Disney Cruise Line’s return to service hit a speedbump when a test run was delayed due to inconsistent COVID-19 test results among participants.
The Disney Dream had been scheduled to set sail Tuesday from Port Canaveral, Florida, with 300 employees who had volunteered for the ‘simulation’ cruise.
The test run was an attempt for the cruise to prove that its health and safety protocols worked in order to get a thumbs up to resume operations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC allows for cruises to return to operation as long as they can verify at least 95 percent of passengers are vaccinated, or can show the CDC using a test run that officials have proper safety measures in place to operate with unvaccinated passengers.
But the trip was postponed until next month because a small number of employees had inconsistent results for COVID-19, ‘which is considered positive by the CDC,’ Disney said in a statement on Monday.
In Florida, where the cruise sets sail from, Gov Ron DeSantis banned private businesses from checking vaccine status before providing services with an executive order in March, setting off a long running conflict between his office, cruise lines and the CDC.
Because of the ban, Disney must now prove it can potentially limit the spread of the virus on their cruise lines.
The ‘Disney Dream’ cruise ship will not be able to resume operations in the near future after a safety test run had to be cancelled due to ‘inconsistent’ COVID-19 test results among staff. Pictured: A Disney Cruise ship docking at Port Canaveral, Florida
Florida is one of the hubs of cruise industry, which was decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Almost all major cruise lines shut down in March of 2020.
After a 14 -month break, the $40 billion industry that employs more than 400,000 people is ready to get going once again as the country reopens.
The CDC first required cruises to assure that at least 95 percent of passengers were vaccinated for COVID-19 before doing so.
A battle began between DeSantis, the CDC and cruise liners, as they hoped to set sail while the Governor’s executive order prevents them from being able to do so as long as the CDC orders stood.
Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled in favor of a suit filed by DeSantis against the CDC, saying that the agency could not prevent cruises from departing unless a required 95 percent of passengers were vaccinated.
Florida is the central hub of the cruise industry, which brings in $40 billion in revenue each year and employs over 400,000 people
‘The CDC has been wrong all along, and they knew it,’ DeSantis said in a statement on the lawsuit.
‘The CDC and the Biden Administration concocted a plan to sink the cruise industry, hiding behind bureaucratic delay and lawsuits.
‘Today, we are securing this victory for Florida families, for the cruise industry, and for every state that wants to preserve its rights in the face of unprecedented federal overreach.’
The CDC updated its guideline to reflect the changes, now allowing cruise liners to bypass the requirement as long as they could demonstrate on a test run that they can safely operate a cruise with unvaccinated passengers.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, as an example, is allowing unvaccinated passengers on board, but they must pay a $136 testing fee, they will not be permitted to attend certain events and unvaccinated passengers will only be allowed in dining areas during limited times.
Florida Gov Ron DeSantis (pictured) banned the use of vaccine passports in his state by executive order in March. The ban has hurt the cruise industry, preventing many companies from being able to follow CDC guidelines in order to resume operations
Cruise liners themselves are hoping to skirt around DeSantis’ vaccine passport ban, and avoid the costly preparation runs.
A lawsuit in May filed against DeSantis by major cruise liners claims that they should be able to abide by federal laws instead of those set by the state.
‘It has been a year of migraines and kicks in the teeth for the cruise industry. Now, they’re finally getting ready to restart, and you have the governor of Florida basically playing a game of chicken with them,’ Patrick Scholes, a travel industry analyst, told NBC.
He also noted that the regulation is potentially costing cruise companies millions of dollars every day they can not operate.
Some cruise liners are even threatening to leave the state due to the Governor’s regulation.
‘We hope that this doesn’t become a legal football or a political football,’ Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line said in a recent earning call, according to NBC.
‘But at the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders. And God forbid we can’t operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from.
‘And we can operate from the Caribbean for ships that otherwise would have gone to Florida.
‘We certainly hope it doesn’t come to that. Everyone wants to operate out of Florida. It’s a very lucrative market. But it is an issue. Can’t ignore it.’
Disney, in the meanwhile, will not be able to resume the Disney Dream until at least next month due to the potential positive COVID-19 cases, a move which could cost the company millions of dollars.
Cruise ships have always been a vessel for outbreaks even before the pandemic, with norovirus and gastrointestinal illnesses being common place on the ships.
This makes a prospect of a cruise with unvaccinated people on board potentially dangerous, as the usual close quarters people stay in on a cruise ship combined with regular mingling create the perfect conditions for an outbreak.