4-day cruise ship ordeal comes to an end

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By Tony Perry and Richard Marosi
Friday, November 12, 2010

SAN DIEGO - Passengers disembarked Thursday morning from their ill-fated cruise on the Carnival Splendor, full of survivor stories, quips and - generally speaking - a fairly upbeat attitude about their experiences.

They were greeted by a horde of media, as well as relatives, friends, even strangers who decided to come to the port in San Diego to witness the spectacle firsthand. Merchants also hawked T-shirts: "I survived the 2010 Carnival Cruise Spamcation." Honeymooners Josh and Ashley Vest of Fullerton, Calif., said they tried to make the best of it. And though they initially thought the trip was ruined, Joshua Vest, 23, said spirits lifted once a tugboat arrived and the Navy began shuttling food and supplies to the ship.

"The food was lousy," Vest said. "The bar in our area was closed. But it wasn't too hot aboard the ship and there was music and games. Last night, we knew we were going home and everybody was happy. And then they opened up the bar and people were even happier." He said the joke among passengers was that there were going to be "a lot of babies born in the next nine months."

About 4,500 passengers and crew members were aboard the ship, which had been disabled since Monday morning, when a fire broke out in the engine room and knocked out power. The ship was able to restore flushing toilets, but made do without hot water, lights and hot food service. The ship had departed Sunday out of Long Beach, Calif., for a seven-day Mexican cruise.

Mike Hall, 36, who works for a Las Vegas cable TV company, said the fire caused a disturbance that rattled the ship.

"We were sleeping late and suddenly the whole ship started to shake and the power went off. We were in the dark. And we knew something bad had happened," he said. "It woke everybody up." Toilets in his part of the ship wouldn't flush until Wednesday, forcing passengers to scoop up waste and dump it in receptacles at another location. The elevators on board also didn't work.

Hall said this meant a lot of going up and down stairs. That, coupled with the bad food, made it easy to drop some pounds, he said.

"If you wanted to lose weight, this was the place," he said. "They should call it the 'Splendor Diet.' ''

Most passengers said they were looking forward to a good, hot meal - and were relieved to be back on land.

Peg Fischer, 61, of Las Vegas, said she will cruise again.

"I'm a mathematics teacher. What are the odds that this could happen again?" Fischer said. "This was my first cruise and I wanted it to be memorable. It was, but not in the way I hoped for. It's good to be home."

Carnival has agreed to offer a full refund, reimbursement for travel expenses and a free cruise of comparable value.

"Thank you for your understanding," a contrite voice blared over a ship loudspeaker as the passengers disembarked. "And we hope you come back real soon."

- Los Angeles Times


© 2010 The Washington Post Company

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