SAN DIEGO, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Tugboats maneuvered the crippled Carnival cruise ship Splendor to a dock in San Diego Thursday, ending a four-day ordeal at sea for 3,299 passengers.
Officials said with no power to run elevators aboard it would take about 4 hours for the passengers and 1,200 crew members to leave the 2-year-old, 952-foot, 113,000-ton ship, which was left adrift off the western coast of Mexico about 6 a.m. Monday by an engine room fire.
The National Transportation Safety Board appointed Larry Bowling to investigate the incident.
Passengers spent three days without air conditioning, hot showers, cooked meals and for a time without working toilets. Usual cruise fare was replaced by long waits for Spam and sandwich meats, canned crab meat and Pop Tarts.
A vendor on shore was selling T-shirts reading: "I survived the 2010 Carnival Cruise Spam-cation," the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Only eight ship's phones were available for passengers who needed to make emergency calls, CNN said. Carnival is offering passengers hotel rooms in San Diego while scrambling to arrange flights home and buses to Long Beach, where the cruise originated Sunday. Carnival is offering a free cruise to passengers in addition to a full refund. The ship's doctor reported few ill passengers.
The Splendor, assisted by five tugboats, reached cellphone range Wednesday, allowing some passengers to call families and friends and relate their accounts of what happened during its tow back to California, USA Today reported.
"It's nothing like anyone expected," passenger David Zambrano, an employee of KUSA-TV, Denver, said in a report filed to the station. "You stand in line for 2 hours just to get your food because everybody goes to the same place to pick up their food. Then once you get your food, you look for something to do. People are playing cards. People are standing around, just kind of talking. They're getting to socialize."
On Tuesday, the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan arrived nearby with 60,000 pounds of supplies it ferried to the Splendor by helicopter.
Cruise line officials said an investigation into what caused the fire and why it crippled the ship would begin after the ship docks.
"When the Splendor arrives back in port, there's likely to be considerable media coverage of very unhappy, sometimes angry people whose vacation went awry," Cruise Week Editor Mike Driscoll told USA Today. "The so-called Spam cruise may sound funny to some outsiders watching TV, but it's not funny to those who were on it."