Nearly 4,500 Stranded On Cruise Ship Off Mexico

Navy helicopters shuttled in supplies Tuesday to 4,500 passengers and crew members expected to remain stranded on a disabled cruise ship off the coast of Mexico at least through Wednesday night.

Mexican seagoing tugboats were expected to reach the Carnival Splendor on Tuesday afternoon to begin the slow process of towing it 150 miles to the nearest Mexican port at Ensenada. Passengers will be bused back to California from there.

The ship, which left from Long Beach on Sunday, was 200 miles south of San Diego when an engine room fire cut its power early Monday, according to a statement from Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines. It began drifting off the coast of northern Baja California.

Monty Mathisen, of the New York-based publication Cruise Industry News, called the fire a freak accident.

""This stuff does not happen, I mean once in a blue moon,"" he said.

Mathisen said the last major cruise accident was when a ship with more than 1,500 people sank after hitting rocks near the Aegean island of Santorini. Two French tourists died.

None of the 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crew members aboard the Splendor were hurt and the fire was put out in the generator's compartment, but the 952-foot Mexican Riviera-bound ship had no hot water or telephone service. Cell phone and Internet service were knocked out because of the loss of power, preventing families from communicating with their loved ones."