SAN DIEGO — They can call it a nightmare. A cruise from hell. Even a Spamcation.
Whatever they label it, the grueling three-day journey of the crippled Carnival Splendor is over, and the nearly 4,500 passengers and crew members can forget about the backed-up toilets, darkened, stuffy cabins and the canned meat.
"I love being back on land," said passenger Ken King, 42, of Los Angeles.
As the ship docked on Thursday, people who had gathered on the decks and about 100 waiting onshore cheered loudly. Along the harbor, tourists, joggers and fishermen stopped to snap photos.
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On land, passengers snapped up $20 T-shirts being sold by Lissa Letts of Overland Park, Kan., with the phrase: "I survived the 2010 Carnival cruise Spamcation."
An engine fire aboard the 952-foot cruise liner on Monday morning knocked out power early in its seven-day trip to the Mexican Riviera, setting the ship adrift about 200 miles from San Diego and 44 miles off the coast of Mexico.
No one was hurt, but passengers said they were jolted awake by the ship shaking. Few of them panicked.
"It felt like an earthquake and sounded like a jackhammer," said Amber Haslerud, 27, of Chula Vista.
The captain immediately announced that there would be no need to abandon ship, said Amy Watts, 25, of Seattle. "You think about the Titanic," she said.
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.
Navy helicopters flew in Spam, Pop Tarts and canned crab meat and other goods.
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.
Passengers ended up getting by on a diet with lots of bread, vegetables and, sometimes, sandwich meat.
"If you could see the things they put on sandwiches, seriously," said Peg Fisher of Las Vegas, who was on her first cruise with her husband. "This could be the only cruise ever where people lost weight instead of gaining weight."