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Tales from the Carnival Splendor: 'It was a great adventure'

November 11, 2010 | 12:39 pm

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A picture is beginning to emerge from the tales of the 3,200 passengers stranded aboard the disabled Carnival Splendor, which was powerless and dark for most of four days after an engine room fire that aborted the luxury cruise. 

The first day was the worst with smoke, fear, uncertainty and toilets that failed to function and, soon, began to stink. Conditions started to improve the second day, as people decided that the only thing they might perish from would be boredom. The toilets started to work and, come Tuesday night, the crew decided to uncork the booze which, along with the band and the magicians, brightened spirits considerably.

The room of Karen Blocker, a 50-year-old human resources manager from Phoenix, was just above the engine room, uncomfortably close to the fire the knocked out the ship's power.

At the time of the incident, she was about to leave for a breakfast of eggs Benedict when she felt a rumbling and the walls started shaking. An announcement summoning crew members quickly followed.

She opened her door to a smoky hallway and felt she had to get out of her room.

As the hours dragged on, she said, people spent the time playing cards, waiting in line, and, in some cases, climbing the nine flights of stairs to get to the food.

She thought it was amusing when, on Tuesday night, with the alcohol flowing, the band started playing a balled from the movie Titanic.

Not so amused was Angela Flores, 29, of Visalia, who was traveling with her husband and young daughter.

When the captain announced that the ship had drifted 60 miles and would be towed to shore, she started crying.

"I was thinking, 'Oh my god, we’re going to sink in the middle of the ocean,' " she recalled.

She remembers the smell of sewage, rotten food and sour milk. And she turned unhappily away when she heard the band play the Titanic ballad.

"I didn’t want to hear that song in the middle of the ocean,” she said.

But the alcohol helped.

"It was warm beer, but it was free and it was beer,” she said.

Brian Gatt, 47, a park ranger in San Mateo County, reiterated that the first day was the toughest. After that, “There was music. There was dancing. There was food -- sort of. What’s not to like? I think the single guys had a real good time."

He added that last part a little wistfully, given that he was traveling with his wife and two children.

But his supposition was supported by Monty Robinson, 46, a produce buyer from Visalia, who was traveling alone and had paid $1,600 for his suite.

He avoided the hot dogs mixed with deviled eggs, he said, and he slept on deck because it was hot below. But he met some single ladies, he reported.

From that standpoint, "it was not bad," he said. "It was a good cruise."

Jeanne Ralston, a retired nurse from Ventura, confessed to having a grand old time, in the big picture.

"It was a great adventure," she said. She'd taken the trip with her middle-aged son.

She remembers people making the best of a difficult situation in good humor: shopping, checking out books from the library, gathering around the piano player.

"I heard people laughing, joking, reading. They seemed to be having a great time”

Her biggest gripe was no coffee, and, of course, the temporary toilet issue.

She and her son managed better than most at night because her son had brought flashlights: "We were the envy of the ship.”

She would cruise again, absolutely, she said, although what she wanted most in the short term was a hot shower.

-- Rich Marosi and Tony Perry in San Diego

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Photos: Top: Candice Van Leeuwen lets her wedding vail sail in the wind as she and husband Brian exit the cruise ship terminal in San Diego.  The Moreno Valley couple was on their honeymoon when the ship lost power. Bottom: An emergency medical technician wheels an elderly man from the cruise ship Carnival Splendor. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Photos: Cruise ship finally makes port

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