In a somewhat surprising move, the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) lifted their “No-Sail Order” for domestic cruise lines.
The order had previously been extended on multiple occasions and the CDC’s director supported extending the cruise ban into 2021 amid the ongoing pandemic.
It is worth noting that there are heavy restrictions for domestic cruise lines that intend to begin sailing again in the near future. They will, for example, be required to prove the efficacy of their COVID-19 protocols before federal approval to sail is granted.
One of the most interesting things about the CDC’s just-released “Conditional Order to Sail” framework for sailing is that it does not mention capacity restrictions at all. In fact, there are only two mentions of ship capacity.
The first is this definition of what a cruise ship is:
“Cruise ship means any commercial, non-cargo, passenger-carrying vessel operating in U.S. waters with the capacity to carry 250 or more individuals (passengers and crew) with an itinerary anticipating an overnight stay onboard or twenty-four (24) hour stay onboard for either passengers or crew.”
Although 250 people onboard is the CDC’s minimum requirement for a seafaring vessel to qualify as a cruise ship, there is no mention of a maximum number of passengers and crew allowed onboard in these new cruise ship industry regulations.
All four of Disney Cruise Line’s existing ships — the Disney Dream, the Disney Fantasy, the Disney Magic, and the Disney Wonder — fall into this category. The upcoming Disney Wish, which is set to take its maiden voyage in Summer 2022, will be the largest Disney ship yet, with a capacity of about 2,500 Guests in 1,250 staterooms.
The second mention the CDC makes of cruise ship capacity is under the instructions for applying for a “COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate.” Any cruise line who wishes to obtain one of these certifications must supply:
“A completed statement of intent stating the name [of the ship], carrying capacity for passengers and crew, itinerary, ports of call, length of voyage, and expected onboard or shoreside activities, for the cruise ship that the cruise ship operator [Disney Cruise Line, for our purposes] intends to have certified for restricted passenger operations.”
This section indicates that the CDC reserves the right to alter or question any capacity restrictions cruise ship companies put in-place, so they may very well have their own ideas about capacity limitations that will be communicated to each individual cruise ship operator based on their unique ships.
However, it is certainly interesting that a percentage — such as 25% of maximum capacity or 50% of maximum capacity — was not explicitly stated.
Disney has not made any official announcements regarding their return to sailing, although they have officially canceled all cruise itineraries through December 2020. You can visit the official Disney Cruise Line website to discover details about early 2021 sailings to Disney’s private island Castaway Cay and other destinations.
It is worth noting that the last update Disney officials provided about upcoming Disney Cruise Line capacity restrictions occurred at a Port of Galveston meeting and indicated the fleet would sail at about 70% capacity.
We will have to wait for an official update to find out if this number is still correct. It seems unlikely that Disney will set sail at 100% capacity, but it also doesn’t look like the CDC would necessarily stop them if the proper health and safety protocols were in-place.
What do you think? Should Disney return to the sea with ships at full capacity? Or should there be more restrictions in place?