Yesterday, the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) announced that their “No-Sail Order” — which went into effect on March 14 and has been extended multiple times — was finally being lifted. This means that domestic cruise lines, including Disney Cruise Line, may very well be able to get back to sailing sooner rather than later.
It is important to note that cruises will not be able to resume immediately. There are, as expected, a variety of health and safety protocols that must be in-place to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus onboard. In an excerpt shared by Disney Cruise Line Blog, these details about the initial sailing phase are included in the CDC’s conditional sailing framework:
This Order shall remain in effect until the earliest of:
- The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency,
- The CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations, or
- November 1, 2021.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announces this framework for a phased resumption of cruise ship passenger operations. Considering the continued spread of COVID-19 worldwide and increased risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships, a careful approach is needed to safely resume cruise ship passenger operations. CDC is establishing requirements to mitigate the COVID-19 risk to passengers and crew, prevent the further spread of COVID-19 from cruise ships into U.S. communities, and protect public health and safety. After expiration of CDC’s No Sail Order (NSO) on October 31, 2020, CDC will take a phased approach to resuming cruise ship passenger operations in U.S. waters.
The initial phases will consist of testing and additional safeguards for crew members. CDC will ensure cruise ship operators have adequate health and safety protections for crew members while these cruise ship operators build the laboratory capacity needed to test future passengers. Subsequent phases will include simulated voyages to test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk, certification for ships that meet specific requirements, and a phased return to cruise ship passenger voyages in a manner that mitigates COVID-19 risk among passengers, crew members, and U.S. communities.
Disney Cruise Line has already agreed to a CLIA protocol that will require 100% coronavirus testing for both passengers and crew members onboard the DCL fleet — the Disney Dream, the Disney Fantasy, the Disney Magic, and the Disney Wonder.
All of this begs the question, when Disney Cruise Line gets its conditional sailing certificate and is allowed to hit the high seas again, where will they go first? Our answer — Disney’s Private Island Castaway Cay. Here’s why:
The Bahamas offer fewer restrictions than other countries.
According to a recent Fox News report, the Bahamas — which were already allowing U.S. travelers across their borders — are further lifting travel restrictions beginning tomorrow, November 1:
Bahamian authorities will soon lift a 14-day quarantine restriction for visitors if they can continuously prove that they are negative for the coronavirus amid the global pandemic.
Starting Nov. 1, tourists and returning residents will no longer need to isolate for two weeks upon arrival if they can present proof of a negative PCR test within a week of traveling, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation announced.
The report continued with these details:
“We are making changes to our travel and testing protocols in order to give our visitors a better and more seamless vacation experience,” Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar told Travel + Leisure of the policy change. “We want everyone to enjoy The Bahamas thoroughly and with peace of mind. These new steps will allow us to closely monitor and respond to any potential spread of the virus, while our visitors can continue to have the authentic Bahamian experience they know and love.”
All of this to say, Castaway Cay — which is one of seven islands specifically mentioned on the Bahamas’ official “Cruise Passengers” webpage — is certainly likely to be easier for Disney Cruise Line’s fleet to return to than its many European ports of call, for example.
Europe, in particular, is currently dealing with a major surge in coronavirus cases and certain countries — including France, where Disneyland Paris is located — have instated new lockdown measures and other restrictions.
It could make it easier for DCL to get a conditional sailing certificate.
Before the CDC issued its new cruise line framework, they polled travelers to discover what rules and regulations would make them feel safest when they returned to cruising.
One factor that these cruise vacationers specifically noted was that they would like to see, “limiting ports of call to private islands.”
Although the CDC did not state outright that following these passenger wishes would make it easier for domestic cruise lines to obtain their conditional sailing certifications, it seems likely that limiting ports of call to private islands would, at least in the early days of cruising’s return, increase the odds of the CDC approving any given cruise line’s — in this case, Disney’s — sailing plan.
Castaway Cay is a good “test site.”
Since The Walt Disney Company owns Disney’s Castaway Cay, they have full control over the health and safety protocols that are implemented on the island. This makes it the perfect port to use as a “test” for how various measures will work.
While Disney Cruise Line will, of course, have already been through the CDC’s required simulated sailings and other safety testing measures, limiting passengers to Castaway Cay at first is a great way to ensure that COVID-19 isn’t spread in bars, restaurants, and retail stores in port cities where Disney cannot dictate every move their Guests make.
Furthermore, some portions of Disney’s Castaway Cay are already set-up for social distancing and crowd control. The private bunaglows and it’s attached private beach are ideal for keeping cruise parties separate from one another.
As Disney gets the lay of the land — or sea, in this case — as it pertains to the “new normal” of cruise vacations, Castaway Cay is the perfect place to start.
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