Cruise unforgettable for the wrong reasons
Photo courtesy of Nathan Vorhees
Nathan and Natalie Vorhees, of Bothell, in Long Beach, Calif., before their Nov. 7 departure aboard the Carnival Splendor.
Photo courtesy of Kari Leidholm
Friends partied in a lighted hallway of the Carnival Splendor after a fire cut power to the cruise ship for several days last week. From left in a circle: Alisha Thorn, Melissa Thamsen, Kari Leidholm, Katrisha Ellingson, Kristin Schmidt and Lori Burke
Photo courtesy of Kari Leidholm
A small tugboat pulls the stranded 952-foot Carnival Splendor cruise liner last week after a fire aboard the ship knocked out power.
For Nathan and Natalie Vorhees, meals were so awful that one highlight was a Pop-Tarts breakfast.
“It was a terrible cruise, but it was an experience I won't ever forget,” said Nathan Vorhees, 24.
The Bothell man, his wife and friends were among more than 4,000 people stranded last week aboard the Carnival Splendor. A fire in the 952-foot cruise liner's engine early Nov. 8 knocked out power to the ship. It had left California the day before on what was supposed to be a seven-day cruise to three Mexican ports.
For more than three days, passengers bided their time in conditions that were anything but luxurious. Staterooms were pitch-dark. For a whole day, toilets could not be flushed. People stood in long lines for meager meals.
Burke, 23, of Arlington, and Marysville's Leidholm, 24, have been friends since childhood at Presidents Elementary School in Arlington. With friends Alisha Thorn, Melissa Thamsen, Katrisha Ellingson and Kristin Schmidt, they had planned the trip and looked forward to it for months.
“I think we bought our tickets in March,” Burke said. “We wanted to cry. All we could do is laugh. We were really disappointed, but happy that nothing worse happened.”
Natalie Vorhees, 24, described older and disabled passengers who struggled to get to meals. Most of the multi-level ship's elevators were out of order, and meals were only served on some decks. “It was survival of the fittest in a sense. It was sad,” she said. Her husband fetched meals for a diabetic man who lacked the strength to wait in line for a cold sandwich.
Cruising with the Bothell couple were their neighbors Angela and Mike Weir and friends Brandi and Cory Bettinghouse, from Reno, Nev. “All of us were born and raised here,” said Natalie Vorhees, a Lynnwood native.
The first day couldn't have gone better, Nathan Vorhees said. At the airport in Los Angeles, they saw and posed for pictures with Kurt Warner, a former Super Bowl quarterback who was recently cut from ABC's “Dancing With the Stars.”
“We got aboard the boat, and the first night dinner was incredible,” said Vorhees, who was called upon to join in the evening's entertainment. “This was supposed to be a get-together for friends and a romantic getaway for us,” he said.
At 5:30 the next morning, an alarm went off. Within minutes, there was an emergency announcement and power went out. Hallways had emergency lighting, but without portholes their inside room was in total darkness.
For the first 12 to 16 hours, Vorhees said, there was no running water. “Toilets were literally full throughout the ship,” he said.
His wife hoped the disruption would be short-lived. “I was hoping not to be late for our first stop at port. We were going to swim with dolphins at Puerto Vallarta,” Natalie Vorhees said. “When they announced they were canceling the cruise, we were pretty bummed.”
Pools, hot tubs and other amenities were closed as the ship rolled with the waves in the open ocean. Without its stabilizers, which use power, the Splendor awaited help from the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and tugboats sent from Mexico and San Diego. It was often too cool or windy for sitting outside in the sun.
Some national news reports said passengers survived on Spam, but Nathan Vorhees said he never ate it. “The Navy dropped off Spam and Pop-Tarts, but we only got Pop-Tarts the last day,” he said.
By Nov. 10, the ship was being pulled slowly by tugboats. It arrived in San Diego on Thursday.
Burke, Leidholm and their friends flew home Friday after spending one night in San Diego.
“We checked into a nice hotel, ate a hot meal, went to the pool, showered and put on our cocktail dresses,” Leidholm said. The women dined at Bertrand at Mister A's, an expensive San Diego restaurant, before going out dancing “for our night of fun,” she said. “The funny part, you could see our ship from the restaurant.”
The Bothell couple and their friends added Disneyland to their upset itinerary. Carnival Cruise Lines paid for their Los Angeles hotel and meals. All passengers got refunds for the scuttled trip and vouchers for a cruise in the future.
“Everybody got their money back. We had a good time at Disneyland, all the Christmas stuff was up,” Nathan Vorhees said.
All the travelers said the cruise line did the best it could under bad circumstances. None, though, were eager to jump aboard a ship right away.
“We want to get together and have a real vacation,” Natalie Vorhees said. “We'll take the free trip, but try not to get on that exact same boat.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
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