Disney Cruise Line could be reopening in wake of CDC approval

Fort Lauderdale mayor on future of cruises

Fort Lauderdale, Florida Mayor Dean Trantalis discusses the CDC approving the first cruise to sail out of the U.S. in over a year in June. 

Disney Cruise Line can soon begin trial voyages in waters out of Florida with volunteer passengers helping test whether the ships can sail safely during a pandemic, according to reports.

Disney Signature Experiences President Thomas Mazloum said in a letter posted Tuesday at LaughingPlace.com, a website run by Disney fans, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the go-ahead to the 2,500-passenger Disney Dream to run a two-night trial run from June 29 through July 1 out of Port Canaveral.

"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.

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The CDC action is a step toward resuming cruises in U.S. waters, possibly by July, for the first time since March 2020.

"We have reached an important next step toward our gradual and responsible resumption of service, and are grateful for the productive dialogue with state, local and federal officials, the CDC and others in our industry that has made this possible," said Disney Cruise Line spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez in an emailed 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."

Last month the CDC gave ship operators final technical guidelines for test cruises. 

Each practice cruise — which will run two to seven days — must have enough passengers to meet at least 10% of the ship’s capacity. Volunteers must be 18 or older and either fully vaccinated or free of medical conditions that would put them at high risk for severe COVID-19.

The ship operator must tell passengers that they are simulating untested safety measures "and that sailing during a pandemic is an inherently risky activity," the CDC guidelines state.

The CDC gave the go ahead to the 2,500-passenger Disney Dream running a two-night trial run from June 29 through July 1 out of Port Canaveral. (iStock)

Passengers must be examined for COVID-19 symptoms before and after the trip, and at least 75% of those onboard must be tested at the end of the trip.

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Restrictions on board will include face masks and social distancing. The CDC will allow guided shore excursions — no wandering about on their own — if tour operators follow certain standards.

Ships must make at least one practice run before resuming regular cruises in U.S. waters, although operators will be able to avoid the requirement if they vouch that 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are vaccinated.

The CDC guidance, however, is at odds with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who signed a bill banning business from requiring proof of vaccination.

The CDC shut down the cruise industry a year ago when several coronavirus outbreaks were tied to ships worldwide. 

DeSantis and industry leaders argued this spring that with widespread testing and vaccines becoming more available, the danger is now no worse than air and train travel, which are open. Cruising has resumed with restrictions and protocols in much of the world with the industry leaders saying there have been no new outbreaks tied to their ships.

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More than 8 million passengers cruised from Florida in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic. The Cruise Lines International Association estimates that 150,000 jobs in the state are created by the industry, including dependent jobs at hotels, restaurants and airlines, generating nearly $8 billion in wages. Almost all of that has been wiped out.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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