Image: Ready to disembark
Jae C. Hong  /  AP
A passenger aboard the disabled Carnival Splendor cruise ship gives two thumbs up while waiting to get off the ship in San Diego, Calif., on Thursday.
By
updated 11/12/2010 2:54:02 PM ET 2010-11-12T19:54:02

Karen Blocker's dream cruise began disintegrating at dawn when her cabin started rattling "like an earthquake."

"I told my daughter: 'This boat is not moving anymore. We've got to get out,' " Blocker said.

She opened the door to find a hallway filled with smoke and crew members telling passengers to head for the lifeboats.

The boats turned out to be unnecessary, but the scare was just the start of a three-day ordeal for the 50-year-old Blocker and nearly 4,500 other passengers and crew aboard the stricken Carnival Splendor.

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It wasn't until tugboats hauled the 952-foot cruise liner into a San Diego dock Thursday that weary passengers were able to tell their stories to the world.

Their ship lost power after an engine fire Monday and was adrift about 200 miles outside San Diego and 44 miles off the coast of Mexico.

At that distance from land, it was out of cell phone range for much of the ordeal. The fire left the ship without air conditioning, hot water or hot food. The casino was closed and, for a time, so were the bars. The swimming pool was off-limits because the pumps wouldn't work.

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Mark and Ginger Kalin and their 9-year-old daughter Parker were on the cruise as part of a magicians' convention.

Making lemonade out of lemons
"The worst part was not knowing ... what was going to happen and how many days we were going to be like this," Ginger Kalin said Friday on the CBS "Early Show."

"Considering the situation, everyone was pretty well behaved. I think we all made lemonade out of lemons. What are you going to do?" she said.

For Edward Warschauer, of Reno, Nev., the worst part of the incident was the backed-up toilets. He said he had to bail out the family's toilet in their cabin several times using a cup.

Related: Splendor passengers get free cruise, no remorse

"Let's put it this way: For me, this was my worst nightmare, my phobia, to be on the sea in a ship and get stuck," Warschauer said.

Newlywed Stacy Noreiga told ABC's "Good Morning America" the situation was particularly concerning for her because she's pregnant.

"It was very difficult, especially because the smells were unbelievable," she said. "It seemed almost like every floor we went up there was a different odor."

Navy helicopters flew in Spam, Pop Tarts and canned crab meat and other goods.

After the ship docked in San Diego, one woman was taken ashore in handcuffs.

Harbor Police Officer Adam Miles says passenger Wendy Singleton, 40, was arrested because she is wanted in Las Vegas on a felony grand theft warrant. She remains jailed Friday.

San Diego port spokeswoman Marguerite Elicone says a routine customs check led to the arrest. She says all passengers on international cruises are routinely checked.

'Like a coffin'
Karyn and Ed van Latum, both 61, flew from Holland to take the cruise and spend time with their son. They booked the cruise with their daughter-in-law's parents after arriving from Alphen aan den Reijn, their hometown.

They were on the first bus to arrive in Long Beach after leaving San Diego and were head to West Covina with their in-laws before returning to Holland on Tuesday.

The van Latums had a first-floor interior cabin and when the fire began, the area filled with smoke and the lights went off, making their room pitch-black. They were afraid the situation was much worse.

"We had to go to the upper deck and we took our life jackets and some people were in pajamas or bathrobes," Ed van Latum said. "But the crew was very, very, very good."

After the initial danger passed, they said, they struggled with the darkness in their cabin, even in the daytime.

Video: Video shows smoke-filled ship’s chaos (on this page)

"Some people said it was like a coffin, it's so dark," Karyn van Latum said. "We left our front door open, so that we had some little light, but it looked like a coffin. We stayed on the deck."

Many passengers passed the time by staying on deck, looking up at the starry sky or out at the USS Ronald Reagan, the Navy aircraft carrier that was assisting in the delivery of supplies to the ship.

Others chatted in their dark, stuffy cabins. Others simply went to bed early. Very early.

"We slept all day, the first day," Geoffrey Klinge, who was honeymooning with his new wife, Sabrina Klinge, said Friday on NBC's "Today" show.

Passengers on lower decks had to climb as many as nine flights of stairs to get to the cafeteria only to meet long lines that stretched on for hours. By the time those at the end got to the food, they were left with tomatoes and lettuce, Haslerud said.

Some passengers carried food to those who used walkers and canes and couldn't climb stairs to reach the food lines.

Cold coffee and jubilation
"We have not had a hot cup of coffee in four days," said passenger Fahizah Alim, 26, of Sacramento, who ate at night by flashlight. "This was my first cruise and it was no luxury, no fun."

On Thursday morning, people clutched those cold cups of coffee and cheered when the San Diego horizon came into view.

But Klinge complimented both the crew and Cruise Director John Heald, saying they maintained their professionalism despite trying circumstances.

"The best was John ... he kept everyone calm and even kept us laughing," Klinge said.

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The National Transportation Safety Board said the probe into the fire's cause would be conducted by Panama. Panama agreed to let the U.S. Coast Guard join the investigation because most of the passengers were U.S. citizens and two NTSB experts would assist, the NTSB said.

The incident will be costly for Carnival, but it won't have to repay the Navy for delivering food from the carrier. The Reagan was nearby on a training mission, and responding to the ship was nothing more than a "minor distraction," said Chief Petty Officer Terry Feeney.

Passengers will get a refund, including airfare, and a free cruise. Those holding reservations on the next Splendor cruise, which was scheduled to depart Sunday but was canceled, will be offered full refunds and a 25 percent discount on a future cruise.

Interactive: Engine fire cripples cruise ship (on this page)

After arriving on terra firma, Blocker stood in the sun outside the cruise ship terminal waiting for her ride home and said, "I just want warm food. Mexican food."

But even with the offer of a free cruise, Noriega and her husband, Joe, say it may be a while before they take another.

"Probably not anytime soon," Joe Noriega told "Good Morning America." "It'll probably be a couple years at least before we get on a boat again."

Associated Press writer Gillian Flaccus in Long Beach contributed to this story.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Newlyweds on honeymoon cruise from hell

  1. Closed captioning of: Newlyweds on honeymoon cruise from hell

    >> newlyweds jeffrey and sabrina were on that ship on their honeymoon. good morning to both of you.

    >> good morning.

    >> how good was it to get your feet on dry land again?

    >> oh, my god. it was amazing.

    >> were you guys ever worried for your safety at any time during this, or once you learned the fire was out was it more just about inconvenience than safety?

    >> the danger was more in the beginning when we didn't know anything. but we felt that all throughout.

    >> oh, yeah, it was more of an inconvenience later, like day two.

    >> you guys took some photos of your experience, just take me through it, what exactly was the worst part of what you had to face over those three or four days?

    >> well, to me it was definitely having to walk up nine flights of stairs to go get food that was rotting and it smelled like garbage. and then when the bargain was gone, it was sewer, which was all after the smoke smell finally went away. to me that was the worst part.

    >> reporter: jeffrey

    >> jeffrey , what about for you?

    >> i would say it was finding ways to make the day go so you didn't have to sleep all day. the first day we just slept all day basically. so later on we got a deck of cards and then the staff helped us out and did some activities for us.

    >> what exactly did you eat? there's been conflicting reports that there was spam, there was no spam, there was vienna sausages , what did you eat to say alive?

    >> the first couple of days we had the same thing, cereal in the morning and the fruit, but i wouldn't go for the fruit. and then salads were for lunch and dinner and then sandwiches. the first two days there wasn't any meat, just cheese and tomatoes and sauce, i didn't know what it was. and then the last day is when they had the spam burgers, the spam hot dogs they cut up, mixed up with some sort of cheese sauce.

    >> by that time you weren't asking questions, you weren't all that picky. what about the free booze? did this become one big booze cruise ?

    >> yes, towards the end, people were crawling up the stairs.

    >> they were just barely pulling themselves along.

    >> the last two days most people were just gone.

    >> they don't even know they're home in san diego yet. one of the things, i have heard universal compliments to the crew on board the ship.

    >> i would have to say the crew was amazing. john the cruise director kept everyone calm and even laughing during it.

    >> they pulled together.

    >> so carnival has basically said, we're sorry, we're going to give you a free cruise. are you going to take them up on that or are your cruising days over?

    >> we want to, but they don't understand that we just used all our time for our wedding then for our cruise that we just went on. and, you know, jack's a full-time student at uc irvine , and i work full-time, they're going to give us a free cruise, but when are we going to use it? and this was our first cruise, we're not so sure about the boat thing anymore.

    >> you would get back on the ship, wouldn't you?

    >> i wasn't terrified the whole time. the expectations were high. but i wasn't afraid at the end.

    >> you've been married for a week, you've got great stories

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