It was another hectic week for cruise news, but it’s easy to stay well-informed with Cruise Hive, the leader in cruise industry coverage. In this week’s update, we have stories from Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean.

Let’s dive into the big cruise headlines of the past week on Cruise Hive, including a Carnival Cruise Line ship experiencing her second funnel fire, Carnival Cruise Line announcing a fifth Excel-class ship, flooding inundating cabins and public spaces on Carnival Sunrise, Norwegian Cruise Line cancelling a raft of sailings on seven ships, Norwegian Viva planning venue enhancements during her upcoming transatlantic cruise, and two major cruise lines coping with the closure of the Port of Baltimore, where they were home-porting ships. 

For the second time in less than two years, the iconic funnel atop Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Freedom caught fire, this time as the ship sailed off the coast of the Bahamian island of Eleuthera. Damage to the smokestack forced the cancellation of the ship’s next two cruises.

On March 23, 2024, the Conquest-class vessel was sailing through severe weather, which had already prompted the cancellation of a port call to Princess Cay. The ship instead visited Freeport, Bahamas.

Carnival Cruise Ship Fire

The cruise line is investigating the incident, but there were eyewitness reports that a lightning strike may have damaged the funnel. The ship, which was sailing a 4-night Bahamas cruise, returned to her homeport at Port Canaveral on March 25, 2024, and her next two cruises — both 5-night voyages departing on March 25 and March 30, 2024, were nixed.

After disembarking her guests, Carnival Freedom sailed back to Freeport, where she is undergoing repairs at a Bahamian shipyard. Guests booked on the cancelled sailings were given full refunds and a 100% future cruise credit.

The ship’s funnel had been damaged in May 2022, when it caught fire while the vessel was docked in Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos. The funnel was partially repaired and the ship was able to sail until permanent repairs could be made during a dry dock the following year.

The news that Carnival Cruise Line will build a fourth Excel-class ship had just barely sunk in when it was announced that a fifth vessel in the class has been ordered.

Parent company Carnival Corporation announced it has reached an agreement with Meyer Werft to construct the ship, which is slated to enter service in 2028. The planned construction of the fourth Excel-class ship was revealed in mid-February. That ship is scheduled to launch in 2027.

Carnival Excel-Class Cruise Ships

Both are sister ships to the line’s first three Excel ships, Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration, and Carnival Jubilee, all mega-ships that can accommodate more than 6,000 guests apiece at full capacity.

Like the existing Excel-class vessels, the fifth ship will be powered by LNG (liquified natural gas) and weigh in at the 180,000-gross ton range. Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy predicted that the quintet of popular ships will delight guests and provide the line with operating efficiencies.

Mardi Gras launched in 2020, Carnival Celebration in 2022, and Carnival Jubilee in 2023. Each ship sported new activities and features. Mardi Gras, for instance, debuted the cruise industry’s first roller coaster at sea.

Widespread flooding impacted Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Sunrise on March 23, 2024 as the ship headed back to her homeport in Miami following a 5-night Western Caribbean sailing.

The 2,984-guest ship had encountered rain in the vicinity of the Bahamas, and the ship’s captain later indicated that weather was partly to blame. He didn’t provide other details, but the effects were plain to see, as guests uploaded videos of flooded cabins and corridors to social media.

Carnival Sunrise Flood

Multiple decks were flooded, as were stairwells and staterooms, and some outdoor areas were closed off. One guest posted a video showing 4 to 5 inches of water in his cabin, while another shared video showing water up to his ankles. Other videos filmed guests waiting in the ship’s lobby and theater, some of whom had donned life jackets.

Carnival Sunrise returned to Miami on schedule, on March 23, 2024, and departed on her next cruise on time. That 5-night sailing called at Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos, Princess Cays, and Nassau, Bahamas, and returned to Miami on March 28, 2024, with no flooding issues reported.

Cruise ships typically address flooding problems very quickly, using industrial-strength fans to dry carpets and upholstery before the next set of guests board the ship.

The cancellation of numerous 2025 cruises aboard seven ships operated by Norwegian Cruise Line was announced to booked guests and travel agents. The reasons behind the decisions vary, including redeployments to regions where demand is strong, a dry dock, full-ship charters, and ongoing unrest in the Red Sea.

The affected ships are Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Spirit, Norwegian Star, Norwegian Sky, and Norwegian Viva.

Booked guests will receive full refunds and a 10% Future Cruise Credit that will be available starting April 4, 2024. Full details of the redeployments are expected to be provided within about two weeks, and in the meantime, the line is offering suggested alternative cruises for guests whose sailings are cancelled.

Norwegian Cruise Line Ship (Photo Credit: James R. Martin)

Four 2025 cruises aboard Norwegian Viva, the line’s newest ship, have been cancelled, for example —including departures on May 18 and 27, and September 20 and 29. No reason was provided for the cancellations.

The cancellation of several 2025 voyages aboard Norwegian Jade was due to redeployments to more in-demand destinations, including the Bahamas and Panama Canal. The impacted voyages were to depart on February 20, and March 4, 13, and 24.

Norwegian Pearl had the most cancellations of any of the ships — six, with no specific reason offered.

Cruisers booked on a Norwegian Cruise Line transatlantic voyage in early April found out that several entertainment spaces onboard their ship would be closed during the sailing. 

A series of venue enhancements on Norwegian Viva, which only just entered service in late 2023, will close off some popular public areas while the ship operates her repositioning cruise from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Lisbon, Portugal. The departure date is April 7, 2024.

Booked guests received a notice detailing the off-limits spaces, and they include the Speedway Bar, which will be converted into Entourage, a dedicated space for youngsters ages 13 to 17.

Norwegian Viva Ship (Photo Credit: GEORGE STAMATIS)

Also shutting down for enhancements will be part of the ship’s Galaxy Pavilion, a virtual reality game space; The Bull’s Eye, a digital darts game space; The Stadium, another gaming space; The Wave, a popular water slide; and the Tee-Time mini-golf course.

The cruise line did not specify what the enhancements are but noted that many other activities will be available during the crossing, which features five full days at sea. These popular spaces include the Speedway go-karts, The Drop and The Rush water thrill rides, and the Aqua Park.

The 3,100-guest ship will spend the summer season in the Mediterranean and return to San Juan in November 2024.

Cruise lines operating from the Port of Baltimore are making necessary itinerary and operational changes, since the port’s harbor remains closed and inaccessible following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, 2024.

Both Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have, at least temporarily, arranged to homeport ships in Norfolk, Virginia, rather than Baltimore.

Carnival Cruise Line had been homeporting its Carnival Legend in Baltimore. The ship had departed from the port two days before a cargo ship rammed the bridge, causing it to collapse. Carnival Legend was due to return to Baltimore on March 31, 2024, but the cruise will now conclude in Norfolk and guests will be transported by bus back to Baltimore.

Vision of the Seas in Baltimore (Photo Credit: Cruise Maryland)

The ship’s March 31, 2024 cruise will depart from Norfolk, as well, and guests were notified that scheduled embarkation times for the sailing are pushed back, due to the distance between the two ports. Norfolk is about 230 miles south of Baltimore. Carnival Cruise Line is providing a shuttle bus service from Baltimore to the temporary homeport in Norfolk.

Carnival Pride is scheduled to operate a 14-night Caribbean cruise from Baltimore on April 7, 2024. No changes have been announced by Carnival Cruise Line yet regarding that voyage.

Royal Caribbean has one ship based in Baltimore, Vision of the Seas, which left the port on March 23, 2024, for a 12-night Caribbean sailing. The cruise was due to return to Baltimore on April 4, 2024, but will instead conclude in Norfolk.

The cruise line has switched Vision of the Seas’ homeport to Norfolk, temporarily. Cruisers planning to sail on the ship’s next two 8-night Bahamas cruises, departing on April 4 and April 12, will embark and debark in Norfolk.

Cruise Hive has even more cruise news and developments from the past week, such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises unveiling the world’s most expensive voyage, Celebrity Cruises rolling out a series of short Caribbean cruises for 2025 and 2026, Cunard revealing a classic stage production aboard its new-build Queen Anne, the port of Antigua posting a record-breaking cruise arrivals day, and Oceania Cruises offering a free, pre-cruise hotel stay on select voyages.

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