Freedom Of The Seas accidents and incidents

Freedom Of The Seas cruise ship


Length (LOA)
338 m / 1109 ft

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CruiseMapper's Freedom Of The Seas cruise ship accidents, incidents and law news reports relate to a 4829-passenger vessel owned by Royal Caribbean. Our Freedom Of The Seas accidents page contains reports made by using official data from renown online news media sources, US Coast Guard and Wikipedia.

Here are also reported latest updates on cruise law news related to ashore and shipboard crimes still investigated by the police. Among those could be arrests, filed lawsuits against the shipowner / cruise line company, charges and fines, grievances, settled / withdrawn legal actions, lost cases, virus outbreaks, etc.

  • fire - 2015
  • Norovirus (passengers/crew) - 2006 (338 / 46)
  • deaths - 2009, 2012 (bus crash in St Maarten), 2013, overboard (2019-toddler)
  • injuries/crimes - 2012, 2013, 2016 (2 drug busts), 2018 (Aruba), 2019 (St Maarten)

25 May 2021Other Incidents

On May 25, 2021, RCI announced that the company received permission from CDC to start test cruises with Freedom OTS out of PortMiami (Florida USA). The news made the boat the first to restart ex-USA voyages with passengers following the Coronavirus crisis that resulted in the industry's shutdown for 14 months.

Royal Caribbean's first test cruise (on Freedom OTS) was scheduled for June 20-22 (over the weekend/1-night cruise to nowhere). "Simulated voyages" (test cruises) are limited, not bookable and for non-paying customers/volunteers. With simulated voyages, the ships provide accommodation and services to volunteer passengers, in order for the company/operator to prove that its onboard health and safety protocols work.

The CDC required for the test cruises a minimum number of passengers to be 10% (of the boat's max capacity), volunteers to be informed about CDC's "Travel Health Notices", "COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination" and "Cruise Ship Guidance", Freedom OTS to retain a CDC-approved color-coded status and to be boarded by CDC staff, deficiencies (if any) during the voyage to be duly documented.

Update: At 7 PM on June 20th, the boat left PortMiami, carrying ~600 volunteers (all Royal Caribbean employees). Freedom OTS's inaugural trial cruise had length 2 nights and visited CocoCay Bahamas (Royal Caribbean's private island). Freedom OTS was scheduled to start voyages with paying passengers on July 2 (3-day Miami roundtrip visiting Nassau and CocoCay).

15 March 2020Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

On March 15, 2020, due to homeport's closure to cruise liners, Freedom OTS was denied entry and docking in homeport San Juan (Puerto Rico). The liner was returning back to disembark its passengers after ending a 7-day Southern Caribbean Cruise (itinerary March 8-15) that visited Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire and St Thomas (USVI). The ship had neither Coronavirus or any other illness issues during the voyage.

Being banned from Puerto Rico, the vessel headed to mainland USA (Florida), with planned passenger debarkation in PortMiami on March 17. During the extra 2 seadays (Mar 15-16) Royal Caribbean automatically extended all purchased for the voyage packages (Internet, WiFi, dining, drink) at no additional cost. All passengers also received 1 hour free of charge Wi-Fi access for making travel arrangements from Miami.

07 July 2019Crew / Passenger Deaths

(overboard) On July 7, 2019, prior passenger debarkation/while the liner was berthed at Pan American Pier in San Juan (Puerto Rico), an 18-month-old female passenger slipped from her grandfather's arms and fell 11 decks down onto the concrete dock. The girl (Chloe Wiegand) was traveling with her family of 8 (all residents of Indiana USA).

Later in the afternoon, ship's Captain announced that next voyage's departure (scheduled for 8:30 pm) would be delayed. Puerto Rican police officers boarded the ship to interview witnesses of the tragedy. On July 9, several major international and US media sources quoted family’s attorney who announced that "Her grandfather lifts her up and puts her on a railing and where he thinks that there is glass there because it’s clear, but it turns out there was no glass there".

The incident occurred at the end of 7-day Southern Caribbean cruise (itinerary June 30 - July 7) roundtrip from homeport San Juan to Oranjestad (Aruba), Willemstad (Curacao), Kralendijk (Bonaire) and Philipsburg (St Maarten).

On October 28, 2019, the toddler's grandfather (Salvatore Anello, from Valparaiso Chile) was arrested and charged with negligent homicide. His appearance in court was scheduled for November 20 when he pleaded not-guilty.

(law news) On October 14, 2020, the 51-year-old Salvatore Anello pleaded "guilty to negligent homicide" in order to end the case. Family's attorney (Michael Winkleman) commented to the media: "This decision was an incredibly difficult one for Sam (Salvatore) and the family, but because the plea agreement includes no jail time and no admission of facts, it was decided the plea deal is in the best interests of the family." Anello's sentencing was scheduled for December 10, 2020, but later rescheduled for February 8, 2021, when he was sentenced to 3 years probation.

A civil lawsuit against RCI-Royal Caribbean International was filed in December 2019, alleging the company was at fault for this "preventable accident". The provided in January 2020 by RCI surveillance video from Freedom OTS shows Salvatore Anello leaning out the window for ~8 seconds (he obviously knew it was open) before lifting the toddler by and out of the open window for 34 seconds before losing his grip and dropping the kid out of the window.

22 June 2019Crew / Passenger Injuries and Overboards

On June 22, 2019, while the liner was docked in call port Philipsburg (St Maarten Island), several cruise passengers sustained minor injuries in a road accident when their taxi van failed manoeuvre and ended up in the sea. A number of bystanders helped and rescued the in-vehicle trapped tourists.

On June 23, in response to a FOX News inquiry, RCI-Royal Caribbean International commented that the van was transporting 12 Puerto Rican cruise passengers on an independently booked St Maarten shore excursion. Freedom OTS delayed its port departure (scheduled for 5 pm on June 22) until June 25.

The incident occurred at the end of 7-day Southern Caribbean cruise (itinerary June 16-23) roundtrip from homeport San Juan (Puerto Rico) to Oranjestad (Aruba), Willemstad (Curacao), Kralendijk (Bonaire) and Philipsburg (St Maarten).

21 February 2019Structural and Technical Issues

The scheduled cruise following the drydock refurbishment in 2020 (January 19 through March 1, 2020) was officially cancelled on February 21, 2019, via emails. To all bookings was offered to rebook to another 2020 cruise (on Freedom OTS or any other RCI ship) or full refund. As compensation was offered OBC/onboard credit ($200 for inside-oceanview-balcony cabins, $400 for suites), additional $50 OBC for each 3rd passenger, reimbursement for flight change fees with receipts (up to $200 for domestic and $400 for international flights).

The cancelled 7-day cruise (itinerary February 23-March 1) was roundtrip from homeport San Juan (Puerto Rico) to Aruba (Oranjestad), Curacao (Willemstad) and Bonaire (Kralendijk).

15 August 2018Crew / Passenger Injuries and Overboards

On August 15, 2018, a 7-year-old female passenger sustained serious injuries in an ATV accident ashore, while the liner was docked in call port Oranjestad (Aruba). The girl (Jednniely Perez Rivas, from Bayamon, Puerto Rico) was travelling with her mother in an off-road vehicle which was involved in a crash accident with a van. The girl was ejected from the ATV and sustained injuries to her leg and lost her foot.

Another cruise ship passenger (Sean Whelan, retired NYPD officer), arrived at the scene of the accident. He found the kid not breathing and administered emergency medical treatment. He used a towel to stop the bleeding and performed CPR for some 20 min until the kid started breathing again. He accompanied her to a hospital and, finding that her family had no medical insurance, paid USD 15,000 for an air ambulance from Oranjestad to San Juan (Puerto Rico). In San Juan, the girl was placed in a medically induced coma.

The incident occurred during 7-day Southern Caribbean cruise (itinerary Aug 11-18) roundtrip from homeport San Juan to Charlotte Amalie (St Thomas), Willemstad (Curacao), Oranjestad (Aruba) and Basseterre (St Kitts).

26 April 2016Drug Smuggling

On April 26, 2016, two male crew were arrested on the ship and charged with cocaine smuggling into the USA (Port Canaveral Florida) from St Maarten. Both crew members (of Jamaican origin, galley workers) admitted making multiple deliveries using drugs-filled sandals. For each delivery, they’ve been paid USD 1250.

15 March 2016Drug Smuggling

On May 15, 2016, four female passengers (of US origin) were arrested and charged with cocaine smuggling. The drug bust was in Port Canaveral (Orlando, Florida), while the women were disembarking the ship after a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise with call ports Labadee (Haiti(, Falmouth (Jamaica), Grand Cayman and Cozumel (Mexico).

Over 6,5 kg of the drug was discovered in all 5 vacuum-sealed packages. Custom officers searched one of the women after noticing that her hands were shaking and she was avoiding eye contact. Then the officers searched her travel companions and found the packages with cocaine in each of their bras and girdles.

22 July 2015Fire Accident

On July 22, 2015, upon entering into Port Falmouth, Jamaica, the ship experienced a fire incident. Royal Caribbean announced that “a small fire” started in a “mechanical area”. All passengers were gathered to the respective muster stations. No injuries among passengers were reported, but a crew suffered 1-degree burns. The fire broke out at 9:15 am. The ship’s fire suppression system in the area activated immediately and quickly extinguished it. All the vessel’s systems were functioning normally. Freedom was on a 7-day roundtrip itinerary from Port Canaveral to Labadee (Haiti private resort), Falmouth, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

According to unofficial information leaked via active crew on the ship, during the fire accident, Royal Caribbean was installing a new generation emission purification system (AEP) on the ship, often referred to as “scrubber”. Excepting the newest vessels, RCI ships use high-sulphur cheaper diesel fuel instead of low-sulphur diesel fuel. To comply with the industry’s norm and the IMO’s requirements, the line decided to upgrade the existing equipment by installing the new AEP system (scrubber equipment). These new units are located in the engine room, positioned in and around diesel engines and exhaust systems. Usually, for passenger safety reasons, such works are done during dry dock refurbishments.

A passenger reported to us he saw the equipment being loaded on the ship. When he asked the crew, he was told it is for the water filtration system. Also, the night before, many cruise cabins suffered toilet's malfunction, so passengers had to use the public restrooms. The man also told us, that upon leaving the ship, he walked through stairwells and hallways that reeked of urine and feces. On upper decks, there was a smell of welding, mould and toxic fumes.

An anonymous crew reported that the Freedom of the Seas fire in Jamaica was not contained within the mechanical spaces. According to the insider, the fire started near the engine and spread up to the top deck (above the lounge “Viking Crown”) through the exhaust system. Many photos and videos published online confirmed this information. They all showed big flames burning and a billowing smoke erupting from the ship’s top.

As compensation for the port hours missed in Jamaica, all passengers received US$200 in onboard credit. If the shipowner Royal Caribbean had shut down the vessel in Jamaica for a (mandatory) SOLAS inspection (abbrev from “Safety of Life at Sea”), this would have resulted in huge financial losses from passenger lodging, flights to Miami FL and refunds.

When the fire incident occurred, the ship was on a 7-day Western Caribbean roundtrip Port Canaveral cruise itinerary to Haiti (Labadee /private resort), Jamaica (Falmouth / 8 am-4 pm), Grand Cayman (George Town) and Mexico (Cozumel). The voyage started on July 19, and all call ports dates and times were as scheduled.

The ship was back in homeport Port Canaveral on July 26, 2015, at 6 am. The vessel docked at Cruise Terminal 1 and was boarded and inspected by a USCG team. At 4:30 pm the ship left the port on the next scheduled 7-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary to Bahamas (Coco Cay /private island), St Thomas (Charlotte Amalie), and St Maarten (Philipsburg).

15 December 2013Crew / Passenger Deaths

On December 15, 2013, a 75-year-old female passenger died from natural causes on the ship during a 7-day Caribbean voyage.

03 December 2013Coast Guard Medevacs

On December 3, 2013, a helicopter airlifted a male passenger from Coco Cay (aka Little Stirrup Cay /private island in the Bahamas). Later on the same day, the ship disembarked in Nassau, Bahamas, two other passengers, who were transported to a hospital.

2013Coast Guard Medevacs

In 2013 were filed several reports on medical emergencies. On December 4, due to 3 emergencies, the ship stopped at San Juan Puerto Rico instead of St Thomas. On December 5, the ship returned to St Maarten soon after departure due to an emergency. On December 9, about 3 hours after departure from Port Canaveral the ship returned due to an emergency.

10 August 2012Crew / Passenger Crimes

(sexual) On August 10, 2012, Mexican newspaper reported a 19-year-old female passenger being drugged and sexually assaulted by four Senor Frog’s employees (bar-restaurant in Cozumel Mexico). When boarded the ship, she experienced pain and had bruises on her body. The girl’s family decided to end the cruise and stay in Cozumel to report the incident to the local police.

19 July 2012Crew / Passenger Injuries and Overboards

(bus crash accident) On July 19, 2012, 36 passengers from the ship were involved in a bus crash accident during an organized by Royal Caribbean shore excursion on St Maarten. They were on a zip line tour called “Loterie Farm Treetop Adventure”. The tour bus lost control while descending a steep road on a hill, hit a speed bump, stroke a taxi car (overturning it), then hit a tree and and plummet into a ditch. The land tour operator was “Dutch Tours Enterprises NV”.

Six of the cruise ship passengers (all US citizens) and the driver were injured (minor injuries, a broken wrist). The taxi driver suffered a broken foot. The injured were transported to Louis Constant Fleming Hospital. Staff members and a doctor from the ship remained with them during the hospital stay. All embarked the ship the same day.

04 September 2009Crew / Passenger Deaths

(overboard) On September 4, 2009, a 50-year-old male passenger died after falling overboard from the ship in Cozumel. The vessel was manoeuvring for docking when the man fell overboard. The body was sucked into the propellers.

December 2006Cruise Illness / Virus Outbreaks

December 2006, CDC reported on voyage Dec 3 to 10, a Norovirus outbreak (gastrointestinal illness) infected a total of 338 passengers (out of 3823, or 8,8%) and 46 crew (out of 1402, or 3,3%). All sick suffered from Norovirus symptoms (vomiting, diarrhoea) and were quarantined to their cabins.

The ship was on the 7-day Caribbean itinerary from homeport Miami. Because this was the 3rd voyage with reported Norovirus outbreak (since Nov 26), CDC inspectors recommended the vessel to remain docked for 48 hours (out of service) for extensive cleaning and disinfection.

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