SAN DIEGO – They can call it a nightmare. A cruise from hell. Even a Spamcation.

Whatever they label it, the grueling three-day journey of the crippled Carnival Splendor is over, and the nearly 4,500 passengers and crew members can forget about the backed-up toilets, darkened, stuffy cabins and the canned meat.

“I love being back on land,” said passenger Ken King, 42, of Los Angeles.

As the ship docked Thursday, people who had gathered on the decks and about 100 waiting onshore cheered loudly. Along the harbor, tourists, joggers and fishermen stopped to take photos.

Passengers snapped up $20 T-shirts being sold on land with the phrase: “I survived the 2010 Carnival cruise Spamcation.”

An engine fire aboard the 952-foot cruise liner Monday morning knocked out power early in its seven-day trip to the Mexican Riviera, setting the ship adrift about 200 miles outside San Diego and 44 miles off the coast of Mexico.

No one was hurt, but passengers said they were jolted awake by the fire.

Smoke filled hallways toward the back of the ship, and a smoky odor reached the front cabins. Carnival said a crankcase split on one of the ship’s six diesel engines, causing the fire.

“It felt like an earthquake and sounded like a jackhammer,” said Amber Haslerud, 27, of Chula Vista.

The captain immediately announced that there would be no need to abandon ship, said Amy Watts, 25, of Seattle, Wash. “You think about the Titanic,” she said.

The fire left the ship without air conditioning, hot water or hot food. The casino was closed and, for a time, so were the bars. The swimming pool was off-limits because the pumps wouldn’t work.

Navy helicopters flew in Spam, Pop Tarts and canned crab meat and other goods.

Passengers on lower decks had to climb as many as nine flights of stairs to get to the cafeteria only to meet long lines that lasted for hours. the time those at the end got to the food, they were left with tomatoes and lettuce, Haslerud said.

“We have not had a hot cup of coffee in four days,” said passenger Fahizah Alim, 26, of Sacramento, who ate at night by flashlight. “This was my first cruise and it was no luxury, no fun.”