Royal Caribbean started spinning the story on the Freedom of the Seas fire yesterday before the ship stopped burning, saying things like:

It was just a small fire that was quickly extinguished. All systems are operational. Passengers mustered only as a precaution. No injuries to passengers. Guests able to leave the ship to enjoy Falmouth by 1:00 P.M. The cruise will continue with its regular scheduled itinerary. Next stop is George Town, Grand Cayman, tomorrow.

Freedom of the Seas Fire Some media outlets took the bait. The New York Times published a clueless article titled "Royal Caribbean Ship Has Small Fire in Jamaica" which characterized the fire as "small" and "brief" and showed a beautiful photograph of the cruise ship without the flames and dense smoke.     

The truth of the matter is that this was a large fire that took one and one-half hours to extinguish (per the Miami Herald). When we heard of the fire yesterday, we immediately asked a former Royal Caribbean crew member to go to Falmouth from Montego Bay and photograph and video the fire. Over 900,000 people have watched his videotape on Facebook so far. Take a look yourself. It’s hardly a small fire.

Captain Bill Doherty of Nexus Consulting* weighed in on the fire yesterday, stating on Facebook:

"That’s one major fire! Why wasn’t there a proper Flag state and Class post casualty survey done prior to sailing? That could not have been completed in the short time the ship was in that port. Also there HAD to be a large amount of expendable fire fighting assets used putting the fire out. Extinguishers, foam, CO-2, air packs and so many other expendable items. Was the ship restocked to proper level and breathing apparatus recharged in that short time or did ship sail in an unseaworthy condition for the sake of expedience?"

The U.S. Coast Guard is not going to inspect the Freedom until the ship returns to the U.S. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) can’t do anything and is powerless to intervene to enforce the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) recommendations. The flag state, the Bahamas, is another feckless Caribbean flag of convenience that is too busy dealing with a run-away crime rate to bother inspecting another cruise ship that catches on fire. So the vacationing passengers will be herded like sheep on to the burnt cruise ship which will sail on to the Caymans because Royal Caribbean doesn’t want to incur the expense of putting 3,600 passengers in hotels in Montego Bay, hiring twenty chartered jets to fly them back to the states, and giving refunds in the millions of dollars.

The cruise line’s CEO’s are in control here. Screw the IMO, SOLAS and the need for post casualty surveys. The show must go on.

July 25,2015 Update: From a passenger on the cruise ship: "Just don’t buy the PR put out to news outlets by Royal Caribbean. The fire was significant. I’ve recorded the captain’s video where he described the extent of the fire, how long it took to put out, etc. It varies greatly from RC’s description.” 


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

Photo Credit: Raymond Bower – top;  Falmouthpo – bottom

*Captain Bill Doherty is a 1967 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a licensed US Coast Guard Master-Unlimited tonnage, and qualified First Class Pilot, Prince William Sound, Valdez, Alaska. Captain Doherty has served on numerous U.S. Navy warships and was the Head of Maritime Affairs for the Chief of Naval Operations during Operation Desert Storm. Over the course of his career, he has commanded tankers, container ships, research vessels, high-speed ferries, and was an instructor at his alma mater. Before retirement, his latest position was as Safety Manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines. Captain Doherty now serves as the director of maritime affairs for Nexus Consulting, and has appeared as a cruise safety expert before the United States Senate.

Freedom of the Seas

  • Angie

    I am cruising this ship on August 16. It’s my first one. I was very excited about it until now! I am scared. My question is do you think it is safe to go on?

  • Amon

    Why dont hire FF brigade on Cruise Ships , no bothering Crew and Pasanger with stupid Drill anyway

  • Alina

    I had a cruise with Royal Caribbean in May 2015 and I am very unhappy. Price -quality does not match !!! we were very disappointed … service, food, entertainment – it was awful. I’m not the first time a cruise, but the Royal Caribbean, never choose this company again.

  • Harold Kurte

    Richard Fain and Adam Goldstein are notorious spinners and if at all possible they will minimize such trivia as a fire on board one of their cruise ships. One of these days I predict a horrendous accident will happen with a severe loss of life,

  • Marcos
  • Ruele M. Dasmarinas

    I am a Chief Marine Engineer. Judging from this image, that kind and size of smoke suggest a big and serious fire in the Engine Room. The vessel should have not been permitted to sail without a thorough investigation of the cause and the integrity of her sailing out once again have been established specially considering that this is a cruise ship. Usually in this case, surveyors/representatives of Class, Flag State, PSC and CG comes on board to investigate and give their report and recommendations wither the vessel is safe to sail. And this processes takes quiet a long time before the vessel is cleared. Capt.Bill Doherty is right. What happen to IMO SOLAS?

  • Tony Maguire

    The comment about CEO’s
    The cruise line’s CEO’s are in control here. Screw the IMO, SOLAS and the need for post casualty surveys. The show must go on. How true that is
    We experienced mass sickness on MSC Orchestra in March
    Hundreds had a virus some ending up like me in hospital.
    When the cruise ended one of the passengers was diagnosed with Legionnaires as she got off the ship. MSC told the Australian health authorities thatthe ship was sickness free when it entered their waters. The return trip was the same hundreds of sick people all with the same symptoms (those of Legionnaire).

  • James Decelis

    I have been twice on Royal Carribean ships the Allure of the seas and the Liberty of the seas.We had a great time and enjoyed it.
    Unfortunatly these accidents happen and there is nothing much one can do.I must say that RC are very professional,take care of their guests and do necessary drills.

    Now is this situation a question of reducing costs?
    employing cheaper labour? reducing on maintenance costs?

  • Hector Gonzalez

    I was a crew member for Royal Caribbean for five years and I have to say, the company has day basis trainings and safety inspections, every single day, all crew are fully trained on fire fighting, survival craft, first aid, crowd management and many others out of my mind at this moment, every single crew from the captain to the cleaners have assigned responsibilities in case of emergency they are fully and completely trained for any kind of emergency, what really amaze me is the responsibility of many guest who go to the cruise ships and don`t want to follow instructions or safety drills, or simply not paying attention to them, or going to the bathroom and then to the buffet without washing hands then, GI happens, or someone smoke and throw the cigarette overboard or do any other forbidden thing then everybody blames on the company but not look out they own asses before starting talking basic garbage. or people that pretends to pay 100.00 US for a three day cruise and get the Royal treatment and a suite. unfortunatelly a ship is a machine and doesn´t matter how many times you inspect per day, there is always the chance of an accident.

  • Class One Engineer Officer

    As a former officer at a senior level within the cruise industry this practice is all to common. The crew may be drilled on a regular basis, when it boils down to it, safety will play second fiddle to profit and keeping the passengers onboard. Why the classification society would allow the vessel to sail without inspection I don’t know – there is a genuine risk of deficiencies that may invalidate the vessels P&I coverage. How the senior officers onboard sleep when signing their names to the paperwork I don’t know…

  • Keith Wilson

    My son and I just got back from a Western Caribbean cruise on the Freedom two weeks ago, and other than a hoard of teenage girls from Columbia, South America, had a great time. Entertainment was great, food was great, service was great. Those complaining about RC and the Freedom are probably over expecting and therefore are disappointed when everything isn’t exquisite. I’ll definitely choose RC again. Much cheaper and just as good as Disney or Princess.

  • Kevin Gorman

    I did serve 20 years in RCCL, 17 of them as Chief Engineer. I have been out of the company for 4 years now, so no need for me to wrap in any truth and lie in regards to how issues like this are handled by the Company. I am surprised to read senior officers with experience from the cruise industry and other types of vessels express what they do. You should all know that incidents like this have to be reported in to the Class and other respective authorities before the situation is evaluated and the vessel might get a go ahead to sail to next port. I can ensure that RCCL never would try to make a cosmetic good looking announcement to their guests if they felt it would not be safe to proceed. Also as engineers and mariners you should also know that even if there are smoke it does not neccesary mean that there is an uncontrolled fire behind. After a fire is extinguished it can smoke heavy for long time after. I would never be scared to join this vessel for a cruise in near future. One joining guest expressed that he / she was worried. The CEO and the rest of the top level of this company are maybe greedy when it comes to USD, but not for any case, and peoples safety they never gamble. That much I have learned after all the years I served there. Again, I am not working there anymore, so I really do not need to deffend their decission, but in all fairness I am correct in what I am saying!!

  • Robert

    I was on the ship with my brothers and we were in our room and we saw the smoke out the window and heard people on the balcony below us saying it might be a fire. One of my brothers said not to worry and that it was not a fire. About two minutes later the alarms were blaring everywhere. One of the housekeepers ran into our room and asked us to grab our life jackets. We grabbed them and ran up to our station. A day or two before they had done a drill for this and when we went up to the balcony, everyone was panicking but after awhile they were real calm because the crew was calm and telling jokes and told us not to worry. After awhile we were safe to go inside but we stayed on the other end of the ship. It was hot outside so inside they gave us water and sandwiches. We were outside for about 45 minutes. Then we were sent into the iceskating ring. We all sat in the chairs and after about an hour they started handing out towels and blankets. (I didn’t think we needed them but I guess the kids and older people were cold) after about two hours we were allowed to go back to our rooms.

    I think Royal Caribbean took care of the situating and gave much more. Each room was given $200 to spend on their boat for the incident. The staff was great and made us feel a whole lot better.

  • Nancy Rohr

    My husband & I are scheduled for this ship on Nov. 8th. Should we be concerned? Should we cancel? Should we just kick back & relax & still look forward to our cruise???

  • Cheryl

    I’ve been on 28 cruises. Unfortunately, incidents are going to happen. The staff on all cruises I have ever been on seem prepared and on top of handling issues. They take safety serious. I would go on any scheduled cruise and will continue to cruise in the future