards long, equip with every amenity, and the 40 4,000 can communicate in snippets in text messages. 36 hours into the crisis, no hot food no hot food and no ac and the ship is listed. We were leaning one way. And backed up toilets. Was sewage everywhere. Five days and one flush. And they hand out red bags. People were uses red plastic bags and throwing it in the hallway. We were like, we will not eat. To not have to use a red bag nkt we met a couple that her husband was laying in bed and just the ceiling fell down on him full of -- urine, feces, stuff like. That they built tents out of bed sheets. We have been like this three days now. Abc news was the first to try v fly out over the ship wednesday. You can tell how powerful the wind is, gusting to 25 miles on hour. The conditions bringing out the worst on some people. They opened the bar one evening and gave away free drinks and that was a really bad idea. There were people throws stuff over the side of the ship, acting unruly. They did receive updates on the pa system and printed updates. And print us out letters they spent to the rooms. Maybe they were using the emergency generators to supply printers instead of toilets. And they forced people to a diet of onion sandwiches. You had to stand in line for three hours to get a meal. And the first couple days, it was the onion sandwiches. At least they were steadily and slowly being tugged back to the u.S. That is when mike finally got through to his wife on the phone, anxiously awaiting her return. They think the tug line may have broken. Passengers say this never should have happened. Last week, carnival admitted there was a problem and saying there was no evidence at this time of any relationship between this previous issue and the fire THAT OCCURRED ON FEBRUARY 10th. This is the latest in a string of serious incidents involving cruise ships. Last year, the "costa concordia" capsized in italy, killing 32 passengers. And in 2010, another carnival ship, the "splendor," was stranded for days after an engine fire. Unlike the airline industry, there is no agency regulating the safety operations of cruise lines. Jim walker is a maritime lawyer. Unlike the commercial aviation fleets in the faa, that can shut a fleet down were safety violations there is no one looking out for the safety of ships in regards to fires. He denies there is no regulation. I know you can't talk to me. But is there anyone that can. The ceo spoke tuesday. We provide our guests with a great experience and we failed in this case. Carnivals that offered a full refund, and $500 and it will cover travel expenses. They want to insult us and give us $500. Abc news has been answering questions. They held three press conferences and answered three questions. Thank you for taking the time today. I wonder if you can answer a couple more questions. The company's chief marketing officer also retreated. One thing that did do right for carnival, and after eight days after sea, the most precious of cargo delivered back to family members. Are you going to sleep? I'm going to shower. We had food and now just a shower, a long, hot shower. And for the newlyweds, a delayed wedding banquet of burgers and fries. This is the best ever. Never was a couple so happy to get on a bus. We went on and flushed the toilet, just to make sure. And it's your tax dollars that help pay the rescues by the coast guard leading somg this ask, should the cruises be paying more. And nearly half the industries, ten brands and 100ships world wild. Disney has four ships of its own.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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