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Carnival Splendor Passengers Back, Describe Nightmare Cruise

Nov 12, 2010

The Carnival Splendor finally made it to the Port of San Diego yesterday, and passengers aboard the crippled cruise ship are on shore again. Now, many are describing their ordeal aboard the Carnival Splendor, which was left without power and drifting off Mexico’s Pacific coast following an engine fire early Monday morning.

The Carnival Splendor had only left Long Beach, California on Sunday on a seven day Mexican cruise. The Carnival Splendor’s itinerary was to include stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, but the voyage had to be scrapped. The ship was 200 miles south of San Diego at the time of the engine fire, and began drifting about 55 miles off shore. The cause of the fire, which was put out by the crew and the ship’s automatic fire-suppression system after about three hours, is unknown. 

While engineers aboard the Carnival Splendor were able to restore enough electrical service to get the ship’s toilets and cold water working again, the 4,500 passengers and crew aboard were forced to live without air conditioning, hot water, or hot food. Lack of refrigeration also meant that food supplies were running low. On Tuesday, the US Navy ferried 70,000 lbs of provisions to the ship, including canned crab meat, croissants, Pop Tarts and Spam.

It wasn’t until a small flotilla of tugboats hauled the 952-foot cruise liner into a San Diego dock Thursday that those aboard were finally able to leave. Now they are telling their stories.

“Until the Coast Guard and the US Navy and the Mexican Navy came out, I was pretty scared. We didn’t know what was wrong with the ship. Everything was dark. The toilets were overflooded,” passenger Maria Avila, 41, told Reuters.

“It was scary,” Avila said. “People were sleeping everywhere — in the lounge, in the Lido lounge and on the decks. I cried every morning.” She told Reuters that, due to broken toilets, one end of the Carnival Splendor smelled like “crap.”

Another passenger spoke of eating “hot dog salad” and yogurt sandwiches.

Newlywed Stacy Noreiga told ABC’s “Good Morning America” the situation was particularly concerning for her because she’s pregnant.

“It was very difficult, especially because the smells were unbelievable,” she said. “It seemed almost like every floor we went up there was a different odor.”

Others described the eerie, total darkness that engulfed the ship, according to the Associated Press.

“Some people said it was like a coffin, it’s so dark,” Karyn van Latum said. “We left our front door open, so that we had some little light, but it looked like a coffin. We stayed on the deck.”

Now that the nightmare cruise is finally over, attention has turned to the cause of the disaster. According to a report in USA Today, some experts are baffled as to why the fire knocked out power to the entire ship.

Clark Dodge, former chief engineer for Washington State Ferries, said large passenger vessels are designed to ensure that such a fire doesn’t cause a loss of all power. An engine-room fire and damage to a generator and a switchboard shouldn’t shut down other generators and engines, he said.

“What happened makes no sense to me,” said Dodge, a consultant. “If things were designed properly, all the power shouldn’t have gone out.”

According to a Newscore report, the US Coast Guard, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Panamanian authorities will be investigating the Carnival Splendor fire. The vessel is flagged in Panama, but officials there have agreed to allow US authorities to join the investigation as most of the passengers on board the ship were Americans.

Carnival said that guests on the Splendor’s nightmare voyage will be receiving a full refund along with reimbursement for transportation costs. Additionally, they will receive a complimentary future cruise equal to the amount paid for this voyage.

Carnival also canceled the Splendor’s next voyage, scheduled to begin on November 14. Those guests will receive a full refund of their cruise fare and air transportation costs, along with a 25 percent discount on a future cruise, Carnival said.

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