Fire-damaged Carnival cruise ship returns to service with missing ‘whale tail,’ and fans ask: Will it grow back?

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It’s a whale of a tale about a Carnival Cruise Line ship. Or, at least, a whale tail tale.

Either way, it already has Carnival fans talking.

The signature “whale tail” atop the funnel on one of the line’s 24 vessels, Carnival Freedom, has gone missing, sparking lots of discussion at Carnival fan sites such as the one run by Carnival brand ambassador John Heald on Facebook, which has more than 400,000 followers.

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“It looks naked without the tail,” one Carnival fan wrote at Heald’s page over the weekend. This came after the 2,974-passenger ship resumed sailings out of Port Canaveral, Florida, for the first time since a recent fire, with the much-beloved-by-fans smokestack feature notably absent.

“She looks great … much leaner without the full stack,” shot back another Carnival fan.

A third Carnival fan asked Heald how long it would take for the tail to grow back. “Is it like a lobster that loses a claw and grows a new one?” he asked.

Carnival fans on Twitter also were … atwitter about it.

The recently modified Carnival Freedom leaves Port Canaveral for the first time with passengers after its recent fire. Both of the iconic whale tails have been replaced with a more classic smokestack, complete with a little horn as well!📢#carnivalfreedom #carnivalcruise pic.twitter.com/ryorKepyIt

— Jerry Pike (@JerryPikePhoto) June 11, 2022

The whale tail, which was partly damaged in the fire, was removed from the vessel’s smokestack during repairs over the past two weeks at the Grand Bahama Shipyard in Freeport, Bahamas. There’s no official word from Carnival on whether the whale tail will be replaced at a later date. However, Heald suggested in a Facebook post that its absence was temporary.

“She may look a little different for a while but the fun is back,” Heald wrote.

In response to questions from TPG, Carnival spokesperson Matt Lupoli pointed to a short press statement on the Carnival website that called the funnel work a “technical repair.” Neither Lupoli nor the statement mentioned when the ship’s funnel might be restored to its former look.

As of now, the funnel on Carnival Freedom looks like the funnels that were on Carnival ships in the early days of the line — sloping backward like a fin and narrowing at the top.

Some Carnival fans on Facebook have taken to calling the new funnel the “shark fin.”

The fire that damaged the funnel on Carnival Freedom occurred on May 26 when the ship was docked in Grand Turk; the fire was localized to the vessel’s funnel area. Workers quickly extinguished it, and nobody was injured during the incident, according to the line.

Carnival has been using the distinctive “whale tail” design for the funnels on its ships since 1982 when it added one to the then-new, 1,412-passenger Tropicale. The funnel design features two distinct wings that flare out from the side of the funnel, carrying exhaust away from the ship. The funnels always are painted in Carnival’s trademark red, white and blue livery.

Carnival Freedom before its “whale tail” funnel was removed. (Photo by jodi4art/Getty Images)

In theory, such a winged funnel improves airflow. However, its main purpose for these many years has been as a branding tool. It has made Carnival ships instantly recognizable even when seen from long distances.

Carnival holds a patent on its whale tail design that ensures no other line can add a funnel to a ship that is quite like it. That said, Carnival isn’t the first line to design a funnel for a ship with wings. The famed ocean liner SS France, launched in 1962, had two smokestacks with a similar design.

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Featured photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line.

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