Carnival Ship Funnel Catches Fire After Possible Lightning Strike

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A fire broke out on the port side of Carnival Freedom’s exhaust funnel while sailing in the Bahamas. The vessel had cancelled its call to Princess Cay due to weather conditions. Passengers onboard also witnessed a possible lightning strike that caused the fire to start. No injuries have been reported.

This comes after the vessel’s funnel caught fire in 2022, requiring the ship to cancel sailings and undergo a dry dock.

Carnival Freedom Funnel Catches Fire

Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom, which was cruising 20 miles from Eleuthera Island in The Bahamas, reported a fire on its port-side exhaust funnel on March 23, 2024, at approximately 3:15 PM.

Carnival Freedom was sailing a 4-night roundtrip itinerary to The Bahamas from Port Canaveral, Florida, when adverse weather in the waters around The Bahamas forced the ship to cancel a scheduled call at Carnival’s private destination, Princess Cay.

Around mid-afternoon, eyewitness accounts and subsequent reports confirmed a fire aboard the vessel. Carnival reported the flames were extinguished two hours after it began, with damage confined to the funnel, where part of the structure collapsed onto Deck 10.

According to Carnival Cruise Line in a statement to Cruise Hive, “The ship’s fire response team was quickly activated, and the ship’s captain also turned the vessel towards the heavy rain in the area to maximize the efforts to put out the flames.”

Carnival Freedom Fire
Carnival Freedom Fire (Photo Credit: Deborah Greer)

The cause of the fire is unknown, although some passengers have claimed it may have been attributed to a lightning strike, with one passenger claiming, “It was storming and the loudest thunder and lightning boom I have ever heard happen. Just a few minutes later, we saw smoke and fire coming out.”

Weather reports in the area reported scattered thunderstorms and winds up to 20 miles per hour. The cruise line stated,Eyewitnesses reported the possibility of a lightning strike and that is being investigated but cannot yet be confirmed.

The ship’s captain kept all passengers onboard informed during the emergency with multiple announcements over the public PA system.

Guests were told to stay away from the outdoor areas and balconies as a portion of the funnel fell onto deck 10. The U.S. Coast Guard has been notified of the situation. The fire was fully extinguished at 5:20 PM, and no injuries were reported.

Despite the dramatic scenes, there were no injuries to guests or crew. Carnival added, “There are no operational issues with the ship’s systems and the ship is expected to arrive in Freeport on Sunday morning [March 24].”

Future Carnival Freedom Itineraries

The current voyage, which departed Port Canaveral on March 21, is expected to arrive back as normal on March 25. Carnival has confirmed it does not anticipate any changes that will delay the ship’s arrival in Florida.

Carnival Freedom In Port Canaveral
Carnival Freedom In Port Canaveral (Credit: Port Canaveral)

Additionally, the ship’s forthcoming schedule, including a 5-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary departing on March 25, remains as normal. This upcoming cruise is expected to visit Puerto Plata/Amber Cover, Dominican Republic, and Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos on another roundtrip route from Port Canaveral.

At press time, Carnival has not cancelled or rescheduled Carnival Freedom’s upcoming sailings.

Second Funnel Fire for Carnival Freedom

This is not the Carnival Freedom’s first encounter with fireIn May 2022, the ship experienced a blaze in the whale-tale funnel as the ship was docked in Grand Turk. 

That incident led to passengers being transferred to Carnival Conquest, which had to cancel its scheduled cruise to accommodate the change.

Fire is one of the most critical emergencies that can occur at sea. While it’s a rare occurrence given the vast number of cruises that embark each year, the industry takes it seriously.

Carnival Freedom Cruise Ship Fire
Carnival Freedom Fire

On May 28, 2023, passengers aboard P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Adventure confronted such an event when a fire erupted onboard. Similarly, in February 2023, fire alarms echoed on Viking Cruises’ Viking Orion while docked in Sydney, resulting in damage to three cabins.

While fires on cruises with guests are unusual, the risk increases during the construction phase due to the presence of heavy machinery and flammable materials in shipyards.

Cruise ships have specialized fire brigade teams to address these risks, trained in firefighting and adept at managing emergencies at sea. They undergo regular drills and training exercises.

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