Passengers cheer as hobbled cruise ship heads to San Diego - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Passengers cheer as hobbled cruise ship heads to San Diego

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This photo released by the U.S. Navy shows the Carnival Splendor, a cruise ship stranded about 250 miles off the coast of California on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010. This photo released by the U.S. Navy shows the Carnival Splendor, a cruise ship stranded about 250 miles off the coast of California on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010.
In this Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010 photo released by the U.S. Navy, sailors from Fleet Logistics Squadron (VRC) 30 load meat, bread and plastic dinnerware into a C-2A Greyhound logistics aircraft at Naval Base Coronado in San Diego, Calif. In this Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010 photo released by the U.S. Navy, sailors from Fleet Logistics Squadron (VRC) 30 load meat, bread and plastic dinnerware into a C-2A Greyhound logistics aircraft at Naval Base Coronado in San Diego, Calif.
U.S. Navy sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) help crew members of the Carnival cruise ship Splendor unload food and water sent from the carrier. U.S. Navy sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) help crew members of the Carnival cruise ship Splendor unload food and water sent from the carrier.
A Navy Seahawk helicopter brings supplies to the Carnival Splendor cruise ship in waters off the Baja Peninsula of Mexico, from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. A Navy Seahawk helicopter brings supplies to the Carnival Splendor cruise ship in waters off the Baja Peninsula of Mexico, from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

News 8 is interested in talking with anyone who was aboard The Carnival Splendor. If you know anyone who is on board or have more information, please email yourstories@kfmb.com. If you have any video or pictures, you can send them to News 8 by clicking here >>

SAN DIEGO (AP/News 8) — The food on the disabled cruise ship Carnival Splendor is cold and the lines to get it stretch for hours.

And with the pool, bars and casinos closed and rooms pitch black and stuffy, the nearly 4,500 people and crew on board passed the time with live music, scavenger hunts and trivia contests as they are slowly towed to San Diego.

"The days are long," said carnival passenger Kari Jones, who spoke with News 8 by cell phone Wednesday evening. "The morale is good. They're trying to take good care of us, as best they can. We're all just ready for a hot shower and hot food."

Jones is aboard the Splendor with 24 family members, ranging in age from 2 to 76. She said her entire family is trying to keep its spirits up.

"Things are going well," she added. "We're without power. We got emergency lights, so the rooms are dark."

Two tugboats were pulling the 952-foot ship back to the U.S. The journey could take at least until late Thursday.

Alpine resident Joni Iglinski, whose parents, brother and many other family members are part of Jones' group aboard the Splendor, said she was able to speak with her mother by cell phone Wednesday morning.

"I think the people are putting up with the discomfort of not being able to shower and just eating yucky food," Iglinski told News 8. "Although my dad likes Spam, so I guess he's not too upset."

Iglinski was initially concerned her father, who is diabetic, would not be able to  keep his insulin refrigerated.

"My mom said he's got his ice chest, and they're keeping him well-supplied with ice," she said. "So they're taking good care of him."

The ship entered cell phone range on Wednesday, allowing passengers mostly cut off from communication since an engine fire disabled the vessel on Monday to finally reach loved ones — and provide the first details of the conditions on board.

"The ship itself started shuddering, just a jerky shudder," Jones said, referring to the first signs of trouble.  "It lasted for about 20 seconds."

Among them was David Zambrano, who phoned his employer, Denver TV station 9NEWS, and said people were trying to keep their spirits up by singing, socializing and playing cards.

The ship's bars, casinos, pools and the upper deck were closed. Rooms in the interior of the ship were pitch black and passengers propped open their doors to let in air and emergency lighting from the hallways.

"So really, all we're doing is just kind of hanging out on a boat waiting for the next mealtime," Zambrano said.

Mealtime requires a two-hour wait for cold food, he said. Navy helicopters flew in Spam, Pop Tarts and canned crab meat and other goods for the passengers and crew.

"It's almost like a diet cruise because we've been eating salads and fruit and small sandwiches," Zambrano said.

Gina Calzada, 43, of Henderson, Nev., said her diabetic sister, Vicky, called her Wednesday morning on her cell phone and started sobbing. She said she has not been able to take her insulin for her diabetes because she is not eating enough.

She told Calzada all that she had eaten was some bread, cucumbers and lettuce. "I told her where are the Pop Tarts and the Spam? I thought they brought in 70,000 pounds of supplies," Calzada said. "She said I haven't seen that."

Alvarez and her husband saved up for months to take the cruise to celebrate their wedding anniversary of more than 20 years and her 48th birthday, which was on Nov. 4. They had not been able to take a vacation for years because Alvarez was caring for their aging mother, who died in June.

"She said it stinks of rotten food and smoke," Calzada said. It's dark, and it's cold.'"

Her sister then passed the phone to her husband because she was crying too hard, Calzada said. He told Calzada that when he went looking for food for his wife, a crew member told him to give her a Tic-Tac.

"That really made my brother-in-law upset," Calzada said.

One of the biggest problems plaguing passengers now, depending on where they are staying aboard the ship, is the lack of ventilation.

"The people with interior rooms... don't have ventilation," Jones said. "the sewage has been backing up and showers overflowing. It's hard for those people."

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said he did not have information about Alvarez to immediately comment. Passengers were being entertained with acoustic music, board games, dancing, trivia contests and even a scavenger hunt for children, he said.

The Splendor left Long Beach on Sunday for a seven-day trip to the Mexican Riviera. The ship was 200 miles south of San Diego and about 44 miles off shore when the engine room fire killed its power.

No one was hurt, but those on board were left without air conditioning, hot water or Internet service. Most telephone service had been knocked out. The ship's auxiliary power allowed for working toilets and cold water, Gulliksen said.

The U.S. Navy resupplied the ship on Tuesday with thousands of pounds of food and other supplies ferried by helicopter from the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier diverted from maneuvers nearby.

On Wednesday, it was 125 miles south of San Diego and was expected to arrive Thursday afternoon or evening if the weather remained good, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Rick Foster said. No storms were forecast.

The journey hit more glitches when a second tugboat sent to help the first was forced to turn back because it wasn't powerful enough, and a third was hooked up Wednesday morning and pulling with no problem, Coast Guard officials said.

Carnival first planned to haul the ship to the Mexican port of Ensenada, not far from a movie studio complex used to film "Titanic," and bus passengers to the U.S.

But the cruise line decided they would be more comfortable on board, Gulliksen said.

Zambrano said passengers were overjoyed to hear they were heading straight back to California and wouldn't have to go through the tedious customs process at the border.

"When they said they were towing us to San Diego instead of Ensenada, the cheer could be heard all the way around the boat," he said. "Everybody was screaming.

And each time a rescue boat arrived, he said, people ran to the side, cheered, waved and took pictures.

___

Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego, Raquel Maria Dillon in Los Angeles, photographer Greg Bull aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, and Jim Fitzgerald in White Plains, New York, contributed to this report.


Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.


 

THIS IS A NEWS UPDATE.  The previous story is below.
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A Coast Guard official says one of two tugboats tasked with pulling a disabled cruise ship to San Diego didn't have enough power and was forced to turn back.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Jetta Disco says a Mexican company has sent a third tugboat to the scene but authorities are trying to determine whether it would be better to leave the one tugboat alone while it slowly makes headway.

She says using two tugboats is more complicated and may not necessarily move the ship faster.

An engine fire Monday cut power to the Carnival Splendor, carrying nearly 4,500 passengers and crew on a Mexican Riviera cruise.

The Splendor was 125 miles south of San Diego and was expected to arrive Thursday with good weather.

Carnival says the boat is starting to move into cell phone range.

 

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. The previous story is below.


SAN DIEGO (CNS / CBS 8) - Several U.S. military ships, including the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, steamed into Mexican territorial waters Tuesday to help rescue a disabled cruise ship stranded about 150 nautical miles south of San Diego with nearly 4,500 people aboard.

Chartering a twin-engine Piper Seneca and heading over Mexican waters off the coast of northern Baja, News 8 located the disabled Carnival Splendor, completely lit up by a back-up generator, being guided through the night by a single tug boat, nicknamed "the Chihuahua".

"We finally found it 190 nautical miles, or 220 to 320 statute miles, almost due south of San Diego, roughly 50 miles off the land mass of Baja California, said Michael Doerr, pilot and former Naval aviator.

The stranded ship appeared to be traveling at a rate of 2 to 3 nautical miles, or 3 to 4 statute miles per hour.

Nearby was the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. The naval aircraft carrier had earlier helped deliver more than 10,000 pounds of supplies to the 952-foot cruise ship.

The carrier also offers a floating hospital, a team of doctors and more than one hundred corpsmen trained as nurses.

"There is no better facility that you could pull into a port that's under duress or to lend assistance than a US aircraft carrier," said Doerr.

The Carnival Splendor has been floating off the coast of Baja California since about daybreak Monday, when a fire erupted in an aft engine room, according to Carnival Cruise Lines officials. None of the 3,299 passengers or 1,167 crew members aboard was injured, though several people reportedly suffered panic attacks.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the cruise line decided to tow the crippled ship to San Diego instead of the initial emergency destination of Ensenada, Mexico. It is expected to dock late Thursday, officials said.

In a statement, the company said the change of plans stemmed from "the ship's speed and current position" while being pulled through the ocean by a tugboat.

However, if the ship is unable to maintain sufficient speed under tow, Carnival officials may revert to the prior plan and dock in Baja California, according to the company.

Additionally, Carnival late Tuesday announced the cancellation of the Splendor's next voyage, which had been slated to begin in Long Beach on Sunday.

"We sincerely apologize to our guests for this unfortunate situation and offer our thanks for their patience and cooperation during this challenging time," said Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of the Florida-based cruise line.

This morning, dozens of pallets of supplies were transferred from Naval Air Station North Island to the Ronald Reagan, which was at sea in the Pacific on maneuvers before being diverted to the Splendor's coordinates.

The 4,500 pounds of emergency rations were then flown by helicopter to the disabled cruise ship, according to U.S. Third Fleet public affairs.

In addition to the Coronado-based nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, vessels aiding the 113,000-ton cruise ship were the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Aspen and Morgenthau; a 140-foot Mexican government patrol boat; and a tugboat named Chihuahua.

During the operation, the USCG Rescue Coordination Center in Alameda kept in contact with all response craft as well as Carnival Cruise Line's operations center.

At the time of the fire, the 952-foot luxury liner was roughly 55 miles west of Punta San Jacinto on the first leg of a seven-day Mexican Riviera tour. It departed Long Beach on Sunday.

As the crew worked to extinguish the blaze, passengers were directed out of their cabins and onto the ship's open upper decks.

After several hours, passengers were let back into their rooms. They were being given bottled water and cold food.

The Coast Guard initially sent three cutters and a helicopter to monitor the situation and provide any needed assistance.

The Panamanian-flagged Splendor has been operating on auxiliary generators. Because engineers were unable to restore its propulsion systems, however, the cruise was canceled.

Monday night, the crew was able to restore toilet service to most cabins and all public bathrooms, as well as cold running water.

As of this evening, though, several key systems, including air conditioning, hot meals and telephones, remained unavailable. Ship's personnel continued to "actively work to restore" those services, Carnival officials said.

Despite the ongoing inconveniences, passengers were able to move about the ship and had access to limited food and beverage service, along with some shipboard programming, including children's activities and entertainment.

The stranded vacationers will get a full refund along with reimbursement for transportation costs, according to the company. Additionally, they will receive a complimentary future cruise equal to the amount paid for the aborted voyage.

Those who had been scheduled to sail on the ship's next voyage also will receive a full refund of their fare and any air-transportation costs, along with a 25 percent discount on a future cruise.

The normal itinerary of the Splendor, which entered service in 2008, includes stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

 

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