Following a possible lightning strike that hit the port side of the iconic “whale tail” funnel on Carnival Freedom on Saturday, March 23, causing a fire, the ship is able to continue her cruise and the next sailing should not be impacted.

Authorities are investigating the incident and all of the ship’s systems are fully operational after the scary situation, and only some areas of the ship’s open decks are closed for safety.

In a letter sent to guests booked on the next sailing of Carnival Freedom, Carnival Cruise Line has provided an update to the ship’s condition and operation following a fire that damages the port side wing of the ship’s funnel.

“Saturday afternoon, Carnival Freedom reported a fire on the port side of the ship’s exhaust funnel. The ship was approximately 20 miles off the coast of Eleuthera Island, Bahamas, heading to Freeport as a replacement port of call for the cancelled visit to Princess Cays (due to adverse weather),” the letter explained.

The current sailing is a 4-night Bahamas itinerary that was originally to have visited Nassau and Princess Cays. The call to Freeport is now planned for Sunday, March 24, and the ship will return on schedule to her homeport, Port Canaveral, on Monday, March 25.

“The ship’s emergency response team was quickly activated and was able to extinguish the fire. Eyewitnesses reported the possibility of a lightning strike and that is being investigated but cannot yet be confirmed,” the email said. “There are no reports of injuries to guests and two firefighting team members were treated for minor smoke inhalation.”

Carnival Freedom Funnel Fire (Photo Credit: Heath Barnes)

The email does confirm that “there are no operational issues with the ship’s systems” and “except for the open decks, all areas of the ship are fully functioning.”

This includes the ship’s safety and navigation systems, propulsion, hotel operations, restaurants, and entertainment.

Carnival Cruise Line is also reassuring passengers that the ship’s next voyage, a 5-night Eastern Caribbean cruise departing on March 25 with calls to Amber Cove and Grand Turk, is still planned to set sail on schedule.

“We do not expect any impact to the next voyage,” the email confirmed.

The 110,000-gross-ton, Conquest-class Carnival Freedom can welcome 2,980 passengers aboard, and is also home to roughly 1,150 international crew members. The ship is homeported year-round from Port Canaveral, offering a variety of 4-night Bahamas and 5-night Eastern Caribbean cruises, perfect for quick getaways.

It should be noted that the ship’s funnel is an exhaust vent and it is possible for the vessel to run safely without the characteristic “wings” that make Carnival cruise ships so distinctive.

In fact, following a fire in May 2022, Carnival Freedom ran without either wing of her funnel until the structure was be replaced just five months ago, during a dry dock in October 2023.

Damaged Carnival Freedom Funnel (Photo Credit: Randalyn Rogers)

In that first fire, it was the ship’s starboard funnel wing that was severely damaged, so much so that part of its internal structure melted and it was necessary for the ship to undergo emergency repairs to remove the damaged sections.

After that incident, the ship was not able to sail and the next cruise was cancelled, while guests onboard were transferred to Carnival Conquest to return to Florida. Ultimately, four cruises were cancelled before Carnival Freedom returned to service on June 11, 2022.

Undoubtedly, options will be considered for further repairs to the ship’s funnel once again after a full technical and cosmetic assessment is made. As the ship only recently came out of dry dock, it may be some time before her funnel is repaired, depending on how the work can be completed.

Guests booked on upcoming cruises for Carnival Freedom will want to stay in close contact with Carnival Cruise Line for updates and the possibility of cancellations if the ship needs to be removed from service for repairs.

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