By Marty Graham
Other political news of note
Immigration bill clears hurdle with approval by Senate committee
A sweeping bill to overhaul the nation's immigration system cleared its first major hurdle late Tuesday night, with the 18-member committee charged with completing a first round of legislative edits voting to advance the amended bill to the full Senate.
- Leahy withholds amendment to include LGBT couples in immigration reform
- IRS official to invoke Fifth Amendment at hearing
- With high-tech visa compromise, immigration reform proponents win GOP ally
- A new disaster sparks an old debate on federal aid
- Immigration bill clears hurdle with approval by Senate committee
SAN DIEGO, Nov 11 (Reuters Life!) - The cruise ship stranded off Mexico this week by an engine fire limped back to port under tow on Thursday with 3,300 passengers bedraggled by three days at sea without hot water, air conditioning or cooked meals.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Allyson Conroy said it would take the Carnival Splendor two to three hours to disembark all its passengers because the massive ship had no power and the elevators were not working.
"So they will have to move all the passengers and their baggage out on foot, up and down the stairs," Conroy said.
The 952-foot vessel left Long Beach, California, on Sunday for a seven-day voyage. But the ship was marooned the next day about 200 miles south of San Diego and 50 miles off the Mexican coast by an engine fire that crippled its propulsion system and knocked out most power supplies.
The blaze was confined to the engine room and was put out in three hours. There were no injuries, but several people were reported to have suffered panic attacks as passengers were initially ushered to the ship's upper decks as a precaution.
One of the first off the boat, Ken King, told CNN that he and other passengers were unaware of the exact nature of the emergency until they were back in port.
"Actually, just now, they told us there was a fire on the boat," he said. "They never told us what the issue was. All they told us was that there was smoke."
Toilet service was restored on Monday night, but air conditioning remained out, as did hot water and hot food.
With food and fresh water running low, the Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was diverted from training exercises in the Pacific on Tuesday to help deliver 600,000 pounds of water and other provisions -- including cans of Spam, a canned precooked meat product.
John Heald, the ship's senior cruise director, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday from the vessel that, with laundry facilities broken, he smelled "like Paris on a hot summer's day" -- but that the passengers and crew were coping well.
"One thing is for certain though -- I doubt anyone on board will ever ever want to eat a sandwich ever again," he wrote.
Doing their best to keep up spirits, the crew plied its adult passengers with alcoholic beverages for free while offering games and other activities for the kids.
The ship was carrying 3,299 guests and 1,167 crew.
Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines, a unit of the world's largest cruise line, Carnival Corp, said passengers from the disabled ship would receive a full refund and reimbursement for transportation costs, as well as a complimentary future cruise of equal value. (Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.