Reports of “spam”, Pop Tarts, starvation and worse spread like a well an engine fire throughout the press. But your Savvy Seafarer just happened to know of a passenger who was on the ill-fated cruise and got a first hand report on what really went on.
Alison Young, from Buena Park, California, boarded the Carnival Splendor in Long Beach November 7, with four friends, for a Mexican Riviera Cruise, not exactly prepared for what would happen in the next 24 hours.
A sign of something in the wake?
Alison experience an eerie sensation when it took three hours to board because the Coast Guard was doing an annual inspection. “On top of that,” she remembers, “30 suitcases were inadvertently dumped in the water.” “It seems like it was a comedy of errors from the get go and perhaps an omen.”
Monday morning, Alison went out on her verandah and noticed ominous black smoke. “I figured that wasn’t good,” she joked. Minutes later, she recalls, there was an announcement from the Captain that the ship had experienced an engine fire, but not to panic, and to proceed to deck 9 and not your muster stations.
A memory of a lifetime
The ship was towed to San Diego for a long three days with limited light, no hot water, and other irritations that barely bother the intrepid group of friend according to Alison, who said they made the most of it by playing cards, drinking the wine they brought on board (Carnival allows one bottle per passenger) and making light of the situation. “Stuff happens,” sighed Alison who spoke with me by phone this morning.
Boarded, had dinner in the dining room, did a little gambling, went to bed, next morning about 6:20 the whole ship shook like inside of washing machine that went berserk, it really shook, saw black smoke pouring out and figured that couldn’t be good.
It was all good
Alison can’t stop raving about the cruise and the cruise director, whom she says spiced things up with his British humor. “We were update constantly and the crew went out of their way to help us,” she beamed.
Of course the elevators didn’t function, but Alison says contrary to what the media said, there were overhead lights and lights in public areas and backup generators, we never saw or ate rotten food, and they didn’t serve Spam at any time.
While the chef couldn’t cook, there was refrigeration, and Alison says the food served was very creative. “We had fruit, yogurt, thin sandwiches, great salads, cereal, juice, even lox and bagels, but alas, much to chagrin of most of the passengers no coffee. “I probably missed my caffeine more than anything,” she remarked.
“We never saw a Pop Tart until the Navy dropped them down.” “The biggest problem on Monday were overflowing toilets– you really began to think about what you ate and drank—and the hording of food by some rude passengers.” Otherwise it went more smoothly than one might expect.”
The commodes apparently were fixed in good time and Alison said there were cheers heard around the decks when passengers discovered this.
On Tuesday we had water, cold but at least it was running water, and the Navy came and dropped spam and Pop Tarts but we never saw Spam in anything……
“By Wednesday things slowly returned to normal and they offered Bingo and entertainment, trivia games and such.” “We were really happy that we booked cabins with balcony because we kept the doors open for the air.” “Passengers with inside staterooms also kept their doors open.”
Alison explained that since lights were dim at night the women would lay out their bed clothes and stuff during daylight so they knew exactly where things we were. “This is the one time we didn’t bring flash lights,” she mused, adding that when they got home one of the friends went out and bought them all flash lights.
“It was accident, stuff happens, it’s not what happens but how you deal with it, and my friends and I dealt with it,” said the very stoic lady. Alison also reports that refunds were posted on credit cards even before passengers disembarked in San Diego and that they all were offered credit, based on the fare they paid for the voyage, for a future cruise.
Although passengers were offered free hotels in San Diego, the Buena Park group decided they just wanted to get home. The first thing Alison did was make a pot of coffee, the second was to cash in her credit on a Carnival Splendor cruise in Januay 2010.
Alison was so impressed with Carnival’s crew that she wrote a letter to the LA Times, which was published, dispelling some of the myths and lauding the company. She says the whole episode makes for great stories and memories.