Carnival Cruise Line Ship’s Funnel Catches Fire for Second Time

Less than two years after the Carnival Freedom‘s funnel was damaged by fire, the ship found itself experiencing the same fate yet again.

Fire erupts from the funnel of the Carnival Freedom cruise ship while a clear image of the same type of ship is shown for comparison.
Photos courtesy of Heath Barnes; Carnival Cruise Line

While details are still unfolding, a statement from Carnival Cruise Line — as well as eyewitness reports provided to Cruise Radio — indicate that a lightning strike may have caused the Carnival Freedom fire.

What Started Cruise Ship Fire?

Several passengers reached out to Cruise Radio with news of the fire. One such passenger, Heath Barnes — who also provided us with photographs — reported that he was outside reading and saw a large lightning strike, followed by people screaming. Upon looking from his balcony, he could see the flames.

Carnival Freedom 2023 fire lightning strike
Carnival Freedom funnel on fire. Photograph courtesy of Heath Barnes.

Soon after, he continued, and the Captain announced that the cause was being investigated. As for the screams, they appear to have been from startled passengers. “It was,” Barnes admits, “the loudest thunder and lightning that I’ve ever heard.”

Carnival Freedom March 23 2034
The fire was extinguished quickly following swift actions by the captain. (Courtesy of Carnival)

By early evening, the Captain had announced that passengers had reported seeing the funnel hit by lightning but added that this was not confirmed.

In a statement, a Carnival Cruise Line spokesperson told Cruise Radio that “at approximately 3:15 p.m. [Saturday afternoon], Carnival Freedom reported a fire on the port side of the ship’s exhaust funnel. The ship was 20 miles off Eleuthera Island, Bahamas, heading to Freeport after a cancelled call to Princess Cay due to weather.”
Carnival Freedom fire lightning strike position
The Carnival Freedom‘s position at the time of the apparent lightning strike and fire. (Courtesy of

He continued, “The ship’s fire response team was quickly activated, and the ship’s captain also turned the vessel towards the heavy rain the area to maximize the efforts to put out the flames.

Eyewitnesses reported the possibility of a lightning strike, and that is being investigated but can not yet be confirmed. As of 5:20 p.m., it appears that the fire is fully extinguished.

“The Captain has made multiple announcements to guests and crew and advised all but essential safety personnel to stay away from balconies and all open decks.

There are no reports of injuries to guests or crew. The port-side portion of the funnel has fallen onto deck 10 and the fire response [team] has put out any flames. The U.S. Coast Guard has been notified and Carnival has activated its incident response team to support the ship’s crew. There are no operational issues with the ship’s systems and the ship is expected to arrive to Freeport on Sunday morning.”

What Happened Last Time

carnival freedom fire

The unfolding situation is eerily familiar to a scenario that unfolded nearly two years ago. In May of 2022, Carnival Freedom‘s funnel caught fire while the ship was docked at the Grand Turk Cruise Center. No crew or guests were injured.

The iconic whale tale was so badly damaged that it had to be removed. It was not until October of 2023 — a full 17 months later, and a short five months ago — that the whale tale was replaced.

The current situation was inherently more dangerous because the ship was at sea with all her passengers and crew on board. When the funnel caught fire in 2022, many passengers were ashore, greatly reducing the risk of passenger or crew harm.

As this is a developing story, we will update this information as it becomes available.

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