On Monday, November 8, 2010 around 0600 hours, Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Splendor reported a fire in the engine room aboard the ship, after the ship became disabled off the coast of Mexico, 150 miles south of San Diego, California, 55 miles west of Punta San Jacinto.
Carnival Splendor was on the way to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico from Long Beach California when the fire broke out, shutting down the air conditioning system, hot food service, flush toilets and telephones. Passengers are being supplied with bottled water and cold food, the company said. Splendor is operating on auxiliary generators and has been unable to restore additional power.
The Carnival Splendor, with 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crew members, was on the first day of a seven-day trip to the Mexican Riviera when the fire broke out in the aft engine room. The first port-of-call was to be Puerto Vallarta, Mexico then Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.
Guests were initially asked to move from their cabins to the ship's upper open-deck areas while the fire was fought for a period of several hours. By early afternoon, passengers had access to their cabins once again. In late afternoon, as the ship sat in the water awaiting assistance, tugboats were en route to the 952-foot ship to push her into port at Ensenada. Temperatures in the area were at a high of around 70°F with a low of 44°F as the ship sat dead in the water.
At Ensenada, sometime around 2000 hours on Wednesday November 10, 3300 passengers will board dozens of buses that will take them through 50 miles of high-risk 'no-mans' land to Tiajuana then onto San Diego and Long Beach. I myself have made that trip by land, long before the murder rate of tourists had skyrocketed. Once in San Diego, they will begin the journey home.
By late Tuesday, Carnival Corp was rethinking the plan. Suddenly getting dozens of buses across the Mexican desert, crossing the border at Tiajuana, then pushing on to Long Beach seemed like a big mistake. That journey from Ensenada to San Diego would leave the passengers wide open to a range of potential drama, including medical emergencies taking place aboard a bus on a rural Mexican road AT NIGHT and conflicts with drug lords to name just a couple that come to mind.
The last word late Tuesday, was instead of towing the crippled cruise ship to Ensenada, maybe it would be better to tow it back into American waters, heading north towards Long Beach, where everybody's vehicle remained parked or return ticket airfare was valid.
If Carnival really thought they were going to bus these people from Ensenada across the border, I don't think the plan was really thought out. To bus all the passengers was going to involve getting roughly 50 or so buses from the U.S. across the border in time to meet the ship . . . or . . . to arrange for 50 Mexican buses.
I take it people at the desks over at Carnival had no idea what a Mexican bus was really like or the torture the passengers were going to endure aboard one. The other option was even more questionable. Where would they find 50 buses in the U.S within a decent distance of San Ysidro, California, the last town southbound before hitting the border, that were available on that short of notice?
Then there was the issue of the border crossing at San Ysidro. That wasn't going to be pretty with that many people on buses and luggage beneath them again, LATE AT NIGHT when people are tired, hungry and in dire need of a hot shower. The logistics of bringing in a wounded ship to such a small town, so far from civilization and American soil has to be overwhelming.
With no electricity there are no slot machines, there are no blender drinks, no cold beer, no swimming pool or jacuzzi, no spa, no internet, no television and not much of anything else. Passengers can sit around, soak up the sun and leave the open deck before they begin to sweat, lest they have to take a cold shower. For the same reason, they'd want to avoid the gym.
The worst of it might be for parents, with that enormous waterslide dry as a bone, just taunting the kids, who would all be less than understanding given they also do not have pizza, burgers, fries and video games.
Until passengers get back to civilization they will survive on 70,000 pounds of rations being dropped in by the USS Ronald Reagan via helicopter. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Mexican Navy have dispatched aircraft and cutters to provide assistance, the Coast Guard said. The military, however, is not helping with the two-hour-long lines to get a ration of SPAM.