Thousands on Stranded Carnival Cruise Ship Eating Spam Provided by Navy

It is Day Three for the thousands of stranded passengers and crew onboard the damaged Carnival Splendor, which is slowly being towed to San Diego after a fire knocked out the cruise ship's engines. And the U.S. Navy has airlifted in food supplies, including Spam.

Both the Navy, with the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, and the U.S. Coast Guard, with two cutters and aircraft, have been assisting the $700 million ship, which became dead in the water about 200 miles south of San Diego, and 55 miles from the coast of Mexico.

Some 4,500 pounds in supplies, including Spam, canned crab, dinner rolls and plastic cups, was delivered to the ship by Navy Seahawk helicopter.

The 113,000-ton cruise ship, with 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crew members onboard, has been operating on auxiliary power since the engine room fire early Monday morning, which forced passengers out of their beds.

The fire knocked out hotel systems including air conditioning, hot food preparation, refrigeration and telephones. For more than a day toilets were also not functioning and there was no running water – toilets and cold water have since been restored, Carnival Cruise Line says.

Passengers were initially restricted to the ship's open Lido deck, but later allowed to return to their cabins and are now able to move about the ship, the cruise lines says. Some shipboard programming including children's programs and entertainment has even been restored.

There have been no injuries to passengers or crew, the line says. There were reports the Navy offered to airlift any passengers who needed to leave the ship, but no one did.

A tug boat arrived at the scene yesterday, and under slow tow the ship is now expected to arrive in San Diego late Thursday. Additional tugs are expected to meet the ship to expedite the towing. Earlier plans to bring the vessel to Ensenada, Mexico, were scrapped.

Carnival says it is making hotel and flight arrangements for guests in San Diego. The ship had set sail Sunday on a weeklong Mexican Rivera cruise from Long Bach, Calif.

Carnival says guests on the Splendor will be receiving a full refund along with a complimentary future cruise equal to the amount they paid for the voyage.

The cruise line says it has canceled the ship's next cruise which was supposed to depart next Sunday. Guests scheduled on that voyage will receive a full refund of their cruise fare and air transportation costs, along with a 25 percent discount on a future cruise.

"We sincerely apologize to our guests for this unfortunate situation and offer our thanks for their patience and cooperation during this challenging time. The safety and comfort of our guests is our top priority and we are doing everything we can to allow them to return home as quickly as possible. We also apologize for having to cancel the next voyage of the Carnival Splendor. We realize how much guests look forward to their vacations and we know how disheartening it is to have their plans disrupted," says Gerry Cahill, Carnival's president and CEO.

There have been other unusual incidents on the two-year-old Carnival Splendor, leading at least one website to question whether the ship is "cursed."

A Carnival spokesman confirms the ship has been the scene of two suicides. In March 2009, a 63-year-old passenger disappeared off the coast of Chile after leaving a suicide note. And then on Oct. 13 of this year a male crew member was witnessed jumping overboard by several fellow employees, while the ship was en route to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

In addition, on Oct. 31, a crew member with a serious medical condition was airlifted off the ship by the U.S. Coast Guard.

UPDATE: Carnival says thanks to "favorable sea conditions," the ship is now expected to arrive in San Diego midday on Thursday. As the ship gets closer to coastal areas, guests are beginning to receive intermittent cellular service. The ship's phone system is also working on a limited basis, and guests are able to make complimentary calls home, the line says.

UPDATE, 2:45pm: Now that passengers are able to call out, they are giving first-hand accounts. David Zambrano, who works for 9News in Denver, says passengers on the stranded ship are waiting in line for two hours to get Spam, crab meat and Pop Tarts, ferried in by the U.S. Navy, and propping open their cabin doors to let in air and light.

"People are playing cards. People are standing around just kind of talking. They're getting to socialize," Zambrano tells the station. "It's not what you would expect on a normal cruise, of course not, but it's -- they're doing their best." He says the crew has been working around-the-clock to help out passengers and try to keep everyone satisfied.

Still, he says most passengers he's talked to say they don't plan to take Carnival up on the free future cruise offer.

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