With nudging from powerful tug boats, the disabled Carnival Splendor docked in San Diego this morning to cheers from more than 3,000 weary passengers after a three-day odyssey adrift and powerless at sea from an engine-room fire.
"It's just this big relief," passenger Valerie Ojeda told ABC News. "I mean, people were cheering before we were stopped -- as soon as they saw land they were cheering, yelling, whistling, waving... They're just glad to be home, glad we made it."
The Splendor, which at 113,000 tons is twice the size of the Titanic, was gingerly led into the San Diego harbor in a coordinated effort by several tug boats as passengers crowded the deck to look on. Departing passengers today recounted alternating between fear, boredom and disgust after a Monday morning fire in the ship's engine room left them without power or working toilets.
Joey Noriega got married Saturday and watched his honeymoon come to an abrupt and unhappy halt. He said that Tuesday night he cleaned out the cabin toilet so his new wife, Stacy, wouldn't have to sleep with the smell.
But the passengers did what they could to keep themselves occupied.
"We played so many card games, and so many crossword puzzles. It was so boring," Noriega said today.
The Noriegas, however, weren't the only couple whose honeymoon was ruined
"We can beat anyone's bad honeymoon story. We got it beat!. Except there were other honeymooners on the boat with us," said passenger Candice Van Leeuwen.
Before the U.S. Navy began executing military-style air drops of food and supplies late Tuesday, passengers had been left only with cold and sometimes rotting food to eat.
"We're eating spoiled turkey sandwiches and warm milk and warm yogurt," Noriega said Wednesday. "Everything smells like it's spoiled. ... Nothing's cooked. It's all sandwich meat. It's disgusting. You're afraid to eat it 'cause it's been left out and touched by everybody else on the ship."
Today's docking marks the end of a two-day, 200-mile tow from where the ship was stranded off the Mexican coast early Monday morning.
The fire shut down all but emergency operations and sent passengers scrambling to the deck until the all clear was given after it was extinguished.
"We really did feel like it was out of a movie," passenger Chris Desaunier told "Good Morning America" after phone service was restored late Wednesday. "And then at the aft part of the ship, the back of the ship, the smoke in that area was really very, very intense."
After a Coast Guard cutter reached the ship Tuesday, it dispatched two officials to both ensure the passengers' health and make a preliminary investigation into what might have caused the fire, ABC News has learned. The USCG has commissioned the National Transportation Safety Board to assist in the investigation.
After the fire, those onboard lived with few lights, no air-conditioning, heating or hot food, and there were no functioning toilets for more than a day.
"We're using the restroom in the dark and for a day and a half and couldn't flush," Ojeda said. "It was bad, but now that I think back to it, it was really bad."
But for the most part, many said the passengers have been making the best of the situation.