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Passengers aboard stricken Italian cruise ship cope with sweltering heat, no toilets

VICTORIA, Seychelles -- Passengers aboard a crippled Italian cruise liner washed with mineral water, ate cold cuts and cheese and sweltered in 86 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures without working toilets Wednesday as the ship slowly was towed across the Indian Ocean to port in the Seychelles.

If there was any bright spot for the more than 1,000 passengers and crew, it was the prospect of being able to leave the Costa Allegra immediately after its scheduled arrival at Mahe, the main Seychelles island, about midnight ET.

"The minute the boat docks the passengers will disembark because all formalities have already been taken care of, immigration was airlifted onto the boat this morning," Seychelles tourism board director Alain St. Ange told AFP.

"They'll arrive early and probably want a cooked breakfast. They've had two or three days of bubbling away on an ocean on a boat with no steam."

Once off the ship, which was disabled by an electrical fire in its engine room Monday, the passengers will find two airplanes waiting to fly them home, with a third expected to arrive Thursday.

"Over 600 airline seats have already been optioned to organize returns (and) more than 400 hotel rooms have been optioned for possible accommodation needs," said a statement from the liner's operating company Costa Crociere, a subsidiary of cruise giant Carnival.

But until they get there, towed through pirate-infested waters by a tuna fishing boat and guarded by coast guard vessels, their conditions were challenging at best.

"The bathrooms on the ship have not been working since the fire," Italian coast guard spokesman Cosimo Nicastro told AFP.

The French captain of the tuna boat, Alain Derveute, told the Italian news channel TGCOM24,"On board the Allegra, the conditions are difficult, there is no electricity and the heat is suffocating.

It's 30 degrees outside but it must be even worse inside.

"We know there are pirates in these waters but the passengers are safe because the Allegra has military personnel on board."

Emergency supplies, food and flashlights have been airlifted by helicopter onto the vessel.

Costa Crociere said mineral water had been provided for "personal hygiene needs" and fresh bread was delivered daily via helicopter.

"Soft drinks and cold foods such as fruits, cold cuts and cheeses are being served," the company said in a statement.

The Costa Allegra left Madagascar on Saturday on its way to the Seychelles. The cruise was set to travel via Oman, the Red Sea and the Egyptian port of Alexandria.

The former container ship was converted into a cruise liner in 1992, and includes two pools, a casino and several bars and restaurants, AFP reported.

Costa Crociere also owns the much larger Costa Concordia, which ran aground off the Italian island of Giglio last month with 4,229 people on board in an accident that claimed 32 lives.