The cruise ship stranded off Mexico by an engine fire has limped back to port under tow, ending a three-day ordeal without air conditioning, hot water and cooked meals for nearly 3,300 bedraggled vacationers.
They came ashore in wrinkled, mismatched clothes with tales of hot-dog salads, smelly, smoky cabins, free booze and some of the worst honeymoons.
“It was camping on the ocean, and it was horrible,” said Jackie Harlan, who was celebrating her 12th wedding anniversary aboard the ill-fated ship Carnival Splendor with her husband, Chris, and their two young children.
Tugboats pulled the crippled luxury liner into its home port of San Diego at about 8 am local time, and the ship was moored an hour later. By mid-afternoon all 3,300 passengers had disembarked with their luggage, using stairs because the power outage had left elevators disabled.
The 952-foot vessel left Long Beach, California, on Sunday for a seven-day voyage. But the ship was marooned the next day about 200 miles south of San Diego and 50 miles off the Mexican coast by an engine fire that crippled its propulsion system and knocked out most power supplies.
The blaze was confined to the engine room and was put out in about three hours with no injuries. Some passengers said they only learned of a fire once they were back in port.
“Until the Coast Guard and the US Navy and the Mexican Navy came out, I was pretty scared. We didn’t know what was wrong with the ship. Everything was dark. The toilets were overflooded,” said passenger Maria Avila, 41.
Toilet service was restored on Monday night, but air conditioning remained out, as did hot water and hot food for the duration of the aborted trip.
With food and fresh water running low, the Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was diverted from training exercises in the Pacific on Tuesday to help deliver 600,000 pounds of water and other provisions — including cans of Spam, a canned precooked meat product.
Doing their best to keep up spirits, the crew plied its adult passengers with alcoholic beverages for free while offering games and other activities for the kids.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it had launched an investigation into the fire.