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LOS ANGELES (CAP) - A luxury cruise liner that limped into San Diego after a fire knocked out its power was lucky in many ways: a nearby Navy vessel came quickly with supplies, and the mishap occurred in tranquil waters. But that didn't stop its frantic passengers from descending quickly into panic, rioting, looting and eventually resorting to cannibalism.
"We were in decent spirits for the first few hours after the power went out," said Carnival Splendor passenger Carrie Whitehead, 32, of Chelmsford, Mass. "Then they announced the buffet was closed. That's when the deck chairs started going over the side."
Within hours, the passengers had formed into a number of tribe-like groups and staked out certain areas of the ship as their home turf, according to passenger Fred Ricker, 66, who banded together with the other senior citizens on board.
"You had all these young punks whining and crying because their cell phones weren't working," said Ricker, whose tribe of seniors ("The Otters") immediately took control of the Lido Deck, beating the younger passengers around the head and neck with shuffleboard cues.
"They wouldn't have lasted two seconds in 'Nam," said Ricker, his face still war-painted with oil squeezed from a tray of lox.
A nearby Navy vessel dropped a supply of Spam and other non-perishables aboard the ship on the first day of the ordeal, but by day two, a tribe calling themselves "The Sloths" was fomenting rebellion, according to a Carnival Splendor kitchen worker who asked not to be named.
"They had taken over the Grand Buffet dining room on the Promenade Deck, which is pretty much where they'd been spending the whole cruise anyway," said the worker, who explained that after two meals of Spam and Pop Tarts, the Sloths tied dinner napkins around their foreheads and stormed the kitchen, stampeding staffers and gorging themselves on shrimp and salmon that had gone unrefrigerated for two days.
"Between that and the fact that the ship's stabilizers were lost when the power went out, things got ugly pretty quickly," said the worker, whose co-workers were able to re-take the kitchen by pushing the rampaging passengers overboard as they leaned over the railing to vomit.
Teenagers on board were also "out of control," said ship's chaplain Rev. Marcus Clayborn, who had tried to occupy them with sing-alongs and team-building activities.
"Apparently all the girls had seen the movie Titanic numerous times on TBS, and they were convinced that the ship was going down and that they should find someone to 'save' them by having intercourse with them in the cargo hold," said Rev. Clayborn. "Most of the boys hadn't seen Titanic, but apparently it didn't take a lot of explaining."
The carnage reached its height on day three, when crazed passengers cornered the few crew members who hadn't been able to escape via lifeboat. They had already impaled the ship's yeoman purser, Burl "Gopher" Smith, 31, and were roasting him on a spit when the ship reached shore and members of the Coast Guard announced the ordeal was over.
"I tell ya, it was kind of embarrassing how we overreacted," said Ricker, who was turning the purser on the spit when the Coast Guard arrived.
For at least one Carnival Splendor employee, it was an experience he won't soon forget. "When they roasted Gopher, I was like, whoa!" said bartender Isaac Washington, 30, flashing a sparkling smile and pointing ahead with his right index finger.
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