Disney Cruise Line could be restarting soon in wake of key CDC approval
Get your Mickey ears, ready -- and your pirate outfits! The restart of Disney Cruise Line sailings out of Port Canaveral, Florida might be just weeks away.
The cruising arm of travel giant Disney has won approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct a so-called "test cruise" out of the port in late June -- a precursor to restarting regular departures for the first time in more than a year.
Disney Signature Experiences president Thomas Mazloum told staff members in a letter posted Tuesday at LaughingPlace.com that the CDC had cleared the line's 2,500-passenger Disney Dream to operate a two-night test cruise from June 29 through July 1 out of Port Canaveral.
Assuming all goes well, Disney could resume regular sailings with paying passengers from the port shortly thereafter.
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The sailings would be Disney's first from a U.S. port since March of 2020, when the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic.
"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," Mazloum said in the letter.
Mazloum said Disney Dream would sail with volunteers during the test cruise and undergo tests of newly developed health and safety protocols.
Disney Cruise Line is just the second cruise line to win CDC approval to operate a test cruise. Royal Caribbean last week announced that it had been cleared by the CDC to operate a test cruise for sailings out of PortMiami on its 3,934-passenger Freedom of the Seas.
The CDC is requiring such test cruises for any large cruise vessel that plans to operate in U.S. waters between now and Oct. 31 without 95% of passengers vaccinated for COVID-19.
Cruise vessels that plan to operate in U.S. waters in the coming months with at least 95% of passengers vaccinated for COVID-19 are exempt from the requirement.
The CDC rules apply to all cruise vessels that carry more than 250 passengers and crew.
The fact that Disney has asked the CDC to operate a test cruise with Disney Dream suggests the line doesn't plan to implement an across-the-board vaccine requirement for passengers when it restarts cruising this summer.
That's in contrast to more than a dozen lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Azamara that have announced that COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory for all passengers.
Implementing an across-the-board vaccine mandate would be difficult for Disney Cruise Line, which draw a large number of families with small children. Children under the age of 12 currently aren't eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Disney has yet to announce a broad return to cruising. Until now, the line only had revealed plans to operate a handful of cruises out of several ports in the U.K. starting on July 15. The trips only will be open to residents of the U.K. and take place on the 1,754-passenger Disney Magic.
In a statement sent to TPG, Disney called the upcoming test cruise an "important next step" toward its resumption of service.
"[We] are grateful for the productive dialogue with state, local and federal officials, the CDC and others in our industry that has made this possible," Disney said in the statement. "We look forward to our amazing crew once again creating magic for our guests and to helping the many workers who support our industry get back to work."
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