Cruise ship “Carnival Splendour” carrying 4,500 passengers and crew members is being slowly towed towards San Diego, California after an engine room fire disabled its ability to move on its own.
The 290-metre vessel was supposed to be taking its passengers on a week-long trip along the Mexican Riviera before a fire on Monday morning killed the ship's power and set it adrift at sea.
The ship was about 80 kilometres from shore and some 320 kilometres south of San Diego at the time of the fire. No one was injured, though the fire's resulting damage left the passengers and crew without hot water, flush toilets and air conditioning.
By midday Wednesday, Carnival Cruise Lines reported that guests had intermittent cellphone service as the ship got closer to shore. As well, the ship's onboard phone system was working on a limited basis.
Passenger David Zambrano used his phone to call work: Denver television station 9NEWS. He said passengers were passing the time singing and playing cards.
Because the cabins were left without lighting, passengers propped open their doors to get some light from the auxiliary lights in the hallways.
So really, all we're doing is just kind of hanging out on a boat waiting for the next mealtime, Zambrano said.
US Navy helicopters brought extra food supplies to the people on board, which included Spam, crab meat, croissants and Pop Tarts. The Navy and Coast Guard delivered the food and other supplies to the USS Ronald Reagan, which was diverted from training manoeuvres it was conducting in the area.
US Navy Cmdr. Greg Hicks said in total, helicopters flew 70,000 pounds of food and supplies to the cruise ship. According to Hicks, a handful of Coast Guard and Navy personnel boarded the “Carnival Splendour” to help with inspections of the ship's engine.
”From what we can tell (the conditions are) tolerable, Hicks told CTV News Channel. It's not great. You don't sign up for a cruise to live off of canned food and canned meats and bread and water.
The first of several Mexican tug boats reached the cruise ship on Tuesday night and began towing it back to the U.S. A second tugboat arrived on scene Wednesday.
Carnival expects that the cruise ship will arrive in San Diego on Thursday afternoon.
The company had originally intended to tow the boat to the Mexican port of Ensenada and drive the passengers by bus to the U.S. However, the company decided passengers would be more comfortable on the ship, according to spokesperson Vance Gulliksen.
Zambrano said when the passengers heard the decision, the cheer could be heard all the way around the boat.
The company said Wednesday in a statement that employees are arranging hotel, flight and transportation arrangements for guests for when they arrive on shore.
The company is refunding everyone on board the Carnival Splendour and is offering vouchers for future cruises.
In a recent statement, Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill said the company knows this has been an extremely trying situation for our guests and we sincerely thank them for their patience.”