Low Air Draft Creates Whale of a Tale for Carnival Cruise Ship

Carnival Panorama cruise ship
Carnival Panorama with 15 passenger deck and her massive funnel is too tall to reach the shipyard (Fincantieri file photo)

Published Nov 24, 2023 6:08 PM by The Maritime Executive


Carnival Cruise Line is facing a “whale tail” of a problem for its cruise ship Carnival Panorama (133,596 gross tons) which is in urgent need of repairs. The cruise ship requires too much air draft to get to the only available nearby shipyard to repair the vessel and get it back into service in time for the busy holiday season cruises.

The Carnival Panorama, which is 1,055 feet in length and has 15 passenger decks, normally operates from Long Beach, California on cruises ranging between five and eight days to Mexico. In mid-November, on the first night of a cruise, she developed what the cruise line described as “steering and propulsion problems.” Passengers aboard wrote on social media that one of the cruise ship’s two engines failed leaving them with half power. Two ports had to be dropped from the cruise and the ship limped back to California.

Carnival initially said the ship would be out of service for four cruises and then extended to six reporting that the Carnival Panorama needed to be drydocked for repairs. The challenge, there are only a relatively small number of dry docks that can handle a 1,000-footer and even fewer available in the vicinity of Southern California that can accommodate an urgent job.

Vigor’s Portland shipyard on the Willamette River in Oregon was available. However, it requires a trip some 95 miles along the Columbia River with bridges between the yard and the ocean. The Carnival Panorama is too tall to clear at least one of the bridges to make it to the shipyard.


Docked in Astoria the cruise ship can not proceed up river because of the air draft and the bridge (Port of Astoria)


Carnival initially sent the cruise ship to Astoria, Oregon where she docked on November 15. According to reports, they were exploring all the contingencies to get the ship to the shipyard located on Swan Island. The solution was to remove a portion of the ship’s massive funnel widely known as the “whale tail” because of Carnival’s distinctive style with two extensions from the main funnel to vent exhaust toward the sides of the ship. 

The original plan was to explore removing the portion of the funnel while the ship was docked in Astoria but now Carnival has determined that too was not possible. So, working with Victoria Shipyards in Canada, a new plan was hatched. The Carnival Panorama is making an out-of-season call in Victoria, British Columbia at the deep-water berth at Ogden Point. She arrived in Victoria on Monday evening, November 20. A large crane is being positioned alongside on the dock and crews are erecting scaffolding to remove a portion of the funnel and reduce the required air draft. 


Look closely and you can see the scaffolding going up around the funnel (Greater Victoria Harbour Authority)


After the portion of the funnel has been removed, the cruise ship will proceed to Vigor’s yard in Portland, which will undertake the necessary repairs. The cruise ship has two 16,500 kW propulsion pods and five MAN diesel generators. It is unclear which ones need the repairs, but the goal is to get the work done, send the cruise ship back to Victoria to reassemble her funnel and get her back to Long Beach in time to run her December 23 Christmas holiday cruise and December 30 New Year’s cruise. Anxious passengers are holding their breath to see the ship back in service for their long-planned holiday cruises.

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority reports it was pleased to assist and work with Western Stevedoring, Victoria Shipyards, Portland Shipyard, Carnival, and the crew of the Carnival Panorama to make it all happen. They even deferred planned out-of-season maintenance at Ogden Point to make the berth available for this unique operation.