The Coast Guard had boarded the ship while it was still in port in California the day before the fire, ABC News has learned, but a Coast Guard spokeswoman declined to comment on the purpose of the visit because it was part of the investigation into the fire.
"I can't say about that specific cruise ship, but the Coast Guard regularly conducts safety and security boardings aboard all sorts of vessels," Petty Officer Pamela Manns, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, told ABC News. "It's part of how we do business."
In a Facebook posting Sunday 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.
Heald also made something of a fateful post before the fire knocked out communication: "I am hoping for an incident free cruise but ... since being here I can't remember one where something or someone strange hasnt happened," Heald said. "Lets see what this cruise brings."
A Coast Guard cutter, the first government vessel to respond to the cruise's distress call, will stay with the ship until it is docked to ensure that the potentially hazardous open-water tugging operation succeeds.
"It's a difficult operation anytime tugs get underway to tow such a large ship [and] there's a lot of people onboard," Manns told ABC News Tuesday. "Certainly, this is unusual for a cruise ship and the size of the cruise ship and the passengers on board."
The Coast Guard and Carnival said they did not yet know how extensive the damage to the ship's engine was, or how it could affect future voyages.
"We know this has been an extremely trying situation for our guests, and we sincerely thank them for their patience," said Gerry Cahill, president and chief executive officer of Carnival Cruise Lines, in a statement late Monday. "Conditions onboard the ship are very challenging, and we sincerely apologize for the discomfort and inconvenience our guests are currently enduring."
Carnival said it would provide passengers a full refund for the current trip and would offer a complimentary future cruise "equal to the amount paid for this voyage."
The ship was on the first leg of a seven-day cruise on the Mexican Riviera. It departed from Long Beach, Calif., Sunday. It was scheduled to stop in Puerta Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, and then return to Long Beach.
Carnival is the world's biggest cruise ship operator, with lines including Holland America, Princess and Cunard.
Carolyn Brown, editor-in-chief for CruiseCritic.com, said that the passengers of the Splendor actually were lucky the engines stopped functioning so close to the coast rather than further out in open ocean, and that the situation looks to be under control.
"Let's put it this way: Nobody was injured. They're handling it," Brown told ABC News. "It's not ideal, and certainly it's not what you want to do on your vacation. But frankly, these people are going to have some stories to tell and I think they'll be good dinner party guests for decades to come."
New husband Noriega said he'd never take a Carnival cruise again.
"They tried to give us a free cruise," he said. "There's just no way I'm going to use that [offer]. I wouldn't trust them."