Passengers have disembarked in the southern US state of Alabama from a disabled cruise ship which was left drifting for days in the Gulf of Mexico.
Tugboats pulled the Carnival Triumph, carrying more than 4,000 passengers, into port in Mobile a drama that was played out live on US cable news stations on Thursday.
At about 10:15pm Central time, the first passengers started to walk down an enclosed gangway to a terminal.
As people started disembarking, others on board waiting were chanting: “Let me off, let me off!”
“They’re excited and euphoric. There’s a sense of accomplishment, you know: ‘We’ve made it and we’ve survived,'” Brooke Carico, a ship passenger, told Al Jazeera.
“But there are some who have over-exaggerated and dramatised it, and are going to milk it for all it’s worth.”
Gerry Cahill, CEO of Carnival Corporation, the cruise-shop operator, apologised on the public-address system to passengers.
Passengers have the option of a seven-hour bus ride to the Texas cities of Galveston or Houston or a two-hour trip to New Orleans.
Terry Thornton, an official from Carnival, said warm food, blankets and mobile phones awaited the passengers aboard the Triumph as soon as it docked in Mobile on Thursday.
He said the ship would be taken the next day to a nearby repair facility to be assessed.
The 272-metre Triumph was stricken four days ago by an engine-room fire in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.
Passengers aboard the cruise ship described the conditions of living on the ship as “hellish”.
“The people who have suffered the most are the people with ailments… with infants and babies that ran out of formula and diapers,” Carico told Al Jazeera.
They told of an overpowering stench for days after an engine room fire knocked out power and plumbing across most of the vessel and left it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico.
Soaked in sewage
After the fire incident, toilets overflowed, causing untreated sewage to flow into many cabins and interior passages.
“There were some people that were hungover and drunk and were too lazy to do what the crew said when it came to precautions… they were throwing up on the carpet and the stairs, throwing up in the toilets that weren’t supposed to be used,” Carico said.
“To be honest they were making more of a mess of things for the people that were following protocol.”
Earlier in the week, some passengers reported that people were getting sick and that they had been told to use plastic “bio-hazard” bags as makeshift toilets.
A coast guard cutter escorted the Triumph on its long voyage into port since Monday, and a coast guard helicopter ferried about 1, 360kg of equipment, including a generator, to the ship late on Wednesday.
The cruise-ship passengers’ travails have created another public-relations nightmare for Carnival Corporation.
Last year, its Costa Concordia luxury ship grounded off the coast of Italy with 32 people killed.