Cruise Ship Passengers Disembark In SD After Ordeal

1 Passenger Taken To Hospital As Others Disembark Cruise Ship

The 4,500 vacationers and crew members who spent three days stranded aboard the disabled 952-foot Carnival Splendor cruise ship disembarked Thursday in San Diego, where they were greeted with cheers and embraces from friends and relatives.

One person was taken to a local hospital, 10News reported. Witnesses reported seeing someone being wheeled off the Carnival Cruise Ship Splendor on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance.

Meanwhile, a line of about 20 passengers of the Carnival Splendor wheeled suitcases down a ramp as a crowd waited at the dock.

Media from all over the nation also crowded the Embarcadero as they waited for the ship to arrive in the terminal.

They weren't the only ones capturing it on tape, as tourists snapped photos and others took video in what many called an amazing moment.

"It's amazing," said Pat Pressell, who lives in downtown and walked to the terminal with her husband to watch the ship.

"We came out to see the boat," added spectator Lisa Morgan. "We thought the kids would like to see it. We've been watching it on TV for the last couple days."

Paul Patrick's sister was on the Carnival Splendor for her honeymoon.

"Everyone's worried. There's thousands of people on the boat that's stranded out to sea." Patrick said.

Some entrepreneurs were selling T-shirts at the port that read, "I Survived the 2010 Carnival Cruise SPAMCATION," poking fun at the food that was served on the ship after it lost power.

On Wednesday, passengers aboard the cruise liner began enjoying intermittent cell phone service as the ship made its way toward San Diego under tugboat power.

"The tug boats began maneuvering the ship into the South Terminal shortly after 8 a.m.," said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Allyson Conroy.

Conroy said the Splendor was towed in by six tugboats and it will be those same tugs that will shift the liner into position at the port.

"We also have three Coast Guard cutters, two additional Sector San Diego Coast Guard ships and four San Diego Harbor police boats on site to help with the docking process if they are needed," said Conroy.

Once the cruise liner is docked at the Cruise Ship Terminal, Conroy said it will still take at least two to three hours for the passengers to disembark with their baggage

"Remember, they have no power on the ship and that means no elevators," Conroy said. "So they will have to move all the passengers and their baggage out on foot, up and down the stairs."

The disabled Carnival cruise ship was originally set to be towed to Ensenada, Mexico, but San Diego Port and Carnival Cruise Lines officials changed plans.

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

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.

"They signed up for a great cruise vacation, and obviously that is not what they received," Cahill said. "I would like to thank our guests for the patience and understanding they have shown in this very difficult situation, and we offer our very sincere apologies."

On Tuesday, the USS Ronald Reagan was diverted from its own training exercises in the Pacific to help deliver supplies to the cruise ship about 150 miles south of San Diego Tuesday, military officials said.

Commander Greg Hicks said Carnival requested the supplies from the U.S Coast Guard, which notified the Navy.

In a phone conversation with 10News Wednesday morning, passenger Gordon Gilbreath said, "Right now, we're being pulled by two tug boats. We've got U.S. Coast Guard cutters on either side of the ship … calm seas … most of the people are doing pretty well." He said many passengers spent the days and nights atop the ship because it was too dark to use inner cabins. There was no heat or air conditioning, but passengers received food from the USS Ronald Reagan, such as Spam and Pop-Tarts.

Since Monday morning, the 113,000 ton ship has been dead in the water, stranding 3,299 vacationers and 1,167 crew members.

The Carnival Splendor became marooned when a blaze erupted in its engine room about 6 a.m. Monday as the 952-foot luxury liner was roughly 55 miles west of Punta San Jacinto on the first leg of a seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise, according to a statement from Carnival Cruise Lines.

When asked about the day of the explosion, Gilbreath said, "The ship started shaking. And then a couple of our friends on deck saw smoke coming out of the smoke stack. Right after that, the captain started saying 'Alpha team to engine room.' Then all of a sudden, everything went down … we were in what they call the 'blackout.'"

On Tuesday morning, the first of several shipments of food and supplies took off from Naval Air Station North Island aboard a VRC-30 Carrier On-Board Delivery aircraft. Boxes of baked goods, canned meats and canned seafood were unloaded from several eighteen-wheelers. Two transport planes will make four flights each Tuesday. Once aboard the USS Reagan, a helicopter will deliver the supplies to the cruise ship. An estimated 50,000 pounds of food, utensils and other basic necessities will be delivered throughout the day.

As of Wednesday morning, passengers continued having access to limited food and beverage service and a reduced schedule of activities, according to Carnival officials. Toilets were functional in most staterooms and all public restrooms.

In addition to the Coronado-based nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, vessels aiding the 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.

None of the thousands of passengers and crew members aboard was injured in Monday's blaze, though several people reportedly suffered panic attacks during the emergency.

The fire and all hot spots were fully extinguished within about three hours, officials said.

Regular announcements apprising passengers of the situation began about 6:30 a.m., according to the cruise company.

Guests were initially asked to move from their cabins to the ship's upper open-deck areas.

San Diego resident David Roellich could have easily been one of the stranded vacationers.

"My buddy and his mother -- they said, 'You should be going on this cruise with us," said Roellich.

Roellich said he decided not to go at the last minute and is now concerned for his three friends who did.

"Because one, they spent money to do this. I understand they'll be reimbursed, but the time -- you can't get back the time," he said.

On Monday night, the ship’s engineers were able to restore toilet service, as well as cold water.

The crew of the 113,000-ton ship was "actively working to restore partial services" through the day, Carnival asserted in its statement.

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

The ship operated on auxiliary generators throughout the day. Because engineers were unable to restore the vessel's propulsion systems, the cruise was canceled, and tugboats were en route in the early evening.

The 3,299 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 cruise began Sunday in Long Beach, and its normal itinerary includes stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Passengers From San Diego Detail Experiences Aboard Ship

Several passengers onboard a cruise ship that became stranded Monday offered firsthand account of the situation at sea.

Passengers on the Carnival cruise ship Splendor found themselves adrift in Pacific Ocean early Monday morning after an explosion and fire in the aft engine room.

San Diegan Gordon Gilbreath told 10News, "We were just kind of floating out in the ocean. It was pitch black. A storm came in, rain started, seas picked up. It was scary at that point."

His mother, Linda Gilbreath, said, "There's no electricity whatsoever, we have only cold water." Passengers had limited showers, no laundry service and no coffee.

The distress call was answered quickly, passengers said, and San Diegan Chris DeSaulniers was impressed.

"It ramped up our realization of what's going on here -- the [USS] Reagan, helicopters, Coast Guard, Mexican Navy, tugboats," DeSaulniers said.

The ship continues to sail in darkness, and heating and air conditioning remain out of commission. Passengers said floors are wet from air conditioning leaks. Seniors are having trouble having to use stairs because elevators don’t work.

Carnival Cruise Lines, though, has restored some entertainment with music and card games. The ship's bars and casino are open.

The ship is due to arrive in San Diego about noon on Thursday. Linda Gilbreath said her first order of business will be to "Get a cup of coffee."

DeSaulniers said, "Yeah, for lots of people it'll be coffee, or it'll be a hot meal, and for a lot of us, it'll be a hot shower … and for some of us, kissing San Diego ground."