Once Bruce Blohowiak disembarked from the cruise ship Carnival Splendor on Thursday, he went hunting for two things above all else: first, a cup of hot coffee. Then a hot shower.
Blohowiak, a 56-year-old Spokane attorney, was on board the ill-fated ship that lost power earlier this week and drifted until being towed into San Diego Thursday afternoon.
On board also was his wife, Theresa Blohowiak; his sister, Cyndie Hammond; and her husband, Jim. Jim Hammond, of Coeur d’Alene, is an Idaho state senator; Cyndie is regional director for the Coeur d’Alene campus of Lewis-Clark State College.
The four family members said they survived reasonably well, having berths on an upper deck with balcony windows that provided fresh air.
“The people who really had it bad,” said Bruce Blohowiak, “were the people in the aft section, or those in lower decks with no windows. Those rooms were dark and got hot.”
About 4,500 people, counting passengers and crew, were on the vessel; it lost power around 6 a.m. Monday after an engine room fire knocked out power.
A secondary generator was able to deliver power to a few ship locations, but most onboard services – including vacuum-powered toilets, room lights, cash registers, stoves and phones – were useless, Blohowiak said.
Blohowiak said he and his friends killed time as many others did, by playing card games and dice. They developed new friendships with other passengers. And they looked forward to the next meal, even though the food choices were limited because the kitchens couldn’t heat anything.
Salads provided some variety. But the main course for three days was sandwiches.
“I ate cold corned beef hash on white bread,” Blohowiak said. “Then jam and butter on white bread. Or Vienna sausages. On white bread.”
Hammond agreed. “It was not good. I won’t have any desire for a sandwich for a long time.”
Carnival has agreed to offer a full refund, reimbursement for travel expenses and a free cruise of comparable value.
Hammond, who’s 60, said the experience was not particularly stressful. “If you were counting on a nice cruise with entertainment, you have to score it a 2. But if you look at it from how well the crew did, under the circumstances, it was probably a 7.”
The crew provided passengers with soft drinks at no charge. But free alcoholic drinks were not made available until Wednesday, after the ship began being towed to port, said Hammond.
Blohowiak said the mood among passengers improved after the fire due to ongoing communications delivered by the ship’s cruise director, John Heald.
The director made regular announcements and tried to keep passengers upbeat through jokes and irreverent comments, Blohowiak said.
“He did a marvelous job,” he said.