Carnival's Splendor cruise ship, which stranded more than 3,000 passengers in open water after an engine fire, will be out of service until mid-January 2011 while investigators search for the cause of the fire and repair the ship, Carnival said today.
Any guests who were scheduled to make sail with the Splendor in the meantime will be receiving a full refund for the cruise fare as well as air transportation costs, plus a 25 percent discount on a future cruise.
"We too are disheartened that we are not able to fulfill the dreams of those who have entrusted us with their important vacation plans," Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill said in a statement. "We sincerely apologize to everyone who was scheduled to sail on these cancelled voyages and look forward to welcoming them aboard in the future."
Carnival's parent company, Carnival Corp., said in a statement the incident would cost the company about 7 cents per share in the fourth quarter -- or $56 million. Carnival estimates the announcement could affect as many as 30,000 travelers.
The company said it is booking passengers for the Jan. 16, 2011 voyage. But this means the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years travel plans of thousands will be upset.
The U.S. Coast Guard is leading the investigation into the fire that stranded the 4,500 on board off the coast of Mexico on Nov. 8 without power. Until they were dragged by tugboat to a San Diego port four days later, passengers lived without hot or cold air, hot food and few lights. For more than day, the toilets did not flush, causing what some described as "disgusting" conditions.
Carnival said the investigators are focusing on the number 5 diesel generator as a potential source of the fire. The company said that in nearly 40 years of ferrying passengers around the world, Carnival has never had such an issue with a diesel generator.
"We don't believe that other vessels are at risk," Carnival spokesperson Vance Gulliksen told ABC News.
The 113,000-ton ship had been boarded by the U.S. Coast Guard the day before the fateful journey began, but would not comment to ABC News as to the purpose of their visit.
In a Facebook posting that evening, Carnival's senior cruise director, John Heald, complained that the Coast Guard was conducting tests of the ship's generators, and had shut down the elevators.
The National Transportation Safety Board is assisting in the investigation, as are Carnival engineers and technicians and representatives of the Italian shipyard where the vessel was constructed.
"Now that we have a full technical team engaged in the assessment, we wanted to provide this information as quickly as possible," Cahill said.
After a Coast Guard cutter reached the ship on the water a day after the fire, it dispatched two officials to both ensure the passengers' health and make a preliminary investigation into what might have caused the fire. Those findings have not been made public.
The images were meant to capture the special moments between family and friends on a dream vacation, but the pictures and video passengers took aboard the stranded Splendor told quite a different story.