Disabled cruise ship docking in Mobile

This image is from Thursday.

Passengers pulling into an Alabama port after days aboard a disabled cruise ship are shouting "Hello, Mobile" and "Roll Tide" to hundreds of people gathered at the terminal.

Despite their obvious excitement, passengers who have described miserable conditions aboard still have hours to wait Thursday and into Friday before they can walk on solid ground.

Carnival Cruise Lines has said once the ship is stationary, it will take up to five hours for all of the 3,000 or so passengers to disembark. 

Anxious passengers are lining the decks waving, cheering loudly and whistling to those on shore.

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. Buses are standing by to take them to their next stop.

Carnival Cruise Lines' CEO is apologizing to guests for the poor conditions aboard the disabled ship that was adrift at sea for days.

Gerry Cahill said at a news conference Thursday night as the Triumph was docking in Mobile, Ala., that he appreciated the patience of the 3,000 passengers on board.

He says Carnival prides itself on providing people with a great vacation "and clearly we failed in this particular case."

He says he plans to go aboard the ship and personally apologize to passengers.

In Mobile, families were starting to gather outside the cruise terminal. One of those families is from Hamilton County, Indiana.

18-year-old Brianna Adkins is traveling with an aunt and other relatives celebrating an early high school graduation. Her mother Beth says Brianna's spirits are up because she can see land.

Brianna's family has spent the day in Mobile, waiting for the ship's arrival. Her father, Rusty, who has occasionally gotten in touch with his daughter by phone, says, "conditions are deplorable. Ship is listed to one side. Grease, sewage, fluids are building up on one side of the ship. She says it's kind of nasty, so it's not a very good situation."

Some of the ship's power is restored and food was brought to the ship today. Until now, meals have included onion and cheese sandwiches.

The family says conditions have been demoralizing, including the lack of restroom facilities, food and water rationing and little communication and power.

With temperatures cooling for the first time since the fire, passengers were able to sleep in their cabins. The family says that helped boost Brianna's spirits, too.

Her mother tells us the first thing Brianna wants to do when she gets off the ship is eat. Rusty says whatever his stranded family members want to do when they get off the ship is going to be up to them. He says they'll do whatever they can to welcome them home.

Indiana resident Jet Hilton is also on the ship with several friends. Her husband is back home with their children and has been receiving updates. He says they were trying to make the most of a tough situation by playing cards on the deck. But Hilton told her family that people had to wait in line for several hours for food, and that some passengers were hoarding food, leaving little for others.

"(She) has seen other people that are in the fetal position crying, some hysterical people. She's tried to calm them down," said Hilton's sister, Jennifer Stanfield. "She's holding up very well, looking at it like a camping trip."

Jet sent her a photo showing the ships deck full of makeshift tents set up to shade the passengers from sun. They were not allowed to live in their cabins.

"I don't know how they can stand it. She said she had to go down to her room to gather her things and it was ankle deep in raw sewage and the stench is so serious, it burns your eyes and nose," Stansfield said.

Nellie Betts drove in from Mississippi. She talked to her daughter right after the engine room fire Sunday that crippled the cruise liner, but now hasn't heard from her in days.

"It's been horrible, not being able to talk to her, not knowing what's going on. I have just been sick about it. This has been horrible," said Betts, crying.

But it's worse for more than 4,000 passengers and crew members aboard the Triumph. Jamie Baker is one of the passengers who spoke to NBC via cell phone.

"It reminds me of hurricane evacuations when we have no power, like Katrina in the dome except it's afloat," said Baker.

Passengers have described horrific conditions, little food, no air conditioning and raw sewage, which is the result of few working restrooms, on a ship that at times has swayed violently with no steering or stabilization capabilities.

"My friends and I slept with our life vests in our bed and truly thought the vote was going to tip over because it slants at a 45-degree angle one day and then the next day it's to the other side. Pipes are busting. The sewer is backing up. Water is in the cabins and it's just a nightmare," she said.

Initially, Triumph was scheduled to be in port around 4:00 pm, but the ship finally docked shortly before 10:30 p.m.

Earlier in the afternoon, a Coast Guard official said the ship had stopped because of a broken tow line.

It's the latest in a series of mishaps plaguing the 4,000 passengers and crew members. An engine fire left them stranded in the Gulf of Mexico without power, little food and few working toilets.

An additional tug boat was brought in to tow the ship to the dock, delaying its arrival even longer. It's expected to arrive sometime overnight in Mobile, Alabama.