The cruise ship's most iconic feature, the funnel was first introduced in the steamship days, when oceangoing ships made the transition from sail power to coal-fired engines. Funnels were originally designed as chimneys, used to expel smoke and fumes from belowdecks, and directed skywards to keep the outflow from interfering with crew or passengers. Today's ships are much cleaner than steamships of old, running on gas that produces less exhaust. But cruise ship funnels are still needed, and the amount and size of the funnels directly relates to the outflow of exhaust produced by the ship's engines.
In the early days of transatlantic cruising and shipping, there was a misheld belief that the number of funnels a ship had related to how fast or powerful it was. Military ships used this trick to show their prowess, and commercial ships followed suite. Alongside working funnels, some ships (including the ill-fated RMS Titanic and RMS Lusitania) had false funnels that were designed more for image than practicality.
That trend continues today, when cruise lines are keeping the look of the larger funnel and personalizing these ship funnels to match their brands. Carnival Cruise Line's distinctive red funnel is shaped like a whale tale and can be spied miles away; it has been patented as a brand identifier. Disney Cruise Line recalls steamships of old, with bright red funnels punctuated by a familiar Mouse-eared silhouette; plus, one of the funnels is a fake, housing youth clubs instead. Celebrity's funnels are marked by the brand's white X logo, while Royal Caribbean's are future modern, with the line's crown-and-anchor logo affixed to the side.