Carnival Freedom cancellations: Cruise ship fire disrupts youth group's spring break plans; how you can help

Scary moments were caught on camera when passengers witnessed the Carnival Freedom cruise ship catch fire. It’s the second time this has happened on this specific ship in two years.

Video shows flames and smoke coming from the ship's port side exhaust funnel on Saturday, March 23. The ship was 20 miles off the Bahamas coast at the time. 

The cruise line has canceled their next two trips out of Port Canaveral, leaving thousands of people, like Lisa Maus, stranded.

"Where do you go?" Maus said. "It is spring break in Florida!"

Maus and her husband flew 1,700 miles from Indiana. They are now crashing with friends in Satellite Beach while they come up with another plan. 

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Fire breaks out on Carnival Freedom cruise ship near the Bahamas on March 23. (Photo Credit: Lance Schwenker)

"2,800 and some people have flown in or driven in or whatever, and we’re all displaced! What to do? I’m dumbfounded," Maus said. 

FOX 35 News spoke to Ja’dynn Fluellen, one of ten kids on a youth trip now stuck in Central Florida.


"It’s kind of like devastating and mind-blowing because we looked forward to doing this and having memories to look back on," Fluellen said.

Chaperone, Selina Hall, said they drove 10 hours from Tennessee. Right now, the group of 14 is staying at an Airbnb in Cocoa.

"We only had the one night," Hall said. "So, we’re still unsure about what we’re going to do for the rest of the week."

The nonprofit organization, called H.O.P.E, fundraised for one year for this cruise, said H.O.P.E founder Stella Robinette.

"Most of these kids, 95% of them, are low-income youth that don’t have this opportunity and for this to be snatched away from them, that’s hard," Robinette said. "All of the money that they have raised has basically went to Carnival. So, there’s not much money for them to do anything right now. When we looked at tickets at different places here, we can’t afford to pay for 14 people."

According to Carnival, all customers will receive a full refund and a 100% future cruise credit. Maus said she was told refunds could take up to three weeks.

Robinette said H.O.P.E is now fundraising again, to try and stay in Central Florida for the week and give the children the spring break they deserve. To contribute to their efforts, you can visit:

Carnival released the following statement:

"Carnival Freedom experienced a fire in the port side of the exhaust funnel on Saturday. Our onboard team acted quickly to contain and put out the fire. While we continue to investigate multiple eyewitness reports of a lightning strike, our technical team completed a thorough assessment during the ship’s visit to Freeport today. Regrettably, the damage is more than we first thought and will require an immediate repair to stabilize the funnel, resulting in the cancellation of the March 25 and March 29 cruises from Port Canaveral. The funnel has been stabilized for the ship’s return to Port Canaveral overnight to disembark guests, and then it will go to the Freeport shipyard on Monday afternoon to begin the required repairs. We sincerely regret the impact to our embarking guests, as we know they have been looking forward to their spring break vacation. We are providing all guests on both cancelled cruises a full refund and a 100% future cruise credit so they can come back and enjoy a future cruise with us. We also greatly appreciate the terrific guests who are currently sailing with us, for their outstanding cooperation and support."