What was supposed to have been a pleasurable excursion in the Gulf of Mexico turned into a hellish ordeal after an engine room fire on Sunday left the ship without the power needed to prepare meals or flush toilets.
A flotilla of tugboats was pulling the massive ocean liner into port, in an operation that took longer than anticipated because of a delay when the towline for one of the boats snapped and had to be replaced.
Some of the passengers on the Triumph, which is operated by Florida-based Carnival Cruise Lines, signaled news media helicopters with "SOS" messages scrawled on sheets, desperate to flee the stench and mess that they had endured for four days.
The Miami-based operator said cruises on the ship, which left the port of Galveston in Texas on February 7, have been halted until at least mid-April.
The Triumph had originally been scheduled to return to port early Monday after a weekend stop in Cozumel, Mexico.
Carnival officials said earlier Thursday that even after Triumph docks, it could be another several hours before all of the passengers disembark, and some of the travelers face long bus or car rides back to Texas or other destinations far from this Gulf port city.