The following is a recap of the fire cruise on the Carnival Splendor.
Megan walked towards me, the soft glow of moonlight radiating off her naked bottom. Her eyes met mine and I knew that it wasn’t Brad or George or Johnny that she wanted……oh no……….I knew that it was me that her heart was beating for. I motioned her to come to me and she walked seductively towards me and soon her naked body was lying next to mine and she knew that she was about to have the best 3 minutes of rumpy pumpy she had ever had. Megan looked at me and then in the most sensuous of voices said……..”ALPHA TEAM, ALPHA TEAM ALPHA TEAM, DECK 0 ENGINE CONTROL ROOM.”
I awoke with a start and it took me a few moments to get rid of the thought of my idol’s bottom and realise what announcement I had just heard. It was 6:05 am and the officer on watch had just called for Alpha Team, the emergency code for our fire squad to go the engine control room. It was 6:05 am, this wasn’t a drill………..oh f**k!
The following is going to be my honest and open account of what happened. It will be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth because that is what I always write here and this particular blog thingy must be no different. And besides…….that is what our President and CEO Gerry Cahill told me to write when I met with him today and more about that later. Just bear in mind that the times cited in this blog are all estimates as it has certainly been a long couple of days.
So, there I am. It’s 6:05 am and the bridge have just called for the fire squad and I knew what was about to happen next. And sure enough it did. I farted.
Next the other thing that I knew would happen next did as well, my phone rang and a slightly breathless voice said “John, come to the bridge immediately.”
So I jumped out of bed and decided that “immediately” probably wasn’t a good idea because a) I was in my underpants and b) I had been in the middle of a dream about Megan’s bottom….. if you know what I mean. Anyway, I threw on a T-shirt and a pair of sweat pants little knowing that I wouldn’t be separated from these clothes for the next 24 hours. I had gotten dressed and started my journey to the bridge in the space of maybe 2 minutes after the call had come and all the while my heart began to pound………this wasn’t a drill………….this was the real thing.
Yet, on my way to the bridge the thoughts in my head were that it was a small fire and that within the next few minutes it would all be over. In fact I guess it’s safe to say that even though I had just heard the Alpha Team call that as I approached the bridge I was as unprepared for what awaited as a Frenchman who has been asked to write an essay on the joys of taking a bath.
I opened the door to the bridge to the sound of alarms screaming from the fire station control which were doing battle with the crackle of walkie talkies and the commands of Captain Cupisti. It’s funny that throughout the last few days how certain things have stayed lodged in my memory as clear as crystal while some things have disappeared from my mind totally. One such memory is of Captain Cupisti’s hair. Whenever I see him he looks like he has stepped off the front page of GQ Magazine but as I walked on the bridge his hair looked like he had slept in a crash helmet which he had just taken off.
I stood there not wanting to interfere but making sure I put myself in the captain’s eye line so that he knew I was there as and when needed. Let me try and explain what was happening. The captain had an internal ship’s chart on the table marking off where each fire squad was stationed, where he wanted the cooling down teams and speaking slowly and with authority into the walkie talkie to the fire teams, the chief engineer and the staff captain.
Meanwhile every deck officer was expertly doing what they had to do from checking the radar to assisting with the fire teams and organizing and putting on alert all the respective parties. What is so ironic of course is that just 24 hours earlier this same captain and officers and the same fire teams had done all of this in a simulation for our United States Coast Guard inspection which they passed with flying colours.
Now remember all of what I have described so far has happened in a space of seconds but still I didn’t realise how serious was this until something slapped me in the face as hard as the time I tried to grope Sally Poole’s breasts behind the bike shed at school. At that wakeup call came when I heard our staff captain’s voice come through the walkie talkie and say “There is thick smoke, thick smoke. We can’t see anything. That was when I said a silent “Oh bugger” and our adventures began.
I now realised it was time for me to talk to the guests all of whom would have heard the “Alpha Team” call which was made through the emergency system. Can I just stop here and mention the following just once because I really don’t want to sound like I am patting myself on the bottom and saying well done John. Because I am not. But I do want to mention a few things here about my role in all of this before the story continues.
I have often written that in cases of unexpected occurrences on a cruise ship that it is the cruise director’s job to inform the guests, truthfully at all times and to do so calmly and reassuringly and as often as possible. This is the CD’s role and although it cannot be compared to the people who were currently in the engine room and on the bridge, it is none the less an important one and I can only hope that I managed to achieve the goals I have just described. So, let’s get back to the story shall we and here is the first conversation between the captain and I as best as I can remember.
CAPTAIN: JOHN, TELL THE GUESTS WE HAVE LOTS OF SMOKE IN THE ENGINE ROOM AND THAT WE ARE INVESTIGATING.
JOHN: CAPTAIN, WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO DO THIS THROUGH THE EMERGENCY SYSTEM
And so I pressed the dreaded button number one on the PA system which apart from when we conduct the rehearsal safety briefing on embarkation day is a button that no cruise director ever likes to use because usually it means if you are that you are in the sh*t.
Ladies and Gentlemen. My sincere apologies for waking you up but as you may have heard we have just used an Alpha Team call which is the alert for our fire teams to attend. At this moment the captain has informed me that there is lots of smoke in part of the aft engine room on deck 0. (A side note: I told the guests this in case they thought the engine room may be close to guests’ cabins which of course it isn’t.). Please would all guests remain in their cabins while we investigate and regardless of if there is any more information I will return in 5 minutes with an update. Please don’t worry and I promise I will keep you informed.
I made this announcement as calmly as possible and “breathing” the words so not to sound anxious at all, even though I was.
During the next five minutes it became more and more obvious that this was a serious situation. I positioned myself closely to the captain so I could hear firsthand what was happening and so that he wouldn’t have to worry about if I had understood or not. As promised 5 minutes later and five minutes later after that I repeated my first announcement and told them there was still nothing further to report and highlighted the “Please don’t worry” bit again. I had nothing new to report but as I had promised the guests I wasn’t going to leave them in the dark (although later they would be) and kept talking to them as much as I could.
The next announcement though wasn’t for the guests ……..it was for the crew……….and in my 24 years at sea it was the first time I had ever had to do so. Here’s what happened.
CAPTAIN: JOHN, WE NEED TO SEND THE CREW TO THEIR GENERAL EMERGENCY STATIONS
I looked into my friend Claudio’s eyes and I could see the worry that was there but also the strong conviction that he had no choice.
JOHN: UNDERSTOOD CAPTAIN……CREW TO THEIR GENERAL EMERGENCY STATIONS.
When a crew member gets on a ship, whatever his or her position onboard, before they are bar waiters or dancers or photographers or stateroom stewards………each and every crew member is a sailor whose primary task is the safety of the guests and themselves. Each of us has a station or assignment to go to and all are well trained in what needs to be done. And so with a lump in my throat, I made the following announcement.
JOHN: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SAY IS ONLY FOR OUR CREW MEMBERS AND I PROMISE IS MERELY A PRECAUTION SO PLEASE DO NOT WORRY AND TRY TO STAY CALM.
CREW – I NEED YOU ALL TO PLEASE NOW GO TO YOUR GENERAL EMERGENCY STATIONS. WE HAVE OUR ALPHA TEAMS INVESTIGATING A SITUATION IN THE ENGINE ROOM AND AT THIS TIME THE CAPTAIN NEEDS YOUR HELP.
PLEASE GO TO YOUR STATIONS. WE HAVE REHEARSED THIS TIME AND TIME AGAIN HAVEN’T WE? SO LET’S DO WHAT WE HAVE TO DO IN A CALM AND PROFESSIONAL WAY. ALL CREW TO THEIR GENERAL EMERGENCY STATIONS.
I should point out here that you may have noticed that I have not used the word fire. I heard that one or two guests had told the media that I had never used the word fire. This is not true. I was going to say this is bollocks but I won’t.
However, at this point I had not used the “F” word because the reports from the engine room were that all the teams could see was thick white smoke……no flames…… just thick white smoke. And those words had been repeated to me by the captain when he had me make announcements. He used the word “smoke” not “fire” and so those were the words I had repeated to the guests.
So now the crew were at their emergency stations and when I say the crew I mean every single crew member went immediately because the Carnival crew are brilliant and…..they are not Greek and thus in the lifeboats before the guests.
During the next 10 minutes I kept talking to the guests reminding them to stay in their cabins and did my best to keep them calm. I also spoke to the crew, telling them to remember their training and to also stay calm. And they did, both the guests and the crew did exactly what I asked of them and meanwhile I waited for the captain to tell me what was next. And what was next was that the smoke was so intense and so thick that even with breathing apparatus on the teams could not get close to the source.
I looked at Captain Cupisti………….he looked back at me and shook his head slightly …………… and that’s when I ruined a really good pair of underpants.
Part 2 to follow soon.
Welcome back. When you left us the crew was at their muster stations, the guests were in their staterooms listening to my voice that was keeping them informed and hopefully keeping them calm. Meanwhile the fire squads have had to come out of the engine room because the smoke was so thick, the captain is thinking what to do next and I am touching cloth.
It was at 7 am when we started getting reports that the smell of smoke was getting heavier and heavier in the guest areas and so after discussion with the captain it was decided that we should move all the guests from the aft section of the ship to the open decks. The conversation went something like this.
CAPTAIN JOHN: I AM CONCERNED THAT THE GUESTS MAY BE AFFECTED BY THE SMOKE SO WE NEED TO MOVE THEM TO THE OPEN DECKS
JOHN: JUST THE AFT SECTION CAPTAIN?
CAPTAIN: YES FOR NOW
Now remember the aft section is the group of cabins on decks 1, 2,6,7, and 8 that are above the engine room and so these were the cabins that were already smelling the smoke. Now I want to underline the word “smelling” in fact I would underline it if I knew how to on this sodding computer but what I want to emphasize is that these cabins smelt the smoke…..they did not see it. I was asked by a reporter today if reports that smoke was “bellowing down the corridor” were true. No, they were not! And so after a few deep breaths to make sure there was no anxiety in my voice, I made this announcement at just after 7 am.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN – SOME OF YOU WHOSE CABINS ARE AT THE BACK SECTION OF THE VESSEL MAY BE SMELLING SMOKE. THEREFORE THE CAPTAIN HAS ASKED ALL GUESTS WHO ARE STAYING TOWARDS THE AFT SECTION OF THE SHIP ON DECKS 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, PLEASE DRESS WARMLY AND COME TO DECK 9, OR ON DECK 3.
IF YOU ARE ON THE MID SHIP OR FORWARD PART OF THE VESSEL PLEASE REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE FOR NOW. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I KNOW SOME OF YOU MAY BE WORRIED AND CONCERENED SO PLEASE LET ME TELL YOU THAT WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU AND THAT ALL OF THE CREW TRAIN FOR THESE SITUATIONS EVERY WEEK. PLEASE LISTEN TO THEM AND……….STAND BY PLEASE
Now the standby was because suddenly I realised I had made a huge mistake. I looked across at the captain who was busy in conversation with the fire squads and asked him one simple word but it was a word that would make such a difference to the guests. And that word was……. “life jackets.” As in do the guests need to bring them. The captain shook his head and I went back to my announcement.
SORRY LADIES AND GENTLEMEN………..I WANTED TO CHECK SOMETHING WITH THE CAPTAIN…………YOU DO NOT NEED YOUR LIFEJACKETS………..THIS IS JUST A PRECAUTION AGAINST THE SMOKE YOU ARE SMELLING. CREW MEMBERS, PLEASE ASSIST THE GUESTS TO THE OPEN DECKS.
And they did and as they moved to the open decks I kept talking to the guests and the crew on the PA system. I have no idea what I said, it was mostly waffle but waffle intended to calm everyone and I can only hope it worked. During all this time lots of things were happening all around me and I thought I would list some of the things I remember in a list format only because it helps me remember and I thought you might like to know what happens in such an event.
1. The captain had one of his officers call the Miami office operations manager on duty to let him know what was happening
2. The captain instructs all radio and telephone conversations to be conducted in English not Italian so that when they are played back on the voice recorders installed on the bridge that those listening will understand.
3. The captain instructed the 1st officer to make sure each fire squad recorded their oxygen levels with the bridge before they entered the engine room.
4. Duncan, my great friend and hotel director organised the special needs team whose went to help the guests in wheelchairs and those hearing impaired guests to the open decks.
5. The Chief Engineer Marco told the captain that the smoke was white, not black which suggested an electrical fire and not a fuel based fire.
6. The captain instructed the 1st officer to call United States Coast Guard on the VHF Radio and Satcom phone and told them what was happening and what the ship’s position was.
7. The Housekeeping Manager Rudy reported that the smell of smoke was now obvious across the ship.
It was that last one, number 7 that prompted the following conversation.
CAPTAIN: JOHN PLEASE PUT ALL THE GUESTS ON THE OPEN DECKS
And I was just about to do this when I heard for the very first time….the dreaded word……. fire on the walkie talkie, but I ignored it and was about to make an announcement when I also heard that we had lost power to all the elevators…….oh bugger. This changed my whole announcement which now went like this.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AS THE SMELL OF SMOKE IS AFFECTING MOST OF THE SHIP NOW THE CAPTAIN HAS ASKED ME TO ADVISE THAT YOU ALL MOVE TO THE OPEN DECKS PLEASE. NOW UNFORTUNATELY THE ELEVATORS ARE NOW OUT OF ORDER AND SO PLEASE USE THE STAIRS.
IF YOU NEED ASSISTANCE OUR CREW WILL PROVIDE IT FOR YOU. PLEASE STAY CALM, YOU DO NOT NEED YOUR LIFE JACKETS BUT I DO NEED YOU TO PLEASE MOVE TO THE OPEN DECKS FOR NOW.
I once again waffled on with what I hoped were calming words and which I will not bore you with here.
As I said earlier, Duncan and Rudy were organizing their special needs teams and making sure they were carried down the stairs to the open decks. Reports were that all the guests were calm and doing exactly what they were told. And so my attention turned to the word “fire” that I had heard seconds before making my announcement.
OK, let’s pause here so I can tell you something which regular readers of this blog will already know. I am to technology what Oprah Winfrey is to cage fighting. I can’t even operate the coffee make at home so I am not going to try and explain what happened or what caused it to happen.
Obviously this incident is, as I write, under investigation by a team of beards What I can tell you is that when I first heard the word fire it was because one of the fire teams had seen some electrical cabling was on fire……..and that was not good news at all.
It was then that I suddenly realised something which should have been obvious from the moment I walked on the bridge. We were dead in the water. There was no air conditioning, no lights and now no elevators.
It didn’t take Mr. Scott (Star Trek reference) to realise that there was no power on board ……….. this was getting very serious indeed.
Part 3 soon..
So where were we? Oh yes, I had been awoken from dreaming about the world’s most gorgeous bottom, the Carnival Splendor’s engine room was full of smoke, some electrical cabling was on fire, the crew were at their general emergency stations and I had now asked all 3,299 guests to move to the open decks. The ship is dead in the water. We have no elevators and we are already noticing that many of the ship’s systems are down including the lighting with only the emergency low level lighting working. Apart from that and the fact that I had ruined a really good pair of Marks and Spencers (Brit shop) underpants…….everything was just spiffing.
Just before I continue with part 3 I have to tell you that the timeline that follows is somewhat hazy because as I will be telling you I spent the next 48 hours on the bridge with bugger all sleep so I think it’s best I don’t try and remember what times situations occurred because honestly I can’t.
Having moved the guests to the open decks the next thing for me to do was to talk to the staff and department heads and find out what was happening and that’s when we all realised that because we had no power that the ship’s phone systems were down. Now at this point I should say that the emergency generator was working but that provides limited facilities such as low level lighting and one or two other essentials……but the phones and ship’s internal cell phone system weren’t and so my next announcement was the following.
CREW – PLEASE TALK TO THE GUESTS AND LET THEM KNOW IF THEY NEED ANYTHING TO TELL YOU AND THEN PLEASE PASS THAT INFORMATION TO A SUPERVISOR OR MANAGER. EVERYONE – PLEASE TURN YOUR WALKIE TALKIE TO CHANNEL 7.
I did this because channel 1 which is our normal working channel was a bit busy with stuff like putting out fires. And so as the management put their walkie talkies to channel 7 reports started to come in. Here are some of the facts that were passed to me and which I then acted on and passed to the captain.
1. A thin haze of smoke could now be seen in the guest corridors on decks 1 and 2 aft. Either the smoke was now coming up from the engine room or someone was smoking something naughty. A few minutes later I received reports that a thin haze of smoke could now be seen on decks 1 and 2 mid-ship as well and that pretty much the entire inside of the vessel had been affected by the smell of the smoke which reports on channel 1 were still telling the captain it was thick.
2. Channel 1 then reported that the electrical cabling that had caught fire and had been extinguished had caught fire again. One of the fire squads were quickly dispatched to put it out again.
3. One of the crew reported that a guest was feeling unwell and she needed medical assistance. I called one of the nurses on the radio and she quickly attended to her. It was later reported to me that she was OK and had left the medical center and had suffered from a panic attack as had one of our crew.
And on that note I want to emphasise that these were the only reported injuries that occurred as a direct result of the incident in the engine room. I say this because as you will read in part…….. ummm …..97…..I participated in press briefing in San Diego and a reporter who looked like he was probably called Hank or Bob or asked me if it was true that there had been lots of injuries resulting from this incident. Yes, that’s true in much the same way as it’s true that I would look good in a leather thong and nipple tassels. There were no injuries from the fire.
I won’t bother telling you the announcements I made for the next 30 minutes because basically I never took my finger off the PA microphone. So much so that I honestly have a blister on my right thumb. I do have to say that you would think on a ship that cost $650 million we wouldn’t have gotten the microphone for the PA system from sodding Radio Shack. Anyway, the announcements were repetitive but the sense of calmness that I needed to do my best to give the guests was I felt of massive importance and so regardless of the fact that I had no new news, I continued to talk to them continuously. Then I heard this on the walkie talkie.
“THERE ARE AROUND 150 GUESTS STANDING BY THE LIFEBOATS ON DECK 4.”
Bugger…..I had messed up. I was so mad at myself. I had told the guests to go to the open decks, yet I hadn’t been specific and told them that we did not want them at their muster stations on deck 4. What a total plonker (www.urbandictionary.com) and what a stupid mistake I had made. And so that was me back on the PA system.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. I AM TOLD THAT SOME OF YOU ARE STANDING BY YOUR DESIGNATED LIFEBOATS ON DECK NUMBER 4. PLEASE DON’T WAIT THERE AS THERE IS NO SEATING AND THERE IS NO NEED TO BE BY THE LIFEBOATS. STAFF WILL ASSIST YOU TO DECK 3 AND THE OPEN DECKS THERE WHERE DECK CHAIRS ARE AVAILABLE. I AM SO SORRY THAT I WASN’T MORE SPECIFIC.
Crew then helped those at deck 4 reach the open decks and I continued to be mad at myself.
I mentioned at the start of today’s blog that my recollection of times is unclear but I guess it was an hour before the next major occurrence happened. During that hour we did the following:
1. The food and beverage teams walked around giving bottled water to everyone.
2. It was reported to be 60 degrees outside and people were cold on the open decks. I therefore asked the housekeeping manager to have his team grab as many blankets as possible and deliver them to the open decks where all the guests were gathered. Note to self and to any other cruise director who ever has to go through something similar. If you have to evacuate guests to the open decks please remember to have them bring the blankets or duvets from their cabins. We discovered that we didn’t have enough blankets for all the guests and had to give some the beach towels……..another mistake by yours truly.
3. Special needs teams were now in position all over the ship by stairwells and in corridors and they remained there until we arrived back in San Diego. They were magnificent and not only did they carry people down and up stairs they checked on them in their staterooms continuously and were always there.
Well, the smoke was so thick still in the engine room that the fire squads were having difficulties in reaching its source and the smoke wasn’t just thick there either but also in a place called the marshaling area. This is one of the largest spaces in the crew areas and it’s where stores are kept and where we store luggage and other essentials. Thank goodness it was mostly empty at the time this was all going on, if it had been full of luggage cages and stores it would have made things much more difficult.
So with the smoke needing to be cleared before fire squads could reenter the scene the captain gave the order to open the shell doors on port and starboard sides of the ship to let the smoke blow out naturally. Our extraction systems were working hard but were not enough so the huge doors at the side of the ship where we tie up tenders and fuel barges etc were opened.
Remember the ship is dead in the water but there was no danger of waves spilling into the ship because the sea conditions were calm. But there was a light wind and that certainly helped disapissate (spelt correctly) some of the smoke from the marshaling area which was the same smoke that had crept into guest areas. I told the guests what was happening and that the smoke was retreating.
But that was only a small piece of good news. The bad news was that the smoke was still very thick in the engine room and that the electrical cabling had caught fire again. The captain had conferred with Carnival’s Miami-based command center but ultimately the next choice was his and his alone.
Should he or should he not flood the entire engine room with CO2? This was a huge decision to make as it would mean flooding not just the area on fire but the whole engine room. He would need to make sure that all crew were out of the area because CO2 sucks oxygen from the air making it highly dangerous to people but good for putting out fires.
Captain Cupisti walked to the port side of the bridge……he opened the window and breathed in some fresh air. I stood next to him and put a hand on his shoulder, words were not necessary. A group of officers had gathered behind him. The walkie talkies had gone quiet as everyone waited. Nobody was going to intervene. The captain’s body language said that this was his decision alone to make and after taking one more gulp of air he turned on his heel, picked up the walkie talkie and calmly and with total self belief said, “Clear the engine room, we are going to deploy the CO2.”
Part 4 will be tomorrow. For now I have to go read the 344 e-mails I seem to have and ……… bugger………..I also have lots of Spam.
I am never cold. I sleep on top of the duvet, have the air conditioning on full all the time and yet as the captain gave the order to flood the engine room with CO2 I shivered. Looking down I saw my arms looked like a freshly plucked chicken. The captain had ordered the evacuation of the engine room and that was going to take some time as there were engineers, fire squads and other personnel down there and every single one of them had to be accounted for before the CO2 could be released.
I stood by my new best friend, the PA system, and debated in my mind whether to tell the guests this or not. It wasn’t that I didn’t want them to know but I was concerned that maybe this would worry them even more than some or all probably already were. And the problem was that I had nobody to talk to about to about this. You see, after the order from the captain to send the guests to the open decks, everything I had said and done after that was on my own accord. Captain Cupisti was far too busy and I would like to think he trusted me to say the right thing.
So I stood there by the PA system and as well as feeling cold and as well as making sure I took in huge lungfuls of air to keep myself calm and as I agonised whether to tell the guests we were about to use the CO2 system, I was surprised to find myself feeling …………well…………lonely. I am not sure if that makes any sense and while trying to decide what to say next I have a clear memory of thinking to myself also what a strange job I had.
Is there any other job in the world where one minute you are trying to make people laugh with what a lady from the LA Times referred to as “lurid” sense of humour and the next minute have the responsibility of keeping everyone calm, informed and passing on instructions that could ultimately help save their lives. Just a few hours before I was on stage in front of 1,500 guests with a Cougar………..the lady…………not the animal.
The welcome aboard show often sets the scene for the cruise as far as who I am and to let the guests know that it’s OK to laugh at themselves and each other. I randomly pick 6 guests to come on stage and although the finale of the show is the good old spoon game, it is the interviews that precede it that I enjoy the most. On Sunday night I had 6 great characters on stage including a lady in her late forties/early fifties who we shall call Leah because that is her name. This is how the interview started.
ME : HELLO, WHAT’S YOUR NAME?
ME: WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
LEAH: LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA
ME: AND WHO ARE YOU HERE WITH?
LEAH: MY 3 BEST FRIENDS KELLY, MONICA AND VICKI
ME: OH, SO NO MEN THEN?
LEAH: ABSOLUTLEY NOT – WE ARE COUGARS AND WE ARE ON THE PROWL (Note: After she said the word “prowl” she gave a mediocre roar and did that claw thing with her hand)
ME: WHAT ARE YOU ON THE PROWL FOR?
LEAH: YOUNG FIT MEN WHO LIKE TO PAARRRRTTTTTIIIIEEEEE
Now, this is all well and good but what got me is after she said this not only did the audience laugh, many of them applauded and I just don’t get that……. I don’t understand why we 1,500 guests were applauding and cheering to celebrate the fact that a late forties early fifties woman had publicly stated that she and her mates were looking for young men. Had the genders been reversed, would they had applauded and cheered?
Would they have cheered and laughed out loud if I had been the one on stage and admitted that I was looking forward to having rumpy pumpy with 25-year-old girls? Of course they wouldn’t. There would have been cries of pervert and letters to the captain demanding I’d be thrown off the ship and returned to a place where this kind of behavior is acceptable………… like France.
All of these thoughts and memories lashed through my mind in seconds mixed with the decision if to tell the guests or not. A few moments later my thumb resumed its now all too familiar position on the microphone.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN – THE CAPTAIN HAS MADE THE DESCION TO FLOOD THE ENGINE ROOM WITH CO2 AND ONCE ALL THE PERSONNEL HAVE BEEN ACCOUNTED FOR THEN THIS OPERATION WILL BEGIN. I PROMISE TO REMAIN RIGHT HERE AND GIVE YOU LIVE REPORTS. IF YOU NEED ANYTHING PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ASK ANY OF THE CREW.
CREW, THANK YOU, PLEASE KEEP DOING WHAT YOU ARE DOING, TALK TO THE GUESTS AND TELL YOUR SUPERVISORS IF YOU SEE ANYTHING THAT YOU THINK WE NEED TO TAKE CARE OF.
That last crew announcement, like all the announcements I made, was put through the emergency system. This meant that unlike during a normal operation where I would talk to the crew in their areas only, all the announcements were being heard by the guests. And actually I wanted the guests to know what I was saying to them……..I wanted all the guests and the crew to be united during these uncertain times…………..I truly felt that this was very important indeed.
Some 15 minutes after Captain Cupisti gave the order to evacuate the engine room, the staff captain reported that all the crew had been accounted for but the captain wanted it checked again. This had to be done right because if someone had still been in that area with the CO2 going off then that someone would most probably die.
A second check confirmed that all the crew was present and after closing the water tight and fire screen doors Captain Cupisti gave the order to flood the fire with CO2.
And now we had to wait. Breakfast was very busy on Lido Deck as all the guests were of course already up and around. At that time the chefs had already prepared some breakfast food so apart from being busy at least some managed to get some usual breakfast fare. I don’t think any of us realised that it was the last proper meal they would have for the next three days.
I kept talking to the guests, I can’t remember what I said during the time we waited to see if the CO2 operation had been a success or not. I am sure it was mostly waffle but as I promised them, I kept them informed with an announcement every 10 minutes even if I had nothing new to tell them.
During this wait and see period the captain wanted to call the command center in Miami. These days we have so many ways of doing this. Internet, satellite phones, cellular at sea all of which need power…….we had bugger all. This meant for the next few days the only way for us to communicate with the outside world was through one phone on the ship. It’s called the EMMASAT and it has its own power system and there is apparently nowhere in the world where you can’t get a signal and make a call………except Arkansas, of course.
So the captain was on the phone with the command center which because Miami time is three hours ahead was already full of Carnival beards. I want to say thanks to them now because I am sure to forget later. This team was there 24 hours a day and is still there now in fact. Many slept in their offices, including Gerry Cahill, our president and CEO. They kept an open line to the ship and that meant so much to the captain and all of us. Thanks to everyone there……. although telling us you had Tony Roma’s delivered for dinner on Thursday night was just cruel.
Finally, after about an hour and a half after giving the order to disperse the CO2 fire squad Alpha re entered the engine room followed by fire squad Charlie. We waited — the bridge was once again mostly silent. The only noise coming from the fire detection system which kept sounding a constant alarm telling us there was a fire. Then over the walkie talkie I heard the staff chief engineer’s voice.
THE SMOKE IS DECREASING. WE CAN SEE THAT THERE IS NO FIRE, NO FIRE, ONLY SMOKE NOW ONLY SMOKE NOW.
CAPTAIN – OK, START COOLING DOWN THE AREA. CAN YOU REACH THE VENTILATION DOORS?
STAFF CHIEF – YES WE CAN SEE THEM NOW.
CAPTAIN – OK, LETS OPEN THE VENTILATION DOORS AND LET THE REMAINING SMOKE GET OUT.
STAFF CHIEF – OK, OPENING VENTILATION DOORS.
While I won’t say we all started singing “Oh, what a beautiful morning” on hearing this news, we all breathed a bit easier I think because the words “no fire, only smoke” brought huge dollops of relief to us all. You see until then we had no idea what was at the heart of all of this. Was the engine room a raging inferno or was it just a flameless fire? The only flames the squads had seen had been coming from the cabling but because the smoke was so thick we really had no idea what we would find.
So the captain had given the order to open ventilation doors which would help the smoke rise and pass all the way up and out of the ship and now I needed to tell the guests what was happening.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN – IT’S ME AGAIN AND I HAVE THE FIRST GOOD NEWS OF THE DAY. THE REPORTS FROM THE ENGINE ROOM ARE THAT THE SMOKE HAS BEGUN TO DISSIPATE AND THAT INSPECTIONS SHOW THAT THERE ARE NO FIRES. THE ONLY FIRE WAS ON SOME ELECTRICAL CABLING WHICH HAVE BEEN EXTINGUISHED.
THE CAPTAIN HAS ORDERED THE VENTILATION SHAFTS TO BE OPENED AND YOU MAY SEE SOME SMOKE COMING OUT OF THE FUNNEL AREA AND ON DECK 10. PLEASE DON’T WORRY, THIS IS THE REMAINING SMOKE FROM THE ENGINE ROOM WHICH IS BEING SUCKED OUT.
SO, HOW ARE YOU? ARE YOU OK? LET’S ALL TAKE A DEEP BREATH. WE ARE OK, WE ARE OK. PLEASE REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE AND WE WILL GET YOU BACK TO YOUR CABINS AND BACK TO BED AS SOON AS WE CAN.
CREW – PLEASE CONTINUE WITH THE GREAT JOB YOU ARE DOING.
And some 45 minutes after that announcement and after inspections of the guest corridors had shown that while the smell of smoke was still obvious in some areas, most of the smoke had gone, the captain gave the order for crew to leave their general emergency stations and that the guests could return if they wished to their cabins and that was me back on the PA system again.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN – THE CAPTAIN HAS GIVEN PERMISSION FOR YOU TO GO BACK TO YOUR STATEROOMS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING SO CALM AND UNDERSTANDING DURING THE PAST FEW HOURS. I WON’T DISTURB YOU WITH MORE ANNOUNCEMENTS UNLESS THERE IS SOMETHING YOU NEED TO KNOW.
I WOKE MOST OF YOU UP THIS MORNING AND MANY OF YOU HAVE BEEN CONCERENED AND POSSIBLY SCARED BUT THANKS TO OUR BRILLIANT CREW ALL IS WELL AND YOU CAN RETURN TO YOUR BEDS OR ENJOY THE MORNING SUNSHINE. CREW, THANK YOU ALL, YOU WERE WONDERFUL. PLEASE LEAVE YOUR GENERAL EMERGENCY STATIONS.
When I was 17 I truly believed that Sally Poole would want to have rumpy pumpy with me. She didn’t. She didn’t want to have rumpy pumpy with me so much that she told me I made her vomit. I was naive, I truly felt that she would want to see me naked and in the same way I truly believed that now the threat of fire had gone that we would start the engines and apart from maybe being a wee bit late into Puerto Vallarta that all would be well.
I didn’t realise that in many ways the worst was yet to come and that 45 minutes after telling the guests I wouldn’t disturb them over the PA system again…….I would make an announcement that would mark the start of 3 days that none of us would ever forget.
Join me again on Monday for part 5……Sunday needs to be a day of rest, and laundry, so instead I will be sharing a letter from one of the guests that was onboard the Carnival Splendor. I stayed in a hotel last night and the joy of a hot shower was beyond description and me and my dangly bits are clean once more.
By the way, just before I go, I wonder how the Cougars handled this whole thing. I wonder if they were still dressed as I saw them at the Captain’s Celebration earlier on Monday night. I am sure that when I made the announcement for all guests to go to the open decks that many grabbed what they had been wearing the night before and meant the Cougars were standing on the open decks at 7 am in the morning in miniskirts and you-know-what me shoes.
See you on Monday everyone and thank you all for the wonderful comments.
I had been on the bridge for four hours and on my feet for all of it. But a few moments after I had made the announcement that the smoke was dissapissatating and that the cables were no longer on fire my legs suddenly felt heavy and I realised I needed to take my Metmorphin diabetic pill and I needed to pee. And so excusing myself with the Captain who was back on the phone with the beards back in Miami I went down to my cabin. It would be the last time I would see it for the next 16 hours.
The reality of just how bad the situation was had not truly hit home because the bridge has lots of windows of course and the natural daylight had disguised the fact that where there were no windows…………..the ship was as dark as an Ed Wood movie.
I took my pill and checked my sugar level which was higher than normal because I had taken it later than usual and because stress has the same effect on sugar levels as Megan Fox’s bottom has on other parts of my body. I knew I had to get back to the bridge quickly so I went into the bathroom to pee and that’s when I realised that my state room steward Ketut was not going to enjoy cleaning my cabin. There are no windows in my bedroom or bathroom and although I was eventually on target the first few moments I was off the mark like Stevie Wonder shooting a three pointer……..sorry Ketut.
Seriously though the lack of lighting started the worry bells ringing in my head and then when I pressed the flush button and dint hear the usual sunction noise……………….I began to realise that this was far, far from over.
And so I went back to the bridge climbing the stairs from deck 5 to deck 8 and when I got there I was wheezing like an asthmatic hamster trying to pull an elephant on a skateboard. Again, I started to think if I was out of breath climbing three flights how were all the guests going to manage……………how were all the older guests and children going to manage. These thoughts were still diluted with the hope that the engineers would restore the power and everything would be ok but about 30 minutes later I knew I had to say something to the guests.
The Guest Services Desk had a line of people saying that their lights were not working and their toilets not flushing. So I went to the Captain who was on the phone still with the command centre and asked him to interrupt the conversation so we could have one that went like this:
JOHN: CAPTAIN, I AM GOING TO HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THE SERVICES ONBOARD, WE HAVE NO ELEVATORS, NO LIGHTS AND NO POWER AND MOST IMPORTANTLY FOR NOW…………THE TOILETS ARE NOT FLUSHING.
The Captain looked at me with tired blood shot eyes. Claudio is a handsome man and being an Italian man means he has won the lottery of life. Yet as I stood there looking at him I saw a man who was aging by the second. Obviously being fat and British still made him a thousand times better looking than me though.
CAPTAIN: LET ME SPEAK TO THE OFFICE, HOLD ON.
The Captain then related my concerns and asked for permission to do this which of course he got. I will say that even if the beards had said “no, wait and see what happens” I would have respectfully ignored them and done it anyway. I had promised from the start of this that I would tell the truth and I wasn’t going to stop now. But my colleagues in the command center agreed with me but the Captain wanted to do one more thing before I spoke to the guests.
CAPTAIN: JOHN, LET ME CHECK WITH THE CHIEF ENGINEER
The Captain then called on the Walkie Talkie to Chief Engineer Mario.
CAPTAIN: WHATS THE STORY WITH THE POWER AND THE TOILETS ETC
There was silence for a moment and then a voice that sounded like he was about to tell someone that a family member had been killed said “Captain, the main switchboard is finished………………. he paused…………… and then his voice cracking with emotion he said words I will never forget. I cannot give you anything………. nothing…………. no engines, no power…………… everything is finished………… finished…………. finished.”
I will never ever forget the fact that he said the word “finished” three times and each time he said his voice reached new levels of despair. This was his engine room and now it was a dead place, devoid of life and he was taking this very personally indeed.
And so I trudged over to the PA system again and made an announcement that in some ways was as difficult to make as any of the previous ones.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. WELL HERE I AM AGAIN AND LET ME START WITH THE GOOD NEWS. THE SHIP IS SAFE AND IN ABSOLUTELY NO JEOPARDY. YOU ARE SAFE. THERE HAVE BEEN NO INJURIES AT ALL AMONGST GUESTS AND CREW. WE HAVE ONE GUEST WHO WAS VERY WORRIED INDEED, AND OUR MEDICAL STAFF ARE TAKING CARE OF HER AS THEY WILL YOU IF YOU NEED.
NOW THE NOT SO GOOD NEWS IS THAT THIS INCIDENT HAS LEFT US WITH NO POWER. THIS MEANS WE HAVE NO LIGHTING, NO ELEVATORS, NO AIR CONDITIONING, NO PHONES AND THE TOILET SYSTEM IS NOT WORKING. I WILL ALWAYS BE HONEST WITH YOU, EVERYONE, AND I HAVE TO TELL YOU THAT THESE SERVICES WILL NOT BE QUICKLY RETURNED. OUR ENGINEERING TEAM IS WORKING HARD BUT AT THE MOMENT THE SITUATION DOWNSTAIRS IS COMPLICATED TO SAY THE LEAST. I WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE ANNOUNCEMENTS EVERY 30 MINUTES, EVEN IF THERE IS NO NEWS.
I KNOW THIS IS GOING TO BE DIFFICULT BUT LET’S NOT FORGET THE MOST IMPORTANT FACT……….. THE SHIP IS SAFE AND YOU ARE ALL SAFE AND FOR NOW………………. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS. I WILL BE BACK SOON.
Then over the next few hours the following things happened……………… and again excuse me for putting this in list form but it is the only way I will remember everything.
1. The Captain was informed by the command centre that the US Coastguard was sending a cutter which would arrive late that evening. I informed the guests of this and how important it was to feel reassured that they were on their way.
2. Approximately one hour after the announcement that the toilet system was not working our housekeeping manager Rudy called to say that people had used the public restrooms on decks 3,4,5 and 9 and that they were no longer in a fit state for public use. The Hotel Director, the Captain and I discussed this and it was decided that we should lock the public restrooms and that I should tell guests that they should have to use their own cabins. The announcement to do so went something like this:
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. AS YOU KNOW THE TOILETS ARE NOT WORKING AND BECAUSE THE PUBLIC RESTROOMS HAVE BEEN USED SO MUCH IT HAS BEEN DECIDED THAT WE SHOULD LOCK THEM AS THEY ARE BECOMING A HEALTH HAZZARD. PLEASE THEREFORE USE THE BATHRROMS IN YOUR CABINS. I KNOW THAT THIS MEANS WALKING UP AND DOWN STAIRS AGAIN AND THAT YOUR TOILETS ARE NOT WORKING EITHER AND I WISH I COULD WAVE A MAGIC WAND AND MAKE THINGS BETTER.
Now it was at the conclusion of this announcement that I decided that from now on, every announcement would include some kind of humour………I didn’t think this through at all and as my attempt at humour continued throughout the next few days I had no idea if it was appreciated by the guests but my heart told me I had to do this and therefore every time I spoke to the guests I would try to say something humourous…………..I still don’t know if they appreciated it or not, or if the majority of the guests were looking at the PA system and saying ” will you shut up you fat annoying bastard.”
And so my announcement carried on.
OUR ENGINEERS ARE AS I SAID WORKING HARD, ESPECIALLY WITH THE TOILET SYSTEM AS WE KNOW HOW IMPORTANT THIS BASIC NEED IS……………… AND LET ME TELL YOU OUR ENGINEERS ARE NUMBER ONE………. IN THE NUMBER TWO BUSINESS.
By the way, my apologies to the travel writer of the LA Times who wrote yesterday that my humour was “overboard.”
3. I spoke to my ACDs Stephanie and Marcello on the radio ( not having phones was becoming a royal pain in the arse) and asked them to get all the entertainment staff together and bring them to meet me at the bridge. They all arrived some puffing harder than others having climbed from deck 3 to deck 8. I thanked them for all they had done and encouraged them to walk the corridors and decks and just talk to people, make sure they were ok and if they needed anything to let me know. I was on the bridge……………..they were my eyes and ears.
4. At 10:45am our Food and Beverage Manager came to the bridge and myself, Duncan and Captain Cupisti had a conference because it was time to prepare dinner and with no power there would be no Mongolian Wok, no Burrito Bar, no Pizza, no Grill…………..in fact there would be no hot food at all.
And so I paged all 60 plus chefs and cooks to go to the galley and that’s when they set about making salads and sandwiches for 3299 people. Imagine someone calls you and says “hey Mrs Smith, me and 8 friends will be round in 30 minutes, make us a few sandwiches each would you dear.”
And now imagine telling the Chef that he needed to make at least 9,000 sandwiches and had an hour to do so. First of all he had to get the stores from deck 0 to the galley on deck 4……………with no elevators. Then he had to decide what he could put in the sandwiches and then make 7000 of the buggers. This figure is based on each guest taking two each plus feeding 1200 as well. The Chef was as you can imagine was a wee bit stressed.
It took a long time to make these sandwiches and when they were finally ready to be put out it was 12:45am and everyone was very, very hungry. Now the galley is on deck 4 and it made no sense to have to carry them all the way to deck 9 and the lido service areas. This proved to be a big mistake on our part as the lines were horrendous and so much so that I had to apologise and explain the complications of the service and I promised we would do better at dinner time because like the idiot, hope sprang eternal that we would have power for dinner and that everyone would be feasting on chocolate melting cake.
Yep………….the reports you heard about lines for food on that Monday lunchtime are absolutely true. We acted on the fly and although the Chef did an amazing job in preparing them our decision not to open the Lido for lunch was a huge mistake…………..but we would get better. And oh yes,
I will talk about food again in part 239.
I had a problem of my own though because I had missed both breakfast and lunch and my sugar levels were now lower than Paris Hilton’s underwear. I knew this because my hands were shaking and my head was pounding………..sure signs of low sugar. The only time I had felt like this and it wasn’t because of low blood sugar levels was after the bollocking my wife Heidi had given me when she caught me looking at http://www.latvianwomeninstockingsandsuspenders.com.
Yet how was I going to ask for a sandwich when none of the crew had been fed yet. Luckily I found one stick of Twix on the bridge and I am here to admit…………… I stole it. I have no idea who it belonged to and if that person is reading this……… it was me………… I am the thief………….. I was too shy to ask but if I hadn’t eaten it…………. there would have been 260 pounds of British beef on the floor.
It was by the way 2:00pm before we fed the crew and not a single one of them complained. We eventually got sandwiches on the bridge as well at 2:30pm because the Captain insisted that he would not eat until the crew had.
There were lots of decisions to make that Monday afternoon. Some were made between us onboard and some were made by the Miami command centre and yet the one thing we were all waiting for was the one from the Chief Engineer and at 4:15pm he came to the bridge to tell us in person.
His face was as black as coal and his once white overalls looked like they had been washed in a pool of oil and dust. But I will never forget his head. Marco has a wonderful hairless head which now had blue veins pulsating out of it, a true sign of the stress he had been through.
He took the Captain to one side of the bridge and they had a discussion with their backs to Duncan and I. Whatever the Chief Engineer had told the Captain suddenly caused the stress and pent up emotion and the enormous responsibility that had been weighing down on Captain Cupisti’s shoulders, just for a moment got the better of him…………. because he picked up a stool and flung it with all his might against the closet where the ships charts are kept. I watched as one of piece broke off and bounced towards me. Silence ruled the bridge.
We all watched and waited while the Captain stood…………… head bowed. He then turned and picked up the stool, apologizing to all of us in both English and Italian.
He then went and spoke again on the emergency phone to the command centre and we all knew why it wasn’t a good time to be a piece of bridge furniture. The Chief had confirmed that we had no possible way of restoring power to the engines. If we were going to move it wouldn’t be under our own power……………… we needed help………………. and quickly.
It seemed appropriate that as the Captain got off the phone to confirm what was happening that the sun began to set and darkness began to envelop the ship. The command centre had ordered two tugs to come to the vessel and they would tow us like unceremoniously into Ensenada, Mexico where we would arrive sometime late on Wednesday.
The tugs would be here in the wee small hours of the morning and I was going to have to tell the guests.
As I made my way back to the sodding PA system, I picked up the bit that had fallen off the stool after it’s impact with the chart cupboard. I tapped the Captain on the shoulder and placed it in his hand.
“What’s that?” asked the Captain.
I looked at him and said “It’s a stool sample.”
He smiled for the first time in many many hours and job done there……. I went to tell the guests that help was on the way but that tonight was going to be challenging for us all.
Join me tomorrow for the final part of Smoke On The Water.
PS – I am here in the UK. I didn’t want to make a big song and dance about flying home because I feel very guilty that I have left the Carnival Splendor as she is. But, I needed to come home because I feel totally washed out. I will be back in the States at the end of the month to film a piece at St Jude Children’s Hospital and for meetings about the Bloggers cruise number 4. It feels wonderful to be home and being with the girls is just what I needed……. although my wife thought it would be bloody hilarious if instead of the Steak and onions I had asked for……….she would serve me something else.
I sat on the floor of the bridge at 9:30 pm bathed in the glowing emergency red lights that illuminated me like some fat and extremely ugly Amsterdam hooker. My head was pounding and my legs ached. I felt absolutely shattered and I couldn’t help but remember something I had read recently that said that stress has overtaken the common cold as the main reason for taking time off work. I was certainly stressed for obvious reasons and because I hadn’t spoken to Heidi all day and I knew right now she would be very worried indeed.
I am lucky enough to be able to be able to call home every day, sometimes twice a day and because I hadn’t and because it was already 2:30 am back home…..Heidi would be panicking. There was no way for me or any of the guests to contact the outside world and the one emergency phone was constantly open to the command centre. My only hope was that Heidi would have called the office and someone would have told her what was happening and that I was OK.
I was waiting to make my last announcement of the night and I suddenly remember feeling angry. I never get angry, really I don’t. Yet as I sat there nursing the cramp in my legs I distinctly remember feeling so mad. Mad at myself for getting diabetes and mad at myself for the things I should have said on the PA system and for the things I had said but probably shouldn’t have.
But I had to calm down and quickly as I had a big announcement to make and as I sit here in my underpants I remember thinking of people who had handled real stress and to put that into the perspective of what I was doing now. The Chilean miners for example or my grandfather who I never met who went marching off to war armed with a hipflask and a prayer and died somewhere in France. These days being stuck in a traffic jam seems to be an excuse to reach for the Prozac.
But as I sat there on the hard deck I realised what was not helping relive my stress was the fact that I had nobody to confide in, nobody to talk to. I depend on Heidi for this either in person or via the phone but now…..I had nobody…….I could only imagine how the captain felt. Successful people have a history of being able to cope. It’s important in life that you have people in your life that you can confide in when you need them most and as 10 pm came ever closer I had to force myself to not allow stress to become distress.
So, I tried to think of calming thoughts. Kye’s smile……..Megan’s bottom…..the fact that I’m not French …….and then it was time to tell the guests the news and not much of it was good. Here is what I said minus the jokes because I honestly can’t remember what silly stuff I said. I know I tried to intersperse the serious with the ridiculous but for now…….here is what the major points of the announcement were all about.
GOOD EVENING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. WELL IT’S BEEN QUITE A DAY HASN’T IT? I AM SURE MANY OF YOU ARE OFF TO BED NOW SO BEFORE YOU DO LET ME TELL YOU THE LATEST NEWS.
WE HAD A SMALL FLARE UP OF A CABLE EARLIER TODAY. THIS IS THE THIRD TIME THIS HAS HAPPENED AND IT WAS QUICKLY EXTINGUISHED. WE HAVE A CONSTANT FIRE SQUAD PRESCENCE THERE AS WELL. SINCE THEN THERE HAVE BEEN NO FURTHER INCIDENTS AND THE SHIP AND HER GUESTS AND CREW REMAIN SAFE AND THERE HAVE BEEN NO INJURIES.
HOWEVER, WE REMAIN WITHOUT THE BASIC SERVICES. WE HAVE NO AIR CONDITIONING, NO LIGHTING OUTSIDE OF THE EMERGENCY LOW LEVEL LIGHTING. THE ELEVATORS DO NOT WORK AND WE HAVE NO POWER WHICH MEANS NO HOT FOOD, NOT HOT DRINKS, NO SHOWS AND OF COURSE PROBABLY MOST IMPORTANTLY………NO TOILETS. WE HAVE HAD TO LOCK THE PUBLIC BATHROOMS AS THEY ARE NOT IN A FIT STATE TO BE USED AS YOU CAN IMAGINE AND OUR ENGINEERING TEAM CONTINUE TO MAKE REPAIRING THE VACUM TOILET SYSTEM A MAJOR PRIORITY.
NOW OF COURSE NO POWER MEANS NO PROPULSION AND WE CONTINUE TO REMAIN DEAD IN THE WATER. HOWEVER HELP IS ON THE WAY. DURING THE NIGHT THERE WILL BE TWO TUGS ON THEIR WAY TO THE SHIP AND THEY WILL ARRIVE EARLY TOMORROW MORNING. THEY WILL THEN TOW THE SHIP TO ENSENADA, MEXICO WHERE WE SHOULD ARRIVE LATE WEDNESDAY. WE WILL ALSO BE JOINED BY A UNITED STATES COAST GUARD CUTTER WHO WILL ESCORT US ON OUR JOURNEY.
ONCE IN ENCHILADA (I DO REMEMBER SAYING THAT) CARNIVAL WILL ARRANGE TRANSPORTATION HOME FOR EACH AND EVERY GUEST.
NOW SOME OF YOU HAVE BEEN TO THE GUEST SERVICES DESK FOR MORE INFORMATION AND PLEASE MAY I SUGGEST YOU DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME DOING THAT. ALL CURRENT INFORMATION WILL COME TO ME FIRST AND THEN I WILL LET YOU KNOW OVER THE PA SYSTEM IMMEDIATELY.
Now, just before I continue to tell you about the announcement I need to explain something. At this point (Monday night) no conversation had been had with the beards in Miami about what compensation we would be giving the guests as there were far more important factors to consider. Yet we had 150 plus guests who had gone to the guest services desk whose main focus seemed to be what compensation they were going to receive. And of course I was sure this was a major topic of conversation around the ship as well.
So what I was about to say next was one of the things that had been silently building my stress levels up and my sugar levels, as well. But I had made a decision to go ahead with this and based it on the fact that I had the utmost faith that Gerry Cahill our president and CEO and his team would do the right thing and that by me saying so would help calm the guests somewhat as well. And so the announcement continued.
IT WOULD BE SILLY OF ME NOT TO THINK THAT MANY OF YOU ARE ANGRY AT WHAT HAS HAPPENED AND I CAN TOTALLY UNDERSTAND WHY. YOU HAVE BEEN SCARED TODAY AND NOW WE ARE ASKING YOU TO LIVE IN WHAT ARE QUITE HONESTLY CHALLENGING AND UNCOMFORTABLE CONDITIONS.
ALL I CAN SAY IS THAT HOW SORRY I AM AND HOW WONDERFUL YOU HAVE ALL BEEN. I CAN PROMISE YOU THAT CARNIVAL WILL LOOK AFTER YOU AND TAKE CARE OF YOU. FOR NOW THOUGH THE FOCUS IS ON GETTING THE SHIP BACK TO PORT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
TONIGHT WILL BE DIFFICULT. IT WILL BE DARK AND THE PHONES WILL NOT BE WORKING. WE HAVE THEREFORE STATIONED MULTIPLE CREW ALONG EVERY GUEST CORIDDOR SO PLEASE, IF YOU NEED ANYTHING…….ANYTHING AT ALL, LET THEM KNOW. I WILL REMAIN ON THE BRIDGE ALL NIGHT SO IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION THEY CANT ASK JUST HAVE THEM CONTACT ME ON THE WALKIE TALKIE.
PLEASE TRY AND GET A GOODNIGHT’S SLEEP AND WHEN YOU WAKE UP TOMORROW WE SHOULD BE AT THE START OF OUR JOURNEY HOME. NOW, IF YOU WILL EXCUSE ME I JUST WANT A QUICK CHAT WITH THE CREW.
HELLO CREW……..I HOPE YOU ALL KNOW HOW PROUD WE ARE OF YOU AND ON BEHALF OF THE CAPTAIN I WANT TO TELL YOU THAT YOU HAVE ALL BEEN BRILLIANT. I KNOW WE CAN COUNT ON YOU ALL TO CONTINUE TO LOOK AFTER THE GUESTS AND EACH OTHER. GET SOME SLEEP TONIGHT AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WORKING THE NIGHT SHIFT PLEASE LET ME KNOW ON CHANNEL 7 IF YOU NEED ANYTHING LET ME KNOW.
SO TO ALL OF YOU FROM ALL OF US……………SLEEP WELL EVERYONE BECAUSE WE ARE ALL SAFE AND SOUND.
And that was that and I literally slumped back to the floor and started nibbling on a sandwich. I had no idea how the guests had taken that announcement. Was I helping them or was I just getting on their nerves? I had no sodding idea and I hated that. And although I had faith in my bosses back in Miami……had I been presumptuous in saying suggesting Carnival would take care of them?
During the night, while the passengers slept as did most of the crew (more on that later) the engineering team continued to work hard and the bridge remained a flurry of activity as they prepared for the arrival of the tug. Me…….well I just sat there and closed my eyes but as tired as I was, sleep avoided me like girls avoided me throughout most of my life.
It was then at 1:30 am that I had to do what I had been trying to hold off since about 2 pm the previous afternoon. And so I walked off the bridge back to my cabin. There is a bathroom on the bridge which considering 20 plus men had been peeing in it for the last 15 hours without being able to flush….. Smelled really bad. In fact there was a sublime moment as I stood and peed that I will never forget. I had my thingy in one hand, a flashlight in the other and the smell was overbearing. The stench was truly dreadful and trying not to think about it I started to sing ……. and sing really really loud.
I love Paris in the spring time
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
I love Paris, why oh why do I love Paris
Because my love is here
And when I came out of the bathroom………..all the officers and sailors applauded.
But now I needed to do poo and on my to way deck 5, goodness me did I get a shock. First off all the realisation of just how dark the ship was extraordinary and then I saw something else which I had not been prepared for. The main theater which on the Carnival Splendor is called the Spectacular Lounge was full of crew sleeping. There must have been 200 in there with pillows and blankets. Others were sitting in groups talking softly while others were playing dominoes.
You see, while most of the guest cabins had balconies or were larger and were in areas above the water line; many of the crew had cabins below the water line and having felt how hot my deck 5 cabin was I could only imagine how warm the ones on decks A and B were. I also think that the crew had made this area a meeting point for themselves as well. It had become a place to talk about their feelings………….. and maybe their fears.
There were a few guests who slept on deck 9 with their duvets, etc. I took a quick walk up there and saw maybe a hundred or so. I am sure most of these were from the aft section of the ship where there was still a definite aroma of smoke. It was quite chilly though and I had the sudden inspiration to close the retractable roof and was on my way back to the bridge to ask them to do so when I realised we had no power so how the sodding hell were we supposed to close it then John you bloody idiot.
I returned to the bridge where I took my position by the command centre phone and waited for daybreak and the sight of the two tugs that would tow us to the promise land of hot food, hot water, coffee and toilets that didn’t have breakfast, lunch and dinner floating in them.
At 4:15 am I gave in. My eyes had bags big enough for Rosanne Barr to use them as hammocks and I knew that if I were to function properly the next day I would have to go to sleep.
I told the captain I would be back in an hour and that I would have the walkie talkie with me. The cabin was probably 80 degrees but I didn’t care. I flung myself on the bed and the moment I did I was gone……………..it was bliss.
Luckily I had realised I might be in a heavy slumber and worried that I might become Rip Van Heald I had turned the walkie talkie volume to the top and placed it next to my ear. It was a good thing because at 6:20am I was woken by an Italian talking in my ear………….something many women dream about of course.
1ST OFFICER: JOHN DO YOU COPY?
JOHN: UMMMM YES
1ST OFFICER: WERE YOU SLEEPING?
JOHN: NO OF COURSE NOT, I WAS DOING YOGA AND IN THE DOWNWARD CROUCHING YAK POSITION.
1ST OFFICER: COME TO THE BRIDGE PLEASE
I walked slowly up the stairs from deck 5 to deck 8 and while doing so I felt that this had to be good news. Maybe the chief engineer had managed to re start the engines and we would be back in Long Beach in time for lunch at Hooters. But my hopes of chicken wings and breasts were dashed as soon as I saw the captain’s face. Someone had definitely taken the jam out of his doughnut I thought. And I was right……….someone had.
CAPTAIN: ONE OF THE TUGS HAD TO TURN BACK BECAUSE OF ENGINE PROBLEMS. THE OTHER TUG WON’T BE HERE UNTIL 10 AM.
JOHN: ARE WE STILL ARRIVING ON WEDNESDAY?
CAPTAIN: NO, DURING THE NIGHT WE DRIFTED WITH THE CURRENT ABOUT 60 MILES AND WITH ONLY ONE TUG AND DEPENDANT ON WEATHER CONDITIONS WE WONT ARRIVE UNTIL THURSDAY
JOHN: OH, FOR F**K’S SAKE
This was going to be a body blow to the guests who had like me thought “OK, one more day and we can get through this.” But that one more day was now 2 more days.
I looked out to sea. The weather couldn’t make its mind up what it wanted to do. It wasn’t raining but it looked like it really wanted to. I looked at the captain. He didn’t say anything and I had nothing to say either. We both knew what each other was thinking, words therefore were unnecessary.
A few minutes later I was back in the cabin and decided to take a shower. Now I am not one for personal grooming and I have documented here on my blog thingy many times that if you were to open my bathroom cabinet you would find soap on a rope and hemorrhoid cream. But I do love hot showers. They are a wonderful place to escape the phone the guests and the raspberry. It’s just me and my Head and Shoulders.
But of course we had no hot water and if I hadn’t smelled like an elephant’s scrotum I probably wouldn’t have had one. But I did and here I am to tell you that as I washed myself with freezing cold water I tried to take my mind of what had happened and what was going to happen so I thought of Kye and Heidi who were at home and who were no doubt concerned. I hadn’t been able to call them and suddenly under those jets of icy water I felt another stream of water running down my cheeks.
GOOD MORNING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. IT’S 9 AM AND I HOPE YOU MANAGED TO GET SOME SLEEP. I MANAGED AN HOUR DURING WHICH I HAD AN EROTIC DREAM ABOUT CRISPY BACON……….LOTS OF CRISPY BACON………AND TOAST ………. AND EGGS OVEREASY AND……………..PAUSE FOR HEAVY BREATHING.
WELL I HAVE SOME VERY IMPORTANT NEWS AND IT’S THE NEWS YOU HAVE ALL BEEN WANTING TO KNOW………..KURT WARNER WAS ELIMINATED FROM DANCING WITH THE STARS.
WELL, THERE IS OTHER NEWS AND I AM SORRY TO SAY THAT ONE OF THE TUGS THAT WAS DUE TO ARRIVE THIS MORNING HAD TO ABORT THE MISSION DUE TO ENGINE PROBLEMS. THE OTHER TUG WILL ARRIVE HERE SHORTLY . NOW BECAUSE WE ARE DOWN TO ONE TUG FOR NOW AND BECAUSE WE DRIFTED 60 MILES YESTERDAY IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO GIVE YOU AN EXACT ARRIVAL TIME BUT UNFORTUNATELY IT WILL BE SOMETIME LATE ON THURSDAY.
CARNIVAL WILL MAKE SURE THAT WE PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION FOR ALL OUR GUESTS REGARDLESS OF IF YOU BOOKED YOUR RETURN FLIGHT THROUGH CARNIVAL AND ALL TRANSPORTATION COSTS WILL BE REFUNDED. THIS I KNOW IS A HUGE BLOW FOR EVERYONE BUT LETS ALL STAY AS POSITIVE AS WE CAN AND AS ALWAYS I REMAIN HERE TO BE YOUR EYES AND EARS AS TO WHAT IS HAPPENING. BY THE WAY…..IF ANYONE HAS UNDERPANTS WITH TWO OR MORE X’S ON THE LABEL………….CAN I BORROW SOME……………MEN’S …… WOMEN’S ……. DOESN’T MATTER.
By the way……….just an FYI……..five guests dropped underpants off at the guest services desk …………..and one …………….and yes I swear this is true…………..was a ladies pair. Who knew they made G Strings that big?
And so now we come to the part of the story where I am going to change tact. I realise this is one heck of a long thingy but there is so much more to cover. Over the next two days lots of things happened so rather than flip flop between them I am going to address the subjects that I feel need to be heard about what happened onboard. I have seen and read the breaking news as Channel 7 presents “Ship of death and take us live to San Diego as passengers get off ‘the cruise from hell’” before cutting to a story about a jet skiing dog.
There has been some truth and loads of bollocks written and rumoured and so I want to take you through what life was like onboard and what did and didn’t happen. They are in no particular order and I have included any mistakes I feel I have made and how God forbid if we ever had to go through this again…………how we could improve.
So, you may want to put the kettle on and make a cuppa tea first because ………..here we go.
Well let’s start with one of the heroes and when I first heard the name of the tug that was allegedly coming to our rescue I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or vomit. That’s because as has been well documented………….the name of the tug was the Chihuahua…..named after the smallest dog………in the world. After all we had been through they sent the Chihuahua. Hearing this news was like hearing Mel Gibson is coming to your son’s bar mitzvah. How the heck was she going to pull the Carnival Splendor, 3,299 guests and 1,200 crew? Maybe when she arrived she would look more like a Rottweiler than…..and with apologies to Chihuahua owners ….. a rat.
10 pm arrived and the decks were packed with people wanting to see the massive titan of a vessel that was going to tow us to San Diego. Well, when she arrived I am sure 3,299 guests, 1,198 crew, one Italian captain and one fat British cruise director all probably said in unison…..”Oh ….. my….God.” And as my ex-girlfriend Sarah once said “It’s tiny, how is that going to get the job done?”
As she sat under the bow she dwarfed by the ship. I gave her as much hope of pulling the 113,000-ton Carnival Splendor as a stray Chihuahua dog has of survival after falling asleep outside a Korean restaurant. But I was wrong. After a lengthy hook up procedure the little Chihuahua started to pull and once she got pulled us as easily as pulling a greased stick out of a pig’s bottom. She was simply brilliant and without her and her captain and crew we would…. well who knows. So just in case her captain and crew are reading this let me say a huge “grasyarse” (spelt correctly) because your little Chihuahua became a pack of sleigh dogs and pulled us all the way home. On Wednesday morning we were joined by another tug. I have no idea what she was called because I told the guests her name was the “Shitzu”……and our thanks to her captain and crew, as well.
2. United States Coast Guard
What a fantastic sight it was on Tuesday morning when a 150-foot USCG cutter appeared on our portside. I think I speak for everyone when I say that seeing them gave everyone a lift in spirits. They were there to look after us and to chaperon us all the way to San Diego. While most of us think of the ocean as a place to relax on or eat out of or swim in, thousands of men and women from the United States Coast Guard will board their boats and helicopters, knowing that they may face huge waves, blizzards, gales and sub-zero temperatures. Lives will be saved. When they have finished, they will go home and wait until the next call-out. Remarkably, these men and women will not be expecting public recognition for their bravery. But then, as one of the young lieutenants I met on the Carnival Splendor told me……..”We are not in it for the glory.”
We often talk about the armed services but as often as we do we fail to remember the USCG. Well that didn’t happen last week because as the small boat carrying a dozen U.S. Coast Guard personnel arrived on the port aft of the ship…….a huge cheer (instigated a bit by me) went up for them as they boarded. They were there to advise and to help and their presence and that of the their ship which stayed by our side gave all the guests a wonderful secure feeling. When we arrived back in San Diego I made a few announcements over the PA system thanking many different groups of people……one of the loudest cheers was for them. And as I sit here writing this …………..I am giving them another huge cheer now.
3. United States Navy
If seeing the United States Coast Guard cutter was an awesome sight then having the USS Ronald Regan aircraft carrier 200 meters off the port bow was a sight of biblical proportions. We had been told that a ship from the US Navy was on its way to help us with some supplies and to make sure everything was OK but nothing prepared us for the awesome sight of the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered super carrier. Their crew seemed as interested in us as we all were with them as they lined the decks taking photos of the stricken cruise ship as we in turn took photos of the ship and her crew that has seen much more serious action than their current mission. In the next few days I will be posting some photos of my experiences these past few days and the ones of this ship and her crew will steal that particular show for sure. They of course helped with the transportation of 20 pallets of food and provisions sent by the home office and we all owe the captain and her crew so very much………not just for the day they spent with us………….but for so much more.
4. Toilets and Living Conditions
Well here we go then and let me start by saying that there is no doubt that the living conditions aboard the Carnival Splendor were challenging in many different ways. Obviously the first thing I need to talk about here are the toilets which for all of Monday and the wee hours of Tuesday didn’t flush. And when toilets don’t flush…….they smell. There is no reason to hide this fact because that would be just silly. The stateroom stewards worked so hard to use chemicals to make things better but there is only so much you can do. The toilet system works with EVAC suction. There are 5 units which power the toilets throughout the vessel and with no power….. they simply don’t work. So yes, Monday and Tuesday were very difficult days and all the reports you have read in the press are true with the exception of one person who told Fox News that there were bags filled with vomit lining the corridors. That is a lie. The end.
As I have mentioned before the engineers were making the return of the toilet service one of their main priorities and when they realised that getting propulsion back was not going to be possible Chief Mario and his team worked on the EVAC system. It was 1 am on Tuesday when I got a call from Duncan the hotel director who by the way was totally brilliant throughout this whole situation. Duncan is from the UK and so our conversation was ummmm……very British.
DUNCAN: JOHN, GREAT NEWS AND NOT SO GREAT NEWS. I AM WITH THE CHIEF AND HE HAS MANAGED TO DIVERT POWER FROM THE EMERGENCY GENERATOR TO THE TOILET SYSTEM AND THEY WILL NOW WORK.
JOHN: THAT’S BRILLIANT NEWS MATE – I WILL TELL THE GUESTS NOW
DUNCAN: HOLD ON THEIR JOHNNY BOY – ONLY EVAC 1, 2, 3 AND 4 ARE WORKING – NUMBER 5 IS TOTALLY WANKERED (MEANS KAPUT, BROKEN ETC)
JOHN: THAT’S THE AFT SECTION RIGHT?
DUNCAN: YES…….LET’S MAKE AN ANNOUNCEMENT TELLING THE GUESTS ON THE FORWARD AND MIDDLE SECTION THAT THEIR STATEROOM STEWARDS ARE NOW FLUSHING THE TOILETS AND THAT WE SUGGEST TO THE AFT SECTION THAT THEY USE THE PUBLIC BATHROOMS ON DECKS 3,4,5,9 AND 10 AND 11 AND ASK THE GUESTS WHOSE TOILETS ARE WORKING NOT TO USE THE PUBLIC BATHROOMS.
JOHN: OK MATE
And that’s exactly what I did and it was a difficult announcement to make. Telling the majority of guests that their toilets were working again was tainted by having to tell 200 cabins that theirs were not and to use the public restrooms. The cabins in the aft section were in the same area where the fire was located and so they definitely got the worst of it for sure. The engineers miraculously got EVAC 5 working and that meant all of the toilets were now working. But there is no doubt that when they were not it was very unpleasant indeed and for that I am so very sorry.
Living conditions on a whole were as I said challenging. Walking the stairs was for some people extraordinarily difficult, myself included. Living in an inside cabin in the dark must have been hard. Luckily the outside temperature was not so high but even at 75 degrees, not having air conditioning left everyone feeling hot and sticky with only the thought of a freezing cold shower to look forward to. Obviously there was no power which meant no shows but that didn’t stop my team putting together all day activities which they did through a bull horn. There were trivia contests and games and scavenger hunts and dance classes and the musicians all put on acoustic performances which I am told everyone really enjoyed. I was very proud of my team and I owe them a lot. Overall I think its fare to say that the day time was fine but at night…….well that was the time when I think guests really just couldn’t wait to get to land……..and who can blame them?
The chef and his team under the management of Renil, our F&B manager, and Duncan, the hotel director, somehow managed to feed 3,299 people and 1,200 crew under the most extreme circumstances. We had no power which meant of course no hot food so the 80 chefs complimented by the waiters made sandwiches and salads morning, noon and night. Some sandwiches were very good indeed and some were not. But they could only work with what they had and considering what they had was limited at best…….well I think they did a marvelous job. We had no power to the freezers which meant so much food was spoiled and how sad it was to learn that hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of food was written off as spoilage. I read a report on CNN that said we served mayonnaise sandwiches which is not correct.
The fact that they managed to give the variety of cold food that they did was stunning and I salute their work and endeavors. However……I must say that I would rather eat boiled yak thingy ……. than ever have to eat a sandwich again. Subway my arse.
When I was at school I loved Spam. It was offered every day and on Friday things got really exciting as it was offered……in batter. Spam was so popular Monty Python wrote a song about it which I used to sing while standing in line to order Spam for lunch……..Spam was part of my world and I embraced it with open arms.
Now I am older, I hate Spam and if someone put it in front of me just the smell would make me feel sick.
I guess my hatred for this mystery of meats must have been shared by some boffin who when the Internet was invented decided to call all the crap and unwanted e-mails that nobody wants “Spam” and when I returned home from not having any internet on the Carnival Splendor my inbox was full of the bloody stuff.
Now, I am supposed to have a filter thingy for my Yahoo account but it filters bugger all and today when I checked my e-mail I had 56 slices of Spam.
This morning when I logged on to my computer, my inbox was stuffed to overflowing with messages, none of which ever has anything to do with work or messages from friends. Most are from companies offering me Viagra and loans to pay for it. Then there are e-mails from someone I’ve never met telling me that they had sex last night with someone called Melissa.
I also was threatened with violence today by one of those awful e-mails that states that if you don’t forward it on to at least 10 people you will get the bubonic plague…and die. Today’s such threat came in the form of a beautiful waterfall and beneath it a poem about love for your fellow mankind and how we must all embrace our fellow man … then in small print at the bottom were some words telling me that if I didn’t forward this e-mail than I was a complete and utter scum with no more right to live on God’s green earth than a dung beetle……who writes these things?
Anyway the press has made a huge fuss about Spam. Let me confirm that we ordered cold cuts and amongst the baloney, corned beef, pastrami and ham they also sent us Spam. It was never served to guests or to crew and those who said it was are misinformed.
I felt so sorry for the kids. They had been looking forward to pools and slides and fun and games and sand and beaches and swimming and fun. They got very little of any of that. On Monday when the fire broke out everything was happening and I didn’t have chance to think about the kids. But on Monday I opened Camp Carnival, Circle C and Club O2. Yes they were warm and yet just getting the kids playing and keeping them occupied really helped I think and the youth director and her team were fantastic. I also asked the chef if we could feed the kids there rather than have them stand in line. He agreed of course and this really helped although their constant requests for nuggets, pizza and fries made us all feel so sorry for them. While Mum and Dad understood what was happening a four year old doesn’t and that must have been so difficult for the parents to explain. I have to admit that I was giving silent thanks that Heidi and Kye and disembarked a few weeks before all of this happened.
8. The Bars
As soon as the fire was out and the guests allowed to return to their cabins we opened the bars for complimentary sodas and water but no alcohol was served. At that time we had no idea what was going to happen next and if later that day another fire had broken out and we had to put guests at their muster stations the last thing we want is hundreds of people sponsored by free Bud Light. However, once the ship was under tow we made the decision to open the bars on a complimentary basis. And they remained free until we arrived into San Diego. Amazingly we didn’t have any incidents with excessive drinking. Yes, there were some happy people for sure but I think in the back of everyone’s mind was that they to didn’t know what was going to happen next and therefore were pretty responsible.
9. Other Free Stuff
Well I had made plenty of announcements that contained bad news so when I got to tell the guests that they were all getting a full refund, a free cruise to the value that they had paid for the one they were on and a full refund on all transportation costs and that Carnival would provide all guests that needed a hotel on Thursday night with a complimentary room……..well even I could hear the cheers and applause from the bridge.
All Sail & Sign purchases from the very start of the cruise were also waived and the man that bought a Tag Heuer watch from the gift shop must have been one very happy chappy indeed. Carnival didn’t sing its own praises about this but I will…….because it is a very generous thing to have done. The only person who is upset is a certain guest who wrote me a letter that on Sunday night his wife had seen a diamond ring in the gift shop for $2,100. He was going to buy it but his wife said she wanted to look in Mexico first…………oops.
Well there is no doubt that as a CD I learned a lot from this experience and as a company I think we learned a lot as well. Obviously as I don’t have a beard I can’t speculate as to what caused this to happen but in time we will all know and this knowledge will help the tofu eaters makes sure it doesn’t happen again and if it does they can find ways to make sure our number two’s disappear when we press the button.
As for other mistakes, well we realised we had made a huge one when we only opened the dining room for lunch and dinner on Monday. This caused Harry Potteresque lines and that caused people to get grumpy. This was a big mistake and one we rectified for all the meals the next day.
There was also mention in the press that I didn’t mention the word fire. Well they are right and wrong. If you remember part one of my memoirs you will remember that the initial reports were that the fire teams could only see smoke………there were no flames. And that was the message I conveyed to the guests. The first time I mentioned the word fire was when the cabling ignited. Maybe some people found this misleading for which I apologise but I was only trying to provide the guests with the facts and not to expand on them or speculate as to what might be.
There are other areas for discussion for sure. Should I have told the guests to bring their life jackets with them when I asked them to move to the open decks? The crew were in theirs after all. Ultimately, they didn’t need them but should I have insisted? I am still second guessing myself over this. As I mentioned, it was very dark with no lighting. Does this mean we should suggest to guests to have a flashlight with them when they come on the cruise? I want to be open and honest here but honestly, I think for the most part everybody, both on board and shore side handled the situation brilliantly.
There were guests that had specific challenges, such as having no power for PAP sleeping machines. There was little we could do about that but we need to look at ways that we can improve here. I read some comments about people worried about medicine, such as insulin, which needs to be refrigerated. I want to insure you that while the cabin refrigerators were not working, the one in the medical centre was supplied by the emergency generator. This meant that we were able to store guest’s medicines for them. If you were on the cruise and you saw something that you feel we could have done better, please let me know.
From the moment the fire alarm sounded to the helping the last guests ashore with their luggage, the crew were epic. I saw a 20 year old dancer carrying a suitcase from deck 7 all the way to deck 0 and then she went back to do it again. I saw a line of 50 food and beverage employees form a human chain to supply lido deck with food from the stairs on deck 3 all the way up to deck 9. I saw 4 photographers carry a lady in a wheelchair from her cabin to breakfast, lunch and dinner and I saw spa therapists patrol the corridors at night to make sure everyone was OK. I saw staff members handing out medallions and trophies to children telling them they had won the “Brave Award” and I saw every single crew member give their all. In my 24 years at sea I have never been in a situation like this and I have never, ever been so proud to be part of a team as brilliant and as historic as the Carnival Splendor crew.
Yes, there are those who said they will never cruise again and referred to their 4 days on board as “hell.” But I am sure this was a kneejerk reaction and probably one experience by mostly first time cruisers. I hope they take advantage of the free cruise so they can truly experience what we all know to be the most fun vacation in the world. But overall, the guests were fantastic. They understood, they listened and they were kind to the crew. They were also thankful, I think, to the way they were treated both on board and by the way our shore side team looked after them both with compensation and care.
When I told the guests we would arrive into San Diego earlier than expected there were huge cheers but as they left, people looked up to the bridge and waved and cheered and some blew kisses and some shed tears. It was an emotional time for everyone. A mixture of worry, uncertainty and adventure. I want to take this opportunity to thank those who sailed on the cruise of November 7 and I hope that you will book your complimentary cruise soon and I hope that I am lucky enough to be the cruise director when you do. I have a Bloggers Cruise on February the 27 on the Carnival Glory. Book that one and you get a free sandwich.
As you can see, today we announced the cancellation of a number of cruises and this will leave many very, very disappointed, for which I send my heartfelt apologies. It is my intention now to join the Carnival Splendor for one week on her first cruise back in service. I feel like there is unfinished business there, so I intend to be her cruise director for that first week back, maybe some of you will join me.
The press were looking for a story, a story of hundreds of angry guests spitting venom towards Carnival Cruise Lines but the only story they could find was Spam and that’s because Carnival, the world’s most popular cruise line, did the right thing. It’s 4 days I will never forget and these memoirs have attracted close to 400,000 views on the blog in the last few days with a over 8 million views overall. I appreciate everyone taking the time to read my musings. Tomorrow, I will take a day off and on Thursday will return with a regular blog about life and the Fun For All cruising so hopefully some will stay with me.
During the fire I did my best, I did my very best to keep people calm, informed and in good spirits. I have no idea if I succeeded but hopefully I did. I can tell you I was scared and worried and through it all, all I could think about was my wife and daughter and how scared and worried they must have been but the ship arrived safe and there were no injuries and nothing else matters.
I like to make one more apology before I go — to Ketut, my stateroom steward, who at the best of times hates cleaning my bathroom. So I can only imagine how he felt when he entered the cabin today for the first time and saw the results of me peeing in the dark. I can only hope he did not call the bridge for the Alpha team to come and put out the smoke, pouring from 4 days worth of unwashed underpants.
I will see you all on Thursday and thank you so very much for being my friend.