Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth JamaicaA number of Royal Caribbean crew members have contacted me complaining that they don’t feel safe because of ongoing construction on the Freedom of the Seas to install an advanced emission purification system (AEP), also known as a “scrubber system.”

Contractors from Harris Pye Engineering have been aboard the cruise ship retrofitting the ship with the AEP system. Royal Caribbean routinely uses cheap fuel with high-sulphur levels. Instead of using expensive low-sulphur fuel, the cruise line made a decision to install the AEP scrubber equipment in and around the engine and exhaust systems in order to try and comply with new air emission standards of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

This type of work is routinely done when a cruise ship is not in service, but in dry dock when passengers are not aboard for safety reasons. There is a risk of fire and attendant danger of potential injury during the AEP installation.

One of the crew members sent me a copy of a letter that Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley sent to the employees on the ship shortly after the fire. The crew member, who wishes to stay anonymous to avoid being terminated, feels that the letter is misleading.

The cruise CEO says that the fire was allegedly contained within the ship’s mechanical spaces.The crew members who I have communicated with say that is absolutely not true. The fire started down near the engine and exhaust system and spread from the mechanical spaces up to the top deck. The fire was clearly not contained. Photos confirm this and show flames actually burning through the top and erupting so that onlookers could see the exhaust superstructure on fire from ashore.

The crew members question their safety and the safety of their guests while this work is ongoing. Receiving a letter from a Miami cruise executive, which is inconsistent with the truth as they observed it on the ship, just increases their concerns.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

See: Photographs of the fire damages here.

Watch: Video of the fire here.

Read: The Royal Caribbean “Small Fire” Hoax.

Photo Credit:  Raymond Bower via Facebook

Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth Jamaica

  • Hi all. I have been in emergency service training business around the world for 40 years. We specialize in water rescue, fire fighting, incident command, leadership,and management. I have found that the cruise industry, tourism industry, and airports constantly lie to guest for obvious reasons. Money. The crazy thing is if they spend $10,000 dollars in training and prevention they would not have to spend Millions of dollars in settlements. I is very important to do your homework before you travel. The tourism will not advertise the truth about safety issues only what they want you to hear. I have been on Freedom of The Seas and all the safety and security question that I asked were met with lies or a none response.

  • G Stix

    This guy is bullshitting his whole life!!!
    I had my personal experience with him!!!
    Bayley go home!!!!

  • Jeff Halmekangas

    I can tell you horror stories, but I think I will just let them do it, and you can all figure it out… SHOCKED !!!

  • Michelle

    I was aboard the Freedom of the Seas when the fire broke out. First, I must say that the captain and crew truly did do a phenominal job handling the situation. My only true complaint was that the passengers were left in the dark regarding what happened and the severity of what happened. We were made to believe it was minor and no one was in danger, when in fact the fire that was supposedly contained to the engine room, burned straight up to the 14th floor through the smoke stack. The fire burning behind the walls of our staterooms and stair case we were using to evacuate.

    As for the above letter from Mr. Bayley, I’m not certain as to what dining room the passengers were ‘currently enjoying their lunch’ from…. They offered us some water and sandwiches, which anyone sitting in the middle of the theater aisles could not even get out to get while we were being held in various locations on the ship. When we were finally allowed back to our state rooms, we were told food services were temporarily shut down and we were only able to get pizza from the pizza shop on deck 5. To my knowledge, the food service opened back up around 3pm.

    After the situation was contained, various areas of the ship smelled strongly of acrid smoke and other areas, especially on the lower levels smelled of sewage and lower level toilets in the public areas would not flush. I’m uncertain of the stateroom toilets on those levels, although ours worked fine in our room.

  • David

    I was on this ship along with my girlfriend and my 8 year old son. First off the CEO statement was full of BS. We were not enjoying any type of lunch, the dining areas were closed. They started bringing pizza and burgers after many hours of “holding” us in different areas of the ship while trying to locate 3 passengers. The updates from the crew were very few and far between.

    We were on deck 2 and the comment from Michelle was spot on with the smell. We had to endure it for the remaining days. Toilets didn’t flush for a period of time. My girlfriend ended up getting sick the next few days due to the smell. The kids activities were closed for about a day and a half if not more. They had blowers running 24/7 all through out the ship to try and fight the smell.

    After all said and done, Royal Caribbean feels a compensation of $150 per stateroom would make everyone passenger happy. I feel that is a slap in the face and the time lost and the smell we had to endure is worth much greater then that. I called Royal Caribbean direct and they told me OH sorry but there is nothing else we can offer. I am expecting a call back from a supervisor as I write this but to be honest I won’t hold my breathe.

    1 last thing, how safe is/was the ship to sail the rest of the week. We were never told what really happened and what they did to “fix” this ship to keep it up and running.

  • John Doe


    Who ever crewmember that wrote this have no idea what is going on in the technical department. And have no knowledge in technical operations. First of all most of the times contractors are onboard doing repairs, upgrades, installing new systems on the ship.

    As the scupper project now is priority 1 for all cruise ship companies due to the massive fuel cost increase of not having them installed these have to be installed on the run if the ship has no dry dock planned for the near future. As all hot work onboard they are controled by permits and regulations, with fire watches and fire fighting equipment avalible at the work site.

    Installing a scrubber is not more dangerous than installing a new fuel module or new pumps or anything where welding is needed.

    Sometimes things go wrong and these things happen.

  • micheal brown

    we believe royal caribbean loves money more than the safety of his their own crew members and the guest.

  • Paula Rawlins

    I am really disappointed with my one vacation I am given. I had six in our party I am sick with lung infection due to smoke inhalation and on three meds now,, and the 150 onboard credit was a joke…. I hope that they are pleased with themselves lying. I feel they should compensate the travelers for their fear and anxiety and lack of honesty.

  • Lorrie Quirk

    I was also on the ship. While some of us were kept prisoner while waiting for them to locate 4 passengers and I believe 4 crew members some passengers were wandering freely- looking for food and drinks. When we left the ship the main dining room was open for lunch but the line to get in was about 200-300 deep. The line at pizza was wrapped all the way down the promenade. There was 1 guy with a tray of sandwiches who was attacked. We left the ship and bought our own lunch – not our plan but my kids were so traumatized we needed to get them off the ship.

    I had debilitating migraines for the remainder of the cruise due to the sewage and smoke smell. My toilet did not work on a cosmsitant basis from Wednesday to Sunday. We had to go down a level to public toilets.

    We had 11 people in our party on 2 floors. None of us had toilets and I had to bring young kids down 2 flights of stairs in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. For the cost of the cruise we expect a bathroom.

    The crew told us it was a water purification systems that would be state of the art- That’s a lie. They told us it was a small fire- it burned through to the 15th floor and burned the smoke stack. We were not leisurely doing anything but getting the hell off the ship as soon as we could on each port.

    Besides the fire and the toilets the food was cold, service slow and the drinks would get an up charge in the dining room. I am not impressed and I feel like a no one to these corporate money hounds.

  • Glenn Priddy

    My wife and I were also on the Freedom of the Seas cruise that caught fire. We found the same things on board that are described in the above posts. In many parts of the ship there was an acrid smell after the fire. Also, our toilet didn’t work for half a day but others were without toilets for days. The sewage smell was terrible on certain parts of the ship. Both my wife and I were sick after the cruise; our doctors put us on antibiotics immediately. We both had ear infections and a lot of phlegm; we still experience some of the symptoms even now 3 1/2 weeks later. People we’ve spoken to can’t believe that we were only given $150. and that was to spend on board! We’ve always enjoyed Royal Caribbean having cruised on Explorer of the Seas three times before. But, back to the fire. We felt the captain and the crew did a good job during the crisis; the aftermath was the problem. And, we were never told what the “investigation” showed. We are wondering how many people were sick afterwards like us. Royal Caribbean emailed us a survey to fill out but we were tied up and the survey had to be completed by Sunday, August 2nd. When my wife went on to complete the survey it was over so she sent an email to web cruise_comments explaining that we were sick from the cruise and that she would not be able to have the shoulder surgery that she had already put off prior to the cruise. The doctors have told her that now she will have to wait until this is all cleared up. Royal Caribbean wrote back thanking my wife for contacting them; that this was an automated confirmation that the email had been received and representatives would reply in the order that it was received. When Royal Caribbean replied they stated that they were extremely apologetic and would share her comments with their operational teams for internal review. They were regretful for any misgivings and hoped that their prior apologies and explanations would put our concerns to rest. They ended the email saying that they look forward to restoring our confidence in Royal Caribbean on a forthcoming sailing.

  • Steve Giordanello

    I can tell you that the company is under a lot of pressure from Adam Goldstein to make sure that the project is completed within the time commitments made to the EPA.

    The Freedom Class vessels are the most complicated installations as they are using Alfa Laval scrubber systems that need to be cut up into multiple pieces and then slid down the funnel over the engine room. This is the first time that scurbbers are being installed during ship service. If you look at Norwegian and Carnival, they are extending their drydocks or accelerating their drydocks to ensure that the scrubbers are installed while the ships are out of service.

    Expect these in service installations to occur on 19 more vessels within the next five years.

  • Ian Fowler

    The ‘machinery space’ refers to all technical spaces on board the ship, inclusive of the Funnel Casing extending all the way to the top of the funnel. The spaces affected were not accessible to passengers.
    Regarding the unpleasant nature of the passengers being confined to their muster stations, Im sure we can all agree that this is standard procedure in any fire situation. If your apartment bloc has a fire in the middle of a thunderstorm at 2am, everyone still gathers outside at the muster point. It may not be pleasant but it is in everyones best interests.

    Welding happens every single day on a cruise ship. Every day. It has to. There are always improvements to be made, modifications to enact and repairs being carried out. Precautions and permits to work are always utilised and risk is minimised. It is a testament to these safety precautions that more fires don’t happen on these ships.

    It is important to remember when on a ship, any ship that you are essentially in a large metal box. When a fire occurs in a machinery space it can burn through cabling or damage machinery in so many different ways. There is no way to predict what will be damaged. When the fire is extinguished and the systems restarted, some may not be fully operational. This is unfortunate and it takes time and a lot of effort to make the metal box bearable for passengers, let a lone luxury.