Carnival Splendor Plods Toward San Diego: Bars Open, Cruise Passengers Eat Spam, Play Trivia

November 10, 2010
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(2:30 p.m. EST) -- Carnival Splendor continues to creep toward San Diego, towed by a commercial ocean-going tugboat and escorted by military vessels, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. It's estimated to be in port sometime midday Thursday.

On Wednesday morning, in one of the first reports from a passenger onboard, Cruise Critic member AZ GIRL posted on the message boards that he received a phone call from his wife: "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." The call was abbreviated, he added, because "she needs to conserve her cell battery because there is nowhere to plug in for power." Another passenger onboard, David Zambrano, spoke with Denver NBC affiliate 9NEWS. "You stand in line for two hours just to get your food because everybody goes to the same place to pick up their food," said Zambrano. "People are playing cards. People are standing around just kind of talking. They're getting to socialize."

Carnival Cruise Lines spokesman Vance Gulliksen told Cruise Critic Wednesday morning that there are no reports of injuries among the 3,299 passengers, who are being entertained with "trivia contests, music on the promenade, acoustic music, dance and blackjack classes." Fees have been waived throughout the ship, and Splendor's bars were reopened on Tuesday. Though he couldn't say how many children are onboard, he noted, "Camp Carnival is open and we're keeping the kids occupied."

The ship was crippled by an engine-room fire on Monday and set adrift west of Baja California. Generators are providing power to navigation equipment and emergency-detection systems onboard; while the ship has cold water and flushing toilets, there is still no air conditioning, telephone or Internet service available. Communication is likely to improve on the ship -- according to the latest Carnival statement, "Guests are now beginning to receive intermittent cellular service. Additionally, the ship's phone system is working on a limited basis and guests are able to make complimentary calls home." All public areas of the ship remain open; reports indicate that some passengers are choosing to sleep on the open decks in the fresh air (temperatures are in the mid-60's) rather than their stuffy cabins. On Tuesday, the USS Ronald Reagan delivered about 35 pallets of food (60,000 pounds of grub, including Spam, fruit, canned milk and Pop-Tarts) and utensils by helicopter to Splendor, a move necessitated by the lack of refrigeration. Gulliksen said no further airlifts of provisions will be necessary, provided the ship arrives in port as scheduled. Cruise Critic member AZ GIRL added that his wife "had no idea that we knew everything that was going on regarding the USS Reagan, tugs, etc." Click the image to the left for a supply mission slideshow. There are no reports of structural damage to the 113,000-ton, 952-foot-long vessel, and there is no visible damage to the ship's exterior.

Although tugs were originally intended to tow Carnival Splendor to Ensenada, Mexico, Carnival announced Tuesday evening that it would head to San Diego. A recent report from the Associated Press indicates that one of two tugboats currently pulling the ship to San Diego didn't have enough power and was forced to turn back. A Coast Guard spokesperson told the AP that a Mexican company has dispatched a third tug to the scene, but authorities are considering leaving the one tug to pull the ship. The spokesperson explained that using two tugs is more complicated and may not necessarily boost speed.

Carnival Splendor's fate upon arrival in San Diego has not been announced, and Gulliksen could not comment on whether Splendor's 1,167 crewmembers would stay onboard or debark upon arrival in San Diego.

Gulliksen said that a team from the cruise line is making arrangements for hotel accommodations, ground transportation and flights home for all passengers. In addition, passengers will receive a full refund, plus a complimentary future cruise, as compensation.

Carnival has already canceled the next cruise, originally scheduled to depart Long Beach on November 14. Passengers booked on that sailing will receive a full refund of their cruise fare and air transportation costs, along with a 25 percent discount on a future cruise. According to a letter from the line received by Cruise Critic member zonacruiser25, passengers also have the option to rebook onto a different Carnival cruise.

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

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor, and John Deiner, Managing Editor

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

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