4,500 passengers of Carnival Splendor are finally back home

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Relieved passengers wheeled their suitcases down the gangplank of a disabled cruise ship Thursday, cheering as they finally touched land after three nightmarish days adrift with limited food, backed-up toilets and dark cabins.

Pulled by six tug boats and escorted by Coast Guard cutters, the nearly 1,000-foot Carnival Splendor reached the dock at about 8:30 a.m. PST.

The first group of passengers walked down a ramp about an hour later, dragging rolling suitcases behind them and entering a tent on the dock. With the ship’s elevators out of order, port officials estimated it would take about four hours for everyone to leave the ship.

“I love being back on land,” said passenger Ken King of Los Angeles, who turned 42 on Thursday.

King said he and his traveling companion were celebrating their birthdays on the cruise, so Carnival chose them to be in the first group off the ship.

“The staff was excellent. Only a few people on board were rude. The food was horrible. Starting at 5 a.m. on Monday, we didn’t have toilets for 13 hours,” King said.

Chris Harlen, a dental technician from Buena Park, offered a quick description of his experience after disembarking with his wife and two children, ages 10 and 8.

“It was gross when the toilets weren’t working. What can you do?” Harlan said. “There were a lot of people getting smashed off warm beer.”

People on the decks and about 100 onshore cheered loudly as the ship reached the dock, while all along the harbor, tourists, joggers and fishermen stopped to snap photos.

High up on a ship railing, someone had stuck a sign thanking the Coast Guard and a hand-drawn U.S. flag.

“We’re so happy to be getting off. Everybody’s been cheering and clapping,” passenger Fahizah Alim, 26, of Sacramento, said by cell phone.

“It’s been like a nightmare,” she said. “There’s been no food, no power, no electricity, no flushing toilets. I spent the night tossing and turning in my cabin in the dark.”

The ship left Long Beach on Sunday for a seven-day trip to the Mexican Riviera, only to return days early without ever reaching the beaches vacationers had hoped for. A fire in the engine room knocked out power Monday morning, leaving passengers with no air conditioning, no hot food, no hot water, no casino. The swimming pool was off-limits because there was no way to pump chlorine.

Seventy-five buses were arriving to drive passengers north to Long Beach, where the Splendor is based. Passengers also were given the option of staying overnight at San Diego hotels.

Gary Grabel of Los Angeles said he was packing his bags.

“We’re looking forward to spending a couple of days in San Diego to kind of catch up on my vacation,” he said by cell phone.

He was among 250 magicians on board for a conference who performed for the guests after the power failed.

“I did magic for hours,” he said.

Aboard the ship, lines for cold food stretched for hours during the days after the power went out. Navy helicopters flew in Spam, Pop Tarts and canned crab meat and other goods for the passengers and crew, passengers said.

Some passengers carried food to others who used walkers and canes and couldn’t climb up nine decks of stairs to reach the food lines, Alim said.

“We have not had a hot cup of coffee in four days,” she said. “This was my first cruise and it was no luxury, no fun.”

However, passengers spent their last night drinking free wine and beer at the bar and singing old songs.

KNX 1070: Family Says ‘It Could’ve Been Worse’

Paul Patrick Sr., 50, of Riverside, said his daughter, Sabrina Klinge of Laguna Hills, was married on Saturday and was on her honeymoon cruise. The 27-year-old texted her father on Wednesday saying it was dark and she was living on Pop-Tarts.

“It was supposed to be this beautiful cruise and it turned into a nightmare,” he said. “Nothing like it was advertised in the brochure.”

As the ship approached San Diego, she sent him another text message: “We see land!”

In a follow-up cell phone call, Klinge told her father that she was hungry and did not want any salads or sandwiches when she arrived, he said.

“Steak and lobster?” he replied, jokingly. “You mean they don’t have steak and lobster on the Splendor? I thought you liked Spam.”

After the Splendor docked, Gerry Cahill, chief executive of Carnival Corp.’s Carnival Cruise Lines told passengers via ship’s intercom: “I’m very sorry” and added: “I would like to thank you for all your patience and understanding that you showed throughout the situation.”

Cahill earlier said the crankcase on one of six diesel generators “split,” causing the fire. He said he doubted other ships in the Miami-based company’s fleet were at risk.

PHOTOS: Carnival Cruise ‘Nightmare’ Ends In San Diego

The ship was 200 miles south of San Diego and about 44 miles off shore when the fire killed its power.

“We’ve never had anything like this happen before, so I really don’t think we have any risks to other ships,” he said at a news conference Wednesday. “This is a very unusual situation.”

Carnival first planned to haul the ship to the Mexican port of Ensenada, not far from a movie studio complex used to film “Titanic,” and bus passengers to the U.S.

But the cruise line decided it would be better to go a little farther to San Diego, sparing passengers the 50-mile bus ride to the border. San Diego also offers more transportation and hotel options.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (13)
  1. Poppy Akaji says:

    Hopefully this will be a lesson the the American people to STAY HOME &

    1. pointless... says:

      how is this a lesson for people to stay home and save money??? i think we are just happy everybody is save.

  2. Bonita Polk says:

    I ‘m so happy that all of the passengers are ok.

  3. But who are these people who waited and cheered for a 5,000 ton cruise ship to slowly creep into port? Oh yeah…people who need LIVES!!!!

  4. BikeRider says:

    As much as this cruise sucked, imagine the FREE vacation these people will have ala Carnival in the future!! You know they will take care of these people so they don’t sue the pants off of them… which some will probably do anyway.

    I still don’t understand how a ship like that couldn’t have a better back up plan… speaking of backing up, especially for the toilet situation! But really… don’t they use fuel to cook (propane, natural gas, whatever?) Why wouldn’t that still work? And also, Carnival should have had the Coast Guard drop ship about 1000 portable generators to get basic operations up and running. Then again, this is an unediucated outsider looking in, so maybe more was done than we think. Anyway you look at it, what an operation! I think Carnaval and the Coast Guard should be proud of their successful efforts to get this thing back in American waters as quickly as they did!

  5. jackie says:

    anyone that goes on a carnival cruise in november should be used to living without flushing toilets and drinking warm beer.

  6. BelindaRN82 says:

    @Bike Rider… You still need a pilot light to start the stoves and stuff, which is often a spark caused electrically. They aren’t wood-burning stoves. 🙂

    The cruise ship did what it could, and for the smoothness of the whole situation, I think Carnival and the Coast Guard should be applauded….. I am thoroughly entertained by the person quoted in the story saying “Nothing like advertised in the brochure!” … Um DUH, an engine room fire is not a typical advertisement.

  7. Jeff whiteman says:

    Wow icant believe they survived ! I can’t believe on vets day we talk about people who didn’t get a hot meal or a hot shower for four days and make them out to be Hero’s . Ask a vet how long he’s gone for without a warm meal or a hot shower . Most of the people look like they could have survived for 6 months

    1. tanusha says:

      thank you..thank you..i guess most of americans are well spoiled by the services they get all over!! i was on this cruise..i am so glad me and my husband came home safely…we were happy about everything..nothing more matters than our lives!!! backed up toilets?? who backed them up? of course all of us by eating like pigs there…so much food that people did not know what to do with it!!! I have seen people were grabbing more than 10 sandwiches and than it was almost all in garbage..later i heard that they will never eat sandwichse anymore..oh…I cant say enough…if you truly will be hungry you will eat anything!!!! I am so thankful to carnival crew, thye worked so hard…so hard that anyo of us should be happy and not complaining at all…the whole operation of saving our lives was more important than toilets and food…Hello people!!! please start being thankful for what you have…you do not even know what is it to be without food in this country!!!!My parents were going through real starvation, they still apprecciate very peice of bread…i was sick of hearing complains there on the ship…destoryed vacation??? you will get it rebookde and all for free! what is thre to complain about??? all of this was for free and therefore should be no complains at all toher than prayer of thanks to God and to Carnival crew and US navy and military!

      1. tanusha says:

        sorry for misspellings…

  8. Steve says:

    Exactly, Jeff. It’s really not a big deal at all. They were fine; just inconvenienced.

  9. o c e a n says:

    that ship is cursed. ye be warned. arrrr.

  10. tanusha says:

    people are tallkign about how their condition was bad for a vacation thy eplanned..Ibut who said it was a vacation? it was an accident and we were on survival..not on vacation…so whatever was there hanothing to do with vacation and hot coffee..it was an unsual situation compare to luxhury vacation that everyone of us planned…i guess some people here still do not get it what happened..there were no vacation, it was an operation to bring us home safely..ater the fire in the ship in the middle of the ocean! our vacation will be booked later and all for free!!! are all of you happy who were there on the cruise and ate almost 24/7! and all for free!!! Warm beer??? who cares, it was for free anyways, normally you would pay for it and it would be cold! but this was abnormal situation!!! Hello people!

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