Disney Cruise Line is the latest to shift policy to now require passengers 12 and older to be vaccinated against covid-19 for sailings from Florida, even though a law pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis threatens to fine cruise lines for demanding proof of vaccination.
The move comes nearly a week after the Bahamas updated an emergency covid-19 declaration that prohibits cruise ships from entering a Bahamas port, including the many cruise lines' private islands, unless eligible passengers are fully vaccinated. This does not apply to passengers 11 and under who don't have vaccine options or to passengers with proof of medical reasons for why they cannot take vaccines.
The Bahamas order goes into effect Sept. 3 and lasts through October for now. On Tuesday, Disney posted its amended policy to follow the same approach as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, MSC Cruises and Celebrity, all of which sail from Florida and had allowed some unvaccinated passengers.
Cruise lines have opted to require vaccines from its eligible passengers from every U.S. state except Florida because of the law that went into effect July 1, which threatens to fine companies $5,000 per instance for any time a business demands proof of vaccination.
Norwegian Cruise Line filed suit over the law, and a federal judge granted a temporary injunction to prevent the state from enforcing it. That injunction applies only to Norwegian and its sister brands Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas.
The Orlando Sentinel reached out to the governor's office for comment about how it will enforce the law now that cruise lines will be asking for proof of vaccination but had not heard back Wednesday afternoon.
Disney Cruise Line has only one ship currently active in the U.S. with Disney Dream sailing three- and four-night sailings from Port Canaveral with stops at its private Bahamas island Castaway Cay. It plans to add Disney Fantasy beginning Sept. 11, also on short sailings with stops solely at Castaway Cay. Disney Magic sailings listed on the company's website from Miami in October would also be affected.
Now, Disney is requiring that proof of full vaccination be provided no later than 24 hours ahead of sailing.
"Guests who choose not to provide proof of vaccination to meet the requirements of The Bahamas will not be permitted to board the ship," reads a statement on the Disney Cruise Line website.
Like other cruise lines, Disney is offering passengers affected by the policy change to shift their sail dates or get refunds without penalties.
The move by the Bahamas forced the hands of all major cruise lines that have returned to business from Florida as the majority of sailings have included stops either in Nassau or at the cruise lines' private islands.
Royal Caribbean makes stops to its private island Coco Cay, Disney Cruise Line to Castaway Cay, Carnival to Half Moon and Princess Cays, Norwegian to Great Stirrup Cay and MSC Cruises to Ocean Cay -- MSC Marine Reserve.
The cruise industry shut down in March 2020 as the covid-19 pandemic spread worldwide.
Cruise lines returned to sailing from U.S. ports in June, but now have 14 ships doing regular voyages from the three major ports in Florida and several more on tap to begin in the next month.