The Carnival Splendor cruise ship. Picture: Flickr user Superstrikertwo
Carnival Splendor cruise ship stranded
More than 20 Australians onboard
Navy helicopters shuttle in supplies
THE US Navy is flying in supplies to 4500 passengers and crew members - including more than 20 Australians - who are stranded on a disabled cruise ship off the coast of Mexico.
Power was cut to the Carnival Splendor ship yesterday after a fire broke out in the engine room, initially leaving the 3299 passengers and 1167 crew members without flushing toilets, air conditioning, hot food and telephone services.
Nobody was hurt and the fire was put out, but engineers have been unable to restore additional power to the vessel to get it moving again.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that 24 Australians are onboard the ship.
Anyone concerned about family or friends can contact the Carnival Cruise Lines Family Support Service on +1 888 290 5095.
Are you onboard the Carnival Splendor? Contact us at email@example.com.
The ship, which left from Long Beach on Monday, was 320km south of San Diego, when it struck trouble and began drifting off the coast of northern Baja California.
After the fire, passengers were first asked to move from their cabins to the ship's upper deck, but were later allowed to go back to their rooms.
Bottled water and cold food were provided, and the ship's auxiliary power eventually allowed for toilets and cold running water.
Today, US sailors loaded cargo planes with tins of spam, boxes of crab meat, croissants and other items for the stranded passengers.
They were to be ferried to an aircraft carrier at sea, where helicopters would be used to drop them on the ship.
Tugboats are expected to reach the ship later today to begin the slow process of towing it to San Diego. Currently one tugboat has reached the ship and has begun towing it. It is hoped the ship will arrive on Friday.
However, the company may decide to revert to its original plan of taking the ship to the Mexican post of Ensenada if the ship is unable to maintain sufficient speed under tow, Joyce Oliva, a Carnival spokeswoman, said.
Monty Mathisen, of the New York-based trade publication Cruise Industries, called the fire a freak accident.
"This stuff does not happen, I mean once in a blue moon,'' he said.
"The ships have to be safe, if not the market will collapse.''
Mr Mathisen commended the cruise line for its handling of the situation, saying officials responded quickly and were providing information.
It also will be costly for Carnival, which is refunding passengers, offering accommodation and vouchers for future cruises and may have to dry dock the ship if the damage is extensive.
Toni Sweet of San Pedro, California, was watching TV when she saw a news report about the stranded ship and realised her cousin Vicky Alvarez and her cousin's husband, Fernando, were on board.
She had dropped the Las Vegas couple off at the dock in Long Beach for the cruise, their first break after caring for their ageing parents.
She said Vicky was nervous about the trip, but Ms Sweet reassured her everything would be fine. She has not heard from them since the fire.
"It's their first cruise and they were real anxious. I don't think they're going to take another,'' she said. "Here you want them to have a good time and then this happened.''
Once passengers are dropped off, the Splendor will be towed back to Long Beach, California, a journey that will take days.
"We know this has been an extremely trying situation for our guests and we sincerely thank them for their patience,'' Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill said.
"Conditions on board the ship are very challenging and we sincerely apologise for the discomfort and inconvenience our guests are currently enduring.''