Ken King was celebrating his birthday with a cruise. Then he smelled smoke.
Carnival cruise ship passengers disembarked Thursday morning after six tug boats pulled the disabled Splendor into San Diego Bay
The ship arrived in the bay early Thursday after a slow journey up from the Mexican coast. Tugs helped gently steer the nearly 1,000-foot-long vessel to the dock.
A line of about 20 passengers of the Carnival Splendor wheeled suitcases down a ramp Thursday morning as a crowd waited at the dock. About 4,500 passenger were aboard the ship.
"A cruise can only get better, unless the ship sinks," said Ken King, of Brentwood.
King was celebrating his birthday aboard the vessel.
"The beginning was great -- food was great, staff was great. It was everything a cruise should be."
Just about anything that requires electrical power was knocked out by a Monday morning fire in an engine room. The ship was about 150 miles south of San Diego.
"We're so happy to be getting off. Everybody's been cheering and clapping," passenger Fahizah Alim, 26, of Sacramento, said by cell phone. "It's been like a nightmare. There's been no food, no power, no electricity, no flushing toilets. I spent the night tossing and turning in my cabin in the dark."
There was no air conditioning, no hot food, no hot water, no casino -- but there were magicians. Magicians from Hollywood's Magic Castle are aboard the ship.
"We're hanging in there," said passenger Debra Hurley early Thursday. "For the most part, people seem like they're trying to keep their spirits up. There have been a few angry outbursts -- people grabbing for food when it came out. The worst thing is we're not really able to dispose of garbage."
The swimming pool was off-limits because there was no way to pump chlorine. Lines for cold food stretch for hours.
Navy helicopters flew in Spam, Pop Tarts and canned crab meat and other goods for the passengers and crew.
"There was a huge cheer that went up over the entire ship" when the Navy arrived, Hurley said.
Initial reports from the ship indicated passengers were making the best of the situation. The Splendor's crewmembers have been busy trying to keep passengers entertained with activities, games and live music. The lack of power forced the closure of swimming pools for sanitation reasons, but bars were open serving free drinks to passengers, according to the company. Some were sleeping on deck to avoid hot cabins.
"Conditions on the ship have been challenging," Gerry Cahill, President and CEO of Carnival, said in a news conference. "They signed up for a great cruise ship vacation and that's not what they've received."
Several of Splendor's systems -- including air-conditioning, hot food service and telephones -- were not working. The ship's engineers were able to restore toilet service to cabins and public bathrooms, and cold running water.
Carnival said it is in the process of making hotel and flight arrangements for all passengers to get home. Guests will receive a full refund along with reimbursement for transportation costs. Additionally, they will receive a complimentary future cruise.
The tugboats were originally set to take the Splendor to Ensenada, Mexico, but the cruise line changed its plans and decided to tow to San Diego, where hotel and flight arrangements would be easier for passengers, according to Carnival.
As the ship gets closer to coastal areas, guests were beginning to receive intermittent cellular service, according to Carnival. Additionally, the ship's satellite phone system was working on a limited basis and guests are able to make complimentary calls home.
The cause of the fire was believed to be a split crankshaft inside the diesel generator. No injuries were reported.
The 113,000-ton Splendor left Port of Long Beach on Sunday with 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crewmembers and was on its first leg of a seven-day cruise.
On Tuesday, the cruise line requested military assistance to help supply food.
Navy sailors transferred meat, bread, plastic dinnerware and other supplies Tuesday from an airbase in San Diego to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which was scheduled to deliver supplies.
The ship's normal itinerary included stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.