VICTORIA, Seychelles -- A disabled cruise ship being towed to the Seychelles' main port is expected to arrive Thursday morning -- three days after the ship lost power and began drifting in the Indian Ocean. An aviation official said passengers would begin flying to Rome within hours after arrival at port.
The Genoa, Italy-based Costa said the Allegra is being towed to the Seychelles' main port and is expected to arrive at about 9 a.m. local time Thursday (0500 GMT, midnight EST), a little later than reported earlier.
Three planes with a seating capacity of at least 580 passengers were lined up to fly the passengers of the cruise ship Costa Allegra back to Rome, Gilbert Faure, the chief executive of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority said Wednesday. He said the first plane is tentatively scheduled to leave Thursday afternoon.
"It could all depend because they have been at sea for three days. They may want to take a shower, we are not sure," Faure said, adding later: "I can assure you that we are doing our best to ensure that they have a nice few hours in the Seychelles."
Costa said soft drinks and cold food such as fruit, cold cuts, cheeses and fresh bread are regularly available to passengers, along with mineral water for personal hygiene needs. They said the situation is "regular" and the weather is good.
The Costa Allegra lost power Monday after a fire broke out in its generator room, setting the Italian cruise ship adrift in a region where Somali pirates have long been active. A French fishing vessel began towing the Costa Allegra, at first to a small, nearby island, but later to the Seychelles main port -- Victoria. Two Seychelles tug boats are escorting the cruise ship.
Officials indicated that the more than 1,000 passengers and crew are on board the Costa Allegra would have overwhelmed the resources on the tiny resort island Desroches.
Monday's fire came only six weeks after the Costa Concordia hit a reef and capsized off Italy, killing 25 people and leaving seven missing and presumed dead. No one was injured in the fire Monday, but passengers have been without power, communications and air conditioning since the accident.
The ship's operator, Costa Crociere SpA, said it expected a helicopter to deliver 400 flashlights and fresh bread to the passengers on Wednesday. The operator said the ship has sufficient food and that a small generator delivered by a navy ship -- it did not specify from which country -- could help restore basic services and "to make the situation on board more comfortable."
Two tug boats arrived alongside the cruise ship on Tuesday but the slower French fishing vessel continued to tow it. A Costa Concordia official in the Seychelles said he did not know enough about the situation to comment. Alan St. Ange, the chief executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, said the tugs were helping push the Costa Allegra and that "everybody is working together."
The Allegra, whose Italian name means "merry," or "happy," left northern Madagascar, off Africa's southeast coast, on Saturday and was cruising toward Port Victoria when the fire erupted. Costa said the Allegra had been due in Port Victoria on Tuesday.
The liner is carrying 413 crew members and 636 passengers, including 212 Italians, 31 Britons and eight Americans. Four passengers are children ages 3 or younger.