Carnival Splendor Resumes Cruising to Mexico after Fire

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Carnival Cruise Lines

The Carnival Splendor, the cruise ship that caught fire off Mexico and was adrift at sea for three days in November, with passengers complaining of ghastly conditions, returns to its regular itinerary of Mexican Riviera cruises today.

The ship, which underwent three months of repairs following the disabling fire, was set to embark on a weeklong cruise Sunday evening with a full load of passengers heading on a seven-day sailing from the Carnival Splendor's home port of Long Beach, Calif.

The cruise is the first for the Splendor since it was marooned at sea 150 miles off the coast of San Diego on Nov. 8, after a diesel engine generator caught fire in the engine room.

The fire was contained in the engine room, but the heat melted insulation that protected the ship's 110 miles of electrical cables that would have allowed a second engine room to take over. The result was a total loss of power for three days. The beleaguered ship was eventually tugged into San Diego.

"These are not the things you expect to happen, especially not in a ship only two years old," says Gerry Cahill, Carnival's president and CEO, at an event celebrating the ship's return to service. "There are two engine rooms and you don't expect to lose both aft and forward."

While the Splendor was adrift, passengers complained of conditions that included broken toilets, a lack of air conditioning and sparse food. There were even reports passengers were served Spam, after the U.S. Navy airlifted in supplies including boxes of the processed meat. Carnival denies the Span was ever served to passengers.

In the wake of the fire, Carnival says it has added several safety measures including improved sensors, stronger insulation protection and the creation of a fire safety task force across the cruise line fleet – including better trained crew and stronger communications with land-based response facilities.

The incident has led to two marine safety alerts urging ship owners to test their fixed firefighting systems to make sure they are working properly, although the Coast Guard has said the Splendor's firefighting crew responded properly. The Coast Guard's investigation into the cause of the fire continues.

The cruise line says it reimbursed the 3,299 passengers aboard the beleaguered cruise, took care of passenger transfers and hotel nights and sent them off with promise of a free equivalent cruise at a later date.

The Splendor fire also displaced 47,000 passengers who had booked cruises on the ship during the period it was out of service. Cahill says the incident cost the cruise line $65 million in repairs, reparations for passengers and lost revenue.

Passengers who were booked on canceled cruises were given full refunds and discounts toward a future sailing, Carnival says.

"We have not had any problems in rebooking passengers or with any passengers who sailed on the ship," says Peter Ward, a travel consultant with Legendary World in San Marcos, Calif., attending the Splendor's return-to-service event.

But there have been some reports from some disgruntled passengers and travel agents that the cruise line may not have delivered as promised.

Responds Carnival's Cahill, "If there are some unhappy passengers out there we don't know about them."
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