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A Splendid Landing In San Diego

— The disabled Carnival Splendor was towed into San Diego this morning after being found adrift off the Mexican coast. A festive crowd of on-lookers gathered along Harbor Drive to greet the ship's passengers. In fact, carnival was a good way to describe the event in which passengers waved from the deck and exchanged hoots and whistles with the folks on shore.

The passengers I spoke to described their time aboard the Splendor as dark and smelly. The ship was stranded after a fire in the engine room shut down the power. Chris Harlan, from Orange County, said he could feel the ship shaking when the fire broke out.

“Then we saw smoke coming along our balcony and we're like, Oh no. That can't be good!” he said.

The smell of smoke wasn't the only odor on the Splendor. The loss of power meant the loss of refrigeration. Marquis Horace of Los Angeles said the aroma of rotting food was a real bummer.

“If you go there now, I'm sure that you would hurl,” he said. “Right now it smells that bad on that ship.”

Lack of power also left the ship in the dark. Cindi Wolfe was waiting on Harbor Drive for her mother and her brother to disembark. She says her brother was well prepared.

“He brought flashlights, fortunately enough, because I guess it was rather dark at night without the moonlight or anything,” said Wolfe.

The docking of the Carnival Splendor attracted lots of odd types to Harbor Drive. A man dressed as Superman said he wanted all to know that he wasn’t alone in saving the Splendor. He got a lot of assistance from other people. When I asked the man he real name, he said, “Clark Kent.”

The Splendor’s arrival was also the greatest media circus I’d seen in years. CNN was there. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation was there, as were pretty much everyone else. NPR called me at the dock to get two versions of the story for their newscasts. (By the end of the day I’d given them three versions). Even the BBC want me to feed them something.

All this for a story in which no one drowned or got injured. At most, it looks like 3,000-some tourists suffered a little discomfort and inconvenience.

In fact, I was struck by the positive attitudes of the passengers. Carnival Cruise lines offered passengers free tickets for a future cruise. Harlan said he would definitely take them up on it. Wolfe even said she and her family have already planned another cruise this winter.

“We’re going in January, so I hope they get the Splendor in shape for that.”

Reporters within earshot were flummoxed to hear that this woman was looking forward to being aboard the same ship that just broke down in the Pacific Ocean. But Wolfe’s sunny optimism was resilient.

“The same ship??” said a reporter.

“If they’ve got it up and running, you bet! I’m a big fan of cruising,” said Wolfe.

Carnival Cruise Lines expects to have the ship repaired in San Diego before it returns to Long Beach, where it set sail on its ill-fated cruise.

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