Carnival Splendor in port

(11:45 a.m. EST) -- A fire that broke out in the aft engine room of two-year-old Carnival Splendor on November 8 left the 113,000-ton vessel crippled in the waters off the Baja California coast. The ship, which had just begun a weeklong voyage to the Mexican Riviera, had 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crewmembers onboard. Here are the answers to some questions you may be asking about the event.

What's the latest?

The ship was escorted into a San Diego dock on November 11 by six tugboats. Debarkation of all passengers took about four hours. On November 16, Carnival announced that all voyages on Splendor were canceled through Jan. 9; the ship's scheduled return to service is Jan. 16. The line is offering a full refund, plus air-transportation costs and a 25 percent discount off a future cruise. Carnival Splendor is now undergoing a damage assessment with reps from the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Transportation Safety Board, the government of Panama (where the ship is flagged) and the line itself.

What happened to the passengers after they debarked in San Diego?

Buses were waiting for Splendor passengers once they got off the ship, and Carnival provided hotel accommodations, ground transportation and flights home for all passengers. Though the voyagers were on a Mexican Riviera cruise, they didn't need to clear customs upon arrival in San Diego. "Since the passengers were confined to the ship that did not make landfall they will be allowed to simply disembark," says Jacqueline Wasiluk, press officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

What are the passengers saying?

Once the ship was towed close enough to the coast for cell phones to pick up signals on November 10, a steady stream of reports to loved ones and other media outlets emerged. One of the first was Cruise Critic member AZ GIRL, whose husband reported this on the message board: "She said 'This is a cruise from HELL!' ... She said there is no light in her cabin, toilet only got restored yesterday and stinks beyond belief. People are hoarding food, taking platefuls." Since the ship trudged into port, an army of media has interviewed passengers about the experience. Check here to read the stories.

What was life like on the ship?

According to Carnival, passengers were initially asked to move to the upper decks shortly after the fire, but they were allowed back to their cabins. Still, because air-conditioning was unavailable during the duration of the event, reports indicate that many passengers opted to sleep on deck in the fresh air or in hallways. Meals consisted of unrefrigerated items (including canned crab, fresh fruit and sandwiches), much of which was airlifted onto the ship by the USS Ronald Reagan. Entertainment was limited to trivia games, acoustic music, blackjack lessons and the like, while Carnival eased some of the pain by providing free bar service.

What's the cause of the fire?

The U.S. Navy reports that the fire began in the generator compartment of the aft engine room and knocked out several systems. During a November 10 news conference, Carnival Chief Executive Gerry Cahill went into further detail. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, "The fire burned enough electrical connections to prevent the ship's engineers from restarting full power. Cahill explained that one of the ship's six diesel generators in the aft engine room had an internal malfunction, which he described as a crankcase that split and caused the fire." Is the damage visible?

In an interview shortly after the fire on NBC's "Today" show, Coast Guard Lt. Khris Johns reported there was "no structural damage to the ship and no report of flooding." In addition, when the ship was pulled into port it bore no external hallmarks of the fire.

What is the compensation for those impacted by the fire?

Guests 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.

What if passengers don't want to take another Carnival cruise?

The future cruise credit is not transferrable to friends or family members, so passengers can either choose to use it for an upcoming sailing or forfeit that piece of the compensation package.

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--By the Cruise Critic Editorial Staff