The Disney Dream was originally scheduled to set sail on June 29, Tuesday, from Port Canaveral, Florida, with 300 employees who volunteered for the "simulation" cruise. The planned test run aimed to show that the cruise's health and safety protocols worked so it can receive the green light to resume operations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC only allows cruises to resume operations if they can prove that at least 95 percent of passengers are vaccinated. Alternatively, cruises can conduct a test run to prove to the CDC that officials have proper safety measures in place and that they can operate even with unvaccinated passengers.
However, the trip was postponed until July when five vaccinated employees tested positive. All five previously tested negative for the virus and were asymptomatic. A day later, all of them tested negative again, suggesting that the tests themselves were unreliable.
The cruise was supposed to set sail from Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis had banned private businesses from checking vaccine status. The governor's executive order back in March, which bans the use of vaccine passports throughout the state, started a long-running conflict between his office, cruise lines and the CDC.
Due to the ban, Disney now has to prove it can effectively limit the spread of the coronavirus on their cruise lines.
Florida, one of the hubs of the cruise industry, suffered great losses when the coronavirus pandemic spread across America. Almost all major cruise lines shut down back in March 2020.
After a 14 -month break, the $40 billion industry, which employs over 400,000 workers, is gearing up to resume services as the country reopens. (Related: The government shouldn’t force young adults and teens to take experimental coronavirus vaccines, says inventor of mRNA vaccines.)
However, two things stand in the way of cruise liners: the CDC's requirement that at least 95 percent of passengers be vaccinated and DeSantis's executive order. The order prevents cruise ships from setting sail for as long as the CDC's orders stands.
Earlier in June, a federal judge ruled in favor of a suit filed by DeSantis against the CDC. The ruling made it clear that the agency could not prevent cruises from departing if 95 percent of passengers were vaccinated.
In a statement, DeSantis decried the agency, saying that the CDC knew it had been wrong all along.
"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," said DeSantis.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody added that the ruling was a much-needed win for hardworking Floridians whose livelihoods largely depend on the cruise industry. Moody concluded that the federal government "does not, nor should it ever, have the authority to single out and lock down an entire industry indefinitely."
After this victory, the CDC updated its guideline to reflect the changes. It now allows cruise liners to bypass the requirement if they can successfully show that they can safely operate a cruise with unvaccinated passengers.
For example, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is allowing unvaccinated passengers on board. However, travelers are required to pay a $136 testing fee; otherwise, they won't be allowed to attend certain events. Unvaccinated passengers are only allowed in dining areas during limited times.
Cruise liners trying to bypass DeSantis' vaccine passport ban also want to avoid the expensive preparation runs.
Back in May, major cruise liners filed a lawsuit against DeSantis, claiming that the industry should be able to abide by federal laws instead of those set by the state. Patrick Scholes, a travel industry analyst, said that the pandemic has resulted in a yearlong struggle for the industry. Unfortunately, DeSantis is "playing a game of chicken with them."
Scholes added that the regulation is potentially costing cruise companies millions of dollars every day. Other cruise liners are even threatening to leave the state because of DeSantis' regulation.
Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, expressed his concerns about the issue turning into a never-ending legal or political discussion. If the conflict remains unresolved in Florida, Del Rio said that cruises can operate out of other states.
For instance, cruise ships that would have gone to Florida can operate from the Caribbean. But Del Rio hopes that they aren't forced to do that since the majority of cruise lines want to operate out of Florida, which many consider to be "a very lucrative market."
Disney can't resume operation of the Disney Dream cruise ship until July due to the potentially positive cases among the tested staff. The delay might cost the company millions of dollars.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe, cruise ships have been a vessel for outbreaks like the norovirus and gastrointestinal illnesses. The norovirus is very contagious, and you can get it from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or contaminated surfaces. The virus causes inflammation in the stomach, intestines or both, which leads to acute gastroenteritis. Symptoms of norovirus infection include nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
To read more articles about the pandemic and the government's attempts to get everyone vaccinated, visit Pandemic.news.