The cruise ship Carnival Splendor arrives in San Diego Harbor today, four days after an engine room fire left the ship adrift with minimal power. Almost 3300 passengers have been trapped on board, along with 1200 crew. Much of the ship’s interior is dark, there’s no air conditioning or hot water, toilets are backing up, the rocking of the disabled vessel has induced vomiting, and no one is making those cute little towel animals in the staterooms.
The U.S. Navy has been ferrying Spam, crabmeat, and pop-tarts to the stranded passengers, who are understandably upset by the experience. This is the type of situation that usually ends with an overture of media outrage, followed by a symphony of lawsuits, but authorities say the Carnival crew has done everything they could, following both maintenance and emergency procedures properly. They’ve even provided what entertainment they could, including a movie screen, free drinks at the bar, music, and games for the children. Satellite phones have been made available to the passengers.
The Splendor is one of the largest and most advanced ships in the Carnival fleet, but it was crippled by a split crankcase in the aft generator room. Maritime journalist Peter Knego is quoted in USA Today as saying, “It just shows that any ship can burn – or sink, for that matter – and underscores the importance of good maintenance, up-to-date alarm systems, and proper safety protocol. By all accounts thus far, it appears the ship’s officers and crew have done everything by the book.”
I have enjoyed several cruises on Carnival ships, and found each to be a wonderful experience with a terrific crew. If maintenance problems led to the Splendor incident, I hope they are soon corrected, and the ship is soon back at sea. Her maiden voyage after overhaul should be interesting.