Carnival Cruise Line ship Triumph is nearing port in Mobile, Alabama, after a fire last Friday took out propulsion, sewerage and airconditioning systems.
The fire left 3142 passengers and 1086 crew stranded in the Gulf of Mexico until they were reached by three tugs, which are now towing the vessel, through thunderstorms, back to the US.
Passengers say they have been sleeping on deck because of the lack of air conditioning.
Toilets have been out of commission for three-and-a-half days, with plastic bags used as a subsitute. Sewerage is reported in corridors.
Food is being rationed, with up to three-hour queues.
According to a Reuters report, Carnival originally offered passengers credit for a future trip of equal value.
It has now offered them $US500 cash as well.