With passengers describing increasingly deplorable conditions aboard a Carnival cruise ship that was left floating helplessly in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday after a fire knocked out its propulsion system, the Coast Guard said on Tuesday that it would take two more days to tow the ship to the port in Mobile, Ala.
The fire not only left the vessel, the Triumph, unable to sail, but it also caused a shipwide power failure, disrupting the onboard sewage system, disabling the heating and air-conditioning systems, and leaving little light to guide the 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members after nightfall.
"It is just squalor and disgusting," said Steven Peery, whose wife, Cindel Peña, was on the ship.
Ms. Peña, in conversations with both her husband and her mother, Serena Peña, described a vacation turned nightmare. The lines for meals last more than an hour, she said, and the hallways and cabins are so hot and foul that people have taken to sleeping in whatever outdoor space they can find.
Also, with many of the toilets not functioning, the crew was forced to distribute plastic bags for people to use instead.
"The first time I talked to her," Serena Peña said, "she asked if I had seen reports on the news and if those reports described the raw sewage on the floors, because they should."
The sewage also seemed to be seeping through the walls, the daughter said.
A fire in 2010 aboard a different Carnival cruise ship, the Splendor, left 3,300 passengers without electricity for 72 hours. When the ship was finally towed into port in San Diego, the people looked more like refugees than holiday revelers as they disembarked.
Gerald R. Cahill, the president and chief executive of Carnival Cruise Lines, said that everything possible was being done to improve the conditions on the ship.
"All of our guests are safe, and we're doing everything we can to make them as comfortable as possible," he said in a statement. "The ship has maintained emergency generator power since the fire occurred, and the technical team on board has been successful in gradually restoring auxiliary power to operate some basic hotel functions. Currently, public and cabin toilets are operational in certain sections of the ship, power has been restored to a limited number of elevators, and some power in the Lido dining area is providing for hot coffee and limited hot food service."
Two other Carnival cruise ships were delivering essential supplies of food and water to the vessel, according to the Coast Guard.
The ship departed from Galveston, Tex., on Thursday for what was scheduled to be a four-day cruise. The fire that disabled the propulsion system broke out in the engine room on Sunday morning.
"The ship's automatic fire extinguishing systems activated, and the fire was successfully extinguished," Mr. Cahill said in a statement. The United States Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board have launched an investigation into the cause of the fire.
Petty Officer Richard Brahm, who works out of the Coast Guard's Houston office, said the ship was originally stranded 380 miles from port and, after a full day of being towed by two Coast Guard tugboats, was still 230 miles from Mobile on Tuesday morning.
"It was literally in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico," he said.
With the power limited aboard the ship, passengers have been unable to charge laptops and phones, and there have been only scattered reports about the conditions, most relayed by friends and relatives of passengers.
"The odor is so bad, people are getting sick and they're throwing up everywhere," Brent Nutt, whose wife was aboard the ship, told CNN.
Ms. Peña told her relatives that the staff was doing everything it could to make life better, but that it was just a rough situation.
"I got a text from her last night," said Mr. Peery, her husband. "She said they were playing music and giving away free liquor."
During the day, his wife said, the situation was not as bad as it was at night, when the ship went eerily dark in the middle of the sea.
"At night it gets really scary because there are no lights and no communication," he said. "She gets a lot of anxiety."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.