Disney Cruise Line became the second cruise company to receive approval from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to operate a simulated cruise from a US port as a step toward resuming revenue service. The trip planned for the end of June is also the first cruise scheduled to sail from Port Canaveral, Florida.
“We received word that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved our application to conduct a simulation cruise in advance of resuming normal operations,” wrote Disney Signature Experiences President Thomas Mazloum in a letter to employees leaked by a fan site. “This is a critically important milestone for Disney Cruise Line – and I want to thank everyone who has been supporting our return-to-service plans with such dedication and hard work.”
Disney plans to sail its first cruise from a U.S. port aboard its 130,000 gross ton Disney Dream. The ship will be operating, as required by the CDC, a 2-night cruise departing on June 29 and returning on July 1. All the passengers will be volunteers who under the CDC rules have to agree to pre- and post-cruise COVID-19 testing and be advised of the risks of sailing on the simulated cruise.
The simulated cruises are required as a test of the line’s health and safety protocols. Passengers and crew will participate in normal elements from embarkation to activities and meals aboard the cruise ship and the line will report back to the CDC on the success or any areas that need to be corrected. The CDC can require more than one simulated cruise if there are deficiencies before a cruise line is permitted to restart commercial service.
Disney has not announced its plans for the U.S. cruises or a potential restart date. In mid-May, Disney canceled all cruises aboard its cruise ship the Disney Wonder through July 12, while cruises on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy are canceled through July 31, 2021. The line’s fourth cruise ship, the Disney Magic, is due to operate UK-based cruises starting July 15 from Liverpool, England continuing to the beginning of October as part of the UK’s resumption of domestic travel.
The Disney Dream normally accommodates approximately 2,500 adults with a total capacity with children of up to approximately 4,000 passengers. The company has not announced what the restrictions will be on capacity when it resumed sailing from Florida. The fan website LaughingPlace is reporting that the simulated cruise will be operated with Disney cast members as the passengers and not the public.
By choosing to operate the simulated cruise to receive the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order, Disney avoids the ongoing controversy between the cruise industry and the Florida governor over requiring passengers to be vaccinated for COVID-19. The governor’s office continues to insist that Florida will not permit the cruise lines to ask for proof of vaccinations. Florida’s governor signed an executive order forbidding businesses to require vaccine passports and is now denying rumors that Florida might exempt the cruise lines from the order.
Previously, the CDC granted permission to Royal Caribbean International to operate the first test cruise from Miami and to Royal Caribbean’s premium brand Celebrity Cruises to resume sailing at the end of June, requiring passengers and crew to be vaccinated. Carnival Cruise Line announced plans to resume sailing from Miami and Galveston in July but has not announced that it received permission to operate simulated cruises.
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