DALLAS -- On any normal cruise, packaged snack food wouldn't be tops in cuisine. Last week's ill-fated Carnival Splendor's cruise, however, will go down as the voyage in which Pop Tarts were the most coveted item on the menu.
Dallas Church Pastor Ben Bauman and his wife, Jackie, daughter Emma, 14, and son Dylan, 10, were aboard the Splendor with other family members when the trip was interrupted by an engine room fire.
"We were hoping for a nice seven-day getaway from the cooler weather here," Bauman said.
They were scheduled to stop at ports in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, but didn't make it 12 hours into the voyage.
Passengers were jarred awake at 6 a.m. Nov. 8 with an announcement over the PA telling people not to worry but that there had been a "flameless fire" in the engine room.
The fire resulted in no injuries, but left the ship without power, running water or flushable toilets. The usual dining extravagance was replaced with cold mystery salads and sandwiches -- everyday for four days.
The most creative offering was a beet sandwich with onion and mozzarella on white bread, Bauman said. Such recipes made Pop Tarts welcome.
In spite of the irony of essentially having to camp out on a luxury cruise ship, Bauman said passengers kept their cool. His family passed the time playing cards, reading and visiting with others on the ship.
Bauman said the ship's crew stepped up to the challenge, especially Cruise Director John Heald, who was on the PA hourly. He spiced his updates with needed humor, mostly about the terrible food.
"That really helped people diffuse some of the tension," Bauman said.
Patience ran out, though, when the stench of rotting food became unbearable before arriving in San Diego.
Once at a hotel Carnival booked for passengers awaiting flights, Bauman had coffee and a hot meal -- his first in days.
"Hot coffee was pretty amazing," he said.
Carnival refunded the cost of the cruise and travel expenses and offered a free cruise to passengers. Bauman said no one in his family is eager to take advantage of that offer any time soon.
"We are going to give it some time before we get on another Carnival ship," he said.