Disney Cruise Line continues to publicly hold out hope that its sailings can resume as early as June.
But Bob Chapek, chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Co., earlier this month indicated to stockholders that this timeline probably is unrealistic. He said that, “with some luck,” Disney may be able to resume limited sailings in the fall.
In responding to a question from a stockholder and Walt Disney World employee during the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting, Chapek said: “We’re anticipating that, with some luck and the increase of the number of vaccinations out there and the encouraging trends that we’re seeing, that maybe by this fall, we might be able to have some limited operations of our cruise ships. But that’s all going to depend on the incidence of the virus and the vaccination of the general public.”
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Disney and other major cruise lines have not sailed out of U.S. ports since March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic that triggered a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no-sail order. Cruise lines are working on restart plans that will meet the CDC’s extensive “framework for conditional sailing” announced in October that replaced the no-sail order.
Summer 2022 Disney cruise itineraries
Separately, Disney Cruise Line on Thursday announced its planned itineraries for the summer of 2022.
But it did not detail its plans for its new ship, the Disney Wish, which is now under construction at the Meyer-Werft shipyard in Germany, and is expected to begin sailing out of Port Canaveral during the summer of 2022. Disney said information on itineraries and bookings for the Wish “will be released at a later date.”
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Scott Sanders, founder and operator of the Disney Cruise Line Blog, which is not affiliated with the cruise line, said he expects the Wish initially will sail three- and four-night cruises out of Port Canaveral, Florida, to the Bahamas. That would fill the gap being created in the summer of 2022 by the Disney Dream moving its home-port from Port Canaveral to Miami.
Here are the announced plans for Disney’s ships for summer 2022, in a period that, for the cruise line, stretches from mid-May to late-September:
- Disney Dream: Disney said it was moving its Disney Dream from Port Canaveral to Miami in the summer of 2022. The Dream has been been based at Port Canaveral since it joined the fleet in 2011. The Dream will offer three-, four- and five-night sailings to the Bahamas, as well as five-night cruises to the western Caribbean.
- Disney Fantasy: The Disney Fantasy will remain based at Port Canaveral, offering primarily seven-night cruises to the eastern and western Caribbean, as well as one five-night voyage and one nine-night voyage that will include Disney Cruise Line’s first-ever stop at Roseau, Dominica.
- Disney Wonder: The Disney Wonder will offer seven-night Alaskan cruises, sailing out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
- Disney Magic: The Disney Magic will offer a range of European itineraries. They include five-, six-and seven-night Mediterranean sailings from Barcelona, Spain; and eight- nine- and 12-night cruises from Rome to Greece. The ship also will have sailings from Dover, England, and from Copenhagen, Denmark.
Disney is introducing five new ports of call in Europe for its passengers – Chania, Greece; Maloy, Norway; Nynashamn, Sweden, near Stockholm; Porto, Portugal; and Riga, Latvia.
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Bookings of Disney’s summer 2022 cruises will open to the public on Thursday.
During the shareholders’ meeting, Chapek said Disney is “very anxious to get our Disney Cruise Line business back up and running. As you know, the cruise industry had been quite hit hard by COVID, and, as of right now, we don’t have any definitive information in terms of when we’ll be able to reopen up our cruise lines.”
Sanders said Chapek – with his prediction of no Disney sailings until the fall – may have been providing relatively pessimistic but realistic assessment to shareholders because the annual meeting venue required such a statement, as investment decisions are made based on the CEO’s comments.
Chapek’s assessment went significantly beyond the cruise line’s Feb. 24 “coronavirus travel alert” to potential passengers that said: “As we continue to refine our protocols and await further technical guidance from the CDC, we are canceling all sailings departing through May 2021.”
At the time, Disney also said that, “given the likelihood of international borders remaining closed for an extended period of time, we have also made the decision to cancel Disney Magic sailings through Aug.10.”
Chapek added during the shareholders’ meeting that “we look forward, though, when we do open up, to using the very same disciplined guidelines that we’ve used in our (theme) parks to safely reopen and use those same guidelines on the Disney Cruise Line.”
Disney Cruise Line President Thomas Mazloum said in a Thursday statement that accompanied the summer 2022 itinerary announcement that the cruise line is preparing “for a return to sea just as soon as the time is right.”
Touting LNG-powered ship
When it begins sailing, the Disney Wish will become Disney’s biggest ship, at about 144,000 gross tons and 1,250 guest staterooms, making it slightly larger than the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. It will be Disney’s first ship powered by liquefied natural gas.
During the shareholders’ meeting, Chapek cited the company’s commitment to using LNG as a power source on the Wish and two other still-unnamed ships the company plans to have built after that.
“As you know, the supply chain of that is just getting going,” Chapek said. “So it was a pretty bold move for us to do this in anticipation of the supply chain of that fuel being actually available. So I think we’re on the leading edge of the wave, if you will, towards trying to operate responsibly, in terms of environment, with renewable energy and lower carbon footprint.”