Thursday afternoon, CNN began broadcasting footage of the Triumph being towed across waves glittering in the afternoon sun.
Relatives kept vigil at the port as the ship neared.
Mike Padilla, 49, of Richmond, Texas, had neighbors watch his two children and drove overnight to fetch his wife, whom he helped send on the cruise as a surprise 40th birthday present. She was traveling with a friend from home, her mother, who lives in Antioch, Calif., and a friend from Sacramento, he said. It was also his wife's first cruise.
“It seems like it’s chaos. Carnival has been helpful, but less than clear on information,” he said as he tried to call his wife after receiving a brief text message saying, “Are you getting this?”
Just then his friend Tim Morgan, 37, whose wife is traveling with Padilla’s, received a text from her. Julie Morgan had been told that the ship wouldn’t be returning until 8 p.m. and didn’t know the pair were waiting at the port, with hotel rooms booked and a plan to drive the California visitors to New Orleans to fly out Friday.
“We have no idea how we are going to get home,” she texted, adding that people on the boat “are going to riot.”
“I am really upset,” she wrote.
Padilla tried to stay upbeat. He looked for Carnival staff, but the only ones he saw disappeared into the port building.
“It’s a bad situation. Carnival didn’t want it to happen. We didn’t want it to happen. But as adults, we’re making the most of it. As strong women, I’m sure they’re doing what they have to to get through it,” he said of his wife, relatives and friends aboard.