Following the fire on the Carnival Freedom cruise ship, the burned ship was neither safe nor suitable to carry vacationing guests on a return cruise back to Florida. Despite telling its guests in a letter delivered to their cabins on the burnt ship that it intended to send them home “as soon as possible,” Carnival decided to sail the Carnival Conquest from Florida all the way to Grand Turk to transport the cruise guests back to Port Canaveral.

We first reported on the fire on Thursday morning:

Carnival Freedom Catches On Fire in Grand Turk

This slow method of transporting cruise guests is reminiscent of the way that Carnival treated its crew members during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Carnival forced the unpaid crew to travel to their far-away homes in the Philippines and Indonesia via Carnival cruise ships because the cruise giant was simply too cheap to fly them home by jets.

Carnival claims in a letter to the guests (text below) that the crew “quickly extinguished” the fire which occurred while the ship was dockside in Grand Turk. As you can see, the crew used firehoses which were unable to stream water to reach the top of the funnel. You can clearly see the water falling 20 to 50 feet short of the funnel fire.

Incredibly, although some passengers assembled on the ship and wore life jackets (which were not needed because the burning ship was docked in port), there was no order to evacuate passengers or non-essential crew members as the ship burned.  Countless videos posted on Twitter show the guests videotaping the spectacle and staying on the ship.  At least one experienced master mariner said that Carnival failed to follow the International Safety Management (ISM) “Policies and Procedures,” with respect to the immediate “muster, accountability and evacuation” of all persons, passenger and crew, not essential to the emergency response to that stack fire. Fortunately, no one was injured or killed by Carnival’s inadequate response to the fire.

The large fire did cause extensive damage to the Carnival cruise ship which will require that the ship go into the shipyard in Freeport, Bahamas.

The only thing that Carnival did “quickly” was to look after its own financial interests. It quickly decided against chartering airplanes to transport its guests home, which would cost several millions of dollars to fly the several thousands of guests by jets back to Florida.

As much as Carnival Cruise Line touts that all of its cruise ships are now back in business, the reality is that this is a cruise line  which is straining under crippling debt. As we mentioned last week, its parent company, Carnival Corporation is indebted to its lenders in the astounding amount of nearly $35,000,000,000 ($34.9 billion). It is faced with selling its Seabourn brand in order to staff afloat, as we mentioned last week.  Saving money is probably what also motivated the cruise line not not extend a full refund to its affected guests. instead, Carnival offered only a cruise credit of just 50% off a future cruise, and a few other perks.

Of course, trying to safe money got Carnival into this mess in the first place. In September of 2020, Carnival Cruise Line terminated thousands of crew members and over 100 senior shipboard officers. Many of these officers were the most experience engineers in its fleet of ships. The poor maintenance of the Carnival Freedom and the cause of the fire are probably a result of Carnival’s financial cutbacks.

Carnival Cruise Line Terminates Thousands of Crew Members and Senior Shipboard Officers

In the past, similar cruise ship fires resulted in some cruise lines offering full refunds. For example, Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas experienced a disabling fire in May of 2013. Royal Caribbean quickly arranged for flights for all guests back from the Bahamas. This cruise line extended 100% refunds to the guests and offered a certificate for a future cruise.

Immediately after the fire, Royal Caribbean International’s CEO at the time, Adam Goldstein (left), jumped on a jet to the Adam Goldstein Cruise Fire Bahamas where he quickly met up with the burned ship. Mr. Goldstein was photographed inspecting the scene of the fire and discussing the fire while drinking iced tea with the passengers. He apologized profusely and promised improvements to his ships. This was an example of how a cruise line executive should act – quickly flying to the scene of the disaster, showing leadership, and demonstrating responsibility while exhibiting transparency and concern for his guests.

But Carnival’s response to this fire was handled differently. Carnival handled the embarrassing debacle much like it usually handles its other sordid conduct, with a lack of transparency and lots of self-praise by its public relations personnel. Invariably Carnival always focuses primarily on its increasingly shaky bottom line. Carnival handled the fiasco in its typical penny-pinching, cheap and thoughtless manner – something that only an accountant or other type of bean counter could have come up with.

The public has heard nothing from Carnival Corporation’s outgoing CEO Arnold Donald who announced that he’s leaving Carnival this August, to be replaced by chief operation officer (and chief bean counter) Josh Weinstein.

Was it Mr. Donald, who has endured having to stand before U.S. District Court Judge Patricia Seitz during the quarterly hearings in federal court where his corporation has been convicted of numerous felonies for polluting the oceans and violating criminal parole for the past five years, who made the short-sighted decision not to refund its guests their cruise fares for their ruined vacations? Or were CEO Donald’s subordinate bean counters the decision makers who decided not to offer their loyal Carnival cruise passengers a full refund?

I suppose that Carnival’s cheap offer could have been worse. Carnival at least extended the all-you-can-drink packages and authorized $100 credit (per stateroom, not passenger) for the guests. So, perhaps, they can stay drunk when they had to pack their bags and climb aboard another Carnival cruise ship earlier this afternoon to cruise back to Florida for the two extra days it will take at this point to get to an airport in the U.S. and fly safely back home.

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cc:  We suggest reading: Burning Carnival Cruise Ship Creates Authentic Vacation-From-Hell Vibe.

Image Credit: Top  – ABC Action News; respective Twitter users.

If the Carnival letter is too small and/or blurry to read, the letter says:

Dear Carnival Freedom Guest,

As you know, earlier this morning, Carnival Freedom’s emergency response team quickly extinguished a fire inside the ship’s funnel.  Our safety protocols worked as planned and all safety systems and hotel services continued functioning normally.  All guests and crew are safe.

“We have been in regular contact with our Fleet Operations Center in Miami and all the appropriate authorities have been notified.  Our technical team from Miami will be joining the ship later today to conduct a technical assessment and plan for the necessary repairs which will be made at the shipyard in Grand Bahama.  This means that Carnival Freedom will not be sailing back to Port Canaveral.

In order to get you home as soon as possible, we have made arrangements to send Carnival Conquest to Grand Turk to sail back to Port Canaveral.  Carnival Conquest (sister ship to Carnival Freedom) will arrive in Grand Turk on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and will sail Saturday evening after embarkation has been completed.  Carnival Conquest will arrive in Port Canaveral on Monday morning.  We understand this extends the time you had planned to be away from home and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this delay may cause you.

Of course, the extra days of cruise and gratuities are on us!  Additionally, guests who purchased Wi-Fi and beverage packages will have their packages extended on a complimentary basis.  In addition, we will be posting a US$100, per stateroom, on board credit so you have some extra funds to spend over these next few days.  Additionally, since we’d love nothing more that to welcome you back, you will receive a 50% future cruise credit.

Any additional parking fees in the Port Canaveral Parking Garage will also be waived.  In the event you incur any expenses associated with independent, non refundable air expenses/change fees, we will reimburse you up to US$200.00, per person.  Please submit supporting documentation to

In the event you have any questions, our team will be in the Victoriana Lounge, Deck 3 forward, from 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM to assist with any inquiries.  Additionally, please visit us during this time if you have any health conditions that may be impacted by our extended return.”