Update: Single Tug Pulling Disabled Carnival Splendor; Ensenada Arrival Time Unknown

November 9, 2010
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(8:15 p.m. EST) -- Carnival Splendor, crippled by an engine-room fire on Monday and set adrift west of Baja California, has been met by one of the commercial ocean-going tugs sent to rendezvous with the ship, Cruise Critic has learned. The tug has now begun towing the ship -- with 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crewmembers onboard -- to Ensenada, Mexico.

A second tug is on the way, though Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen could not say when it would arrive.

Earlier Tuesday, officials estimated that the trip to Ensenada, about 140 miles away, would take roughly 24 hours after the ship is rigged to the tugs, placing it in port at around 8 p.m. PST Wednesday. With just one tug currently pulling the vessel, Carnival Splendor is traveling at 4 knots, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Given the situation, Ensenada Port Director Carlos Jauregui told the Los Angeles Times that Thursday morning is more likely. Officially, the Coast Guard has not issued an expected time of arrival.

Generators are providing power to navigation equipment and emergency-detection systems, and cold water and toilet service were restored late Monday to cabins. There are no reports of structural damage to the 113,000-ton, 952-foot-long vessel. The Coast Guard revealed in a recent news release that the fire originated in the generator's compartment, which is located in an engine room. Though the air conditioning is not operable, the Coast Guard also reports air temperatures at the scene are in the mid-60's.

At the request of the Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy diverted the USS Ronald Reagan to facilitate the delivery of needed supplies to Carnival Splendor. About 35 pallets of supplies (around 4,500 pounds, according to the Navy) were transferred by helicopter sent from the aircraft carrier, a move necessitated by the lack of refrigeration onboard Splendor. Supplies included food and utensils.

In a telephone conversation with Cruise Critic, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Rick Foster said the main mission is to coordinate the safe transportation of Carnival Splendor into port. Upon arrival, passengers will then be bused from Ensenada north across the border to California.

Ensenada Port Capt. Carlos Carrillo told the Associated Press that because some local bus companies already regularly work with cruise lines, he doesn't "think it will be much trouble to get the passengers to the border." With passengers safely off the ship, Carnival Splendor will then be towed back to Long Beach, California. That particular journey will take days -- thus the need to drop passengers off in Mexico first.

The ship was on Day 1 of a weeklong Mexican Riviera tour with scheduled visits in the ports of Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. The cruise line has since announced that passengers will receive a full refund and transportation costs, plus a complimentary future cruise, as compensation.

We'll be monitoring the situation, so check back for the latest.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor; John Deiner, Managing Editor; and Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor

--Images appear courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

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