Thursday, February 25, 2021
Update: All Disney Cruises are Canceled Until the End of May 2021, and All Cruises on the Magic are Canceled Until August 10th
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Yesterday, February 23rd, Disney announced that they have extended the 125% future cruise credit given to guests who had their cruises canceled from May 31st, 2022 to September 30th, 2022. They made this announcement in an email. Take a look:
Monday, February 22, 2021
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Back in March of last year, I wrote about how the Wonder was affected by Canada's cruise ship ban that stopped all cruise ships carrying over 500 people from docking at Canadian ports until July. It turns out I had nothing to worry about, since Disney cruises didn't resume by July. But now, there's more of a problem. Last week, Canada's government announced that they won't be letting any cruise ship carrying over 100 people into Canadian waters until February 28th, 2022, over a year from now.
Assuming that Disney cruises will resume by the time the Wonder starts its Alaskan cruises in 2021, the Wonder won't be able to do any of these cruises because they all start in Vancouver thanks to this ban. Is there an alternative port for the Alaskan cruises to start from? Let's look at where one of DCL's competitors, Royal Caribbean, starts their Alaskan cruises from for some options.
In addition to Vancouver, Royal Caribbean has some of its Alaskan cruises starting from Seward, Alaska. Also, some start from Seattle, Washington. Well, why not just have the Wonder's Alaskan cruises start from Seward or Seattle? Seattle is really close to Vancouver, so it would probably be the better option. Problem solved!
Unfortunately, it's not that easy. It's not possible to start Alaskan cruises at either of those because of a US law from the 1800s. This law, the Passenger Vessel Services Act, applies to all passenger ships that aren't registered in the US, which includes all four DCL ships. On a cruise starting and ending at the same US port, ships not registered in the US must stop at a port in another country before coming back to the US port where the cruise started. Disney's Alaskan cruises only go to ports in Alaska, in the US. Since Canada isn't open, there aren't any other countries nearby that the Wonder could visit, so a cruise from Seattle to Alaska and back to Seattle would be impossible thanks to the Passenger Vessel Services Act. The Royal Caribbean cruises from Seattle and Seward are possible because they visit Canada during them, but those cruises will have to be drastically changed or canceled because they can't go to Canada. Canada is a critical part of any Alaskan cruise, not just Disney's.
Now, there is a possible solution to this problem, but I don't think it'll work. Alaskan cruises from Seattle could be possible if the US government temporarily suspends the Passenger Vessel Services Act for Alaskan cruises. If it gets suspended, ships on Alaskan cruises won't have to go to a port in another country, so a cruise starting from Seattle and only going to Alaskan ports would be possible. Suspending the law would help Alaska's tourism and cruise industry, because at this point, it looks like the 2021 cruise season in Alaska is not going to happen. I don't think this law will be suspended, but it would be great for Alaska if it does.
So, if this law doesn't get suspended and the Wonder can't do any Alaskan cruises this year, what will it do instead (if Disney has resumed cruising by then)? In addition to Alaskan cruises, the Wonder also does some Mexican cruises that start from San Diego, California. All of the Alaskan cruises could be changed into Mexican cruises. Or, since Disney has already canceled the Wonder's Westbound Panama Canal cruise that would've been at the end of February, the Wonder could just not go through the canal. Disney can't make any money off of that cruise, since there won't be any guests. So, instead of wasting money on that, the Wonder could stay on the East Coast to do Caribbean cruises or Bahamian cruises. There are plenty of options to do cruises shorter than seven nights there. Could Disney make it into a second Dream?
The Wonder is going to need major changes to its cruise schedule, but we can't forget about the other DCL ship that's going to Canada. In October of this year, the Magic is scheduled to do a 6-night Canadian cruise from New York City. This itinerary visits two ports in Canada, and the only other port it stops at is in Maine. The main selling point of this cruise is Canada, and even if the Passenger Vessel Services Act gets suspended, it would only be able to go to one port of call, which is kind of boring. I think this cruise will be changed into a Bermuda cruise. It could either spend two days in Bermuda and have three days at sea, or it could spend three days in Bermuda and have two days at sea. This cruise could also be changed into a Disney World cruise, one that starts in New York, goes south to Castaway Cay and Port Canaveral (where guests can easily go to Disney World since park admission is included in the cruise price), then back to New York. If they keep it a 6-night cruise, the Magic will have to get from Florida to New York in one day at sea, which I think is possible, but I'm not sure.
As of now, Disney hasn't said anything about what the Wonder or the Magic will do if cruises have resumed by the time they would go to Canada. They have removed all of the Wonder's Alaskan cruises in 2021, but there's no official announcement yet. They'll probably announce their plan in the near future, so be sure to check the Disney Cruise Line website for the latest information.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
Since Disney canceled our cruise that would've been in January of this year, my family has been looking for alternative cruise options to use our 125% cruise credit on. We had a few pretty good options in mind, until last week, when we found the perfect option. My school had just released the calendar for the 2021-2022 school year, and we use it to try to go on a cruise at a time where we miss as few days of school as possible. For some reason at the beginning of November, there will be a 2-day school week, which totally isn't a waste of time. This looked like the perfect time to go on a cruise, and we noticed that the Magic will be doing an interesting 5-night cruise during that week. Starting from New York City, it will go to Bermuda, then to Tortola, and end up in San Juan, Puerto Rico. My family has never been to Bermuda, and we love Tortola, so this cruise sounded great. Repositioning cruises are often some of the least expensive Disney cruises, and since we have a 125% credit, we looked at what the Magic was doing after the New York to San Juan cruise. Its next cruise will be a 4-night cruise that goes to the Dominican Republic, Castaway Cay, and ends in Miami. Like the other one, it's a repositioning cruise, so it's less expensive than usual. Since we'd be missing almost no school, we had the credit, and we wanted to try a back-to-back cruise, we decided that we would book both of them!
But we couldn't.
It wasn't because there weren't any rooms available. There were plenty. It wasn't because of COVID-19 restrictions controlling the length of a cruise. According to the United States CDC, a single cruise can't be over 7-nights. This restriction does not affect back-to-back cruises, however, so these cruises would be possible.
It was because going on these cruises back-to-back would violate the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886. This nearly-135 year-old US law prevents ships that aren't registered in the US from bringing passengers from one US port to another US port. Even though Disney is an American company, all four DCL ships are registered in the Bahamas. Ever wonder why the back of each DCL ship says "Nassau"?
So, since the DCL ships are registered in the Bahamas and not the United States, they aren't allowed to bring passengers from one US port to another. The only way they can bring passengers from one US port to another US port is if they stop at a distant foreign country. Ports of call in Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, South America, Europe, and Asia (and Antarctica, I guess), count as distant foreign countries. This is why the Wonder goes Columbia, a South American country, on its 14-night Panama Canal cruises, since none of the other places it visits count as distant foreign countries.
Under the Passenger Vessel Services Act, how can the second cruise, from San Juan to Miami (two US ports) work? Although it's a US port, Puerto Rico is an exception from this law. So, it's as if the cruise starts in a different country and ends in the United States, which is allowed.
Well, since the whole trip on the Magic is two separate cruises, wouldn't it be allowed under the law? Unfortunately, it's not. The law treats consecutive cruises as one trip. Pretend San Juan, where the first cruise ends and the second cruise starts, is just a port of call. The overall voyage would go from New York to Miami, two US ports, which isn't allowed.
The Passenger Vessel Services Act is why the Magic is stopping at San Juan. If it could, I think the Magic would go directly from New York City to Miami, but that's not possible. Since Puerto Rico is a US port exempt from the law, the Magic can go there, end a cruise, start a new cruise, and go to Miami. For this to work, it has to be two separate cruises, not just one long one.
This law doesn't stop ships registered in other countries from leaving from a US port and returning to the same port. Ships not registered in the US can bring passengers from a US port and back to the same US port as long as they visit any port in a different country, like the Bahamas, Canada, or Mexico. Conveniently, it doesn't have to be a distant port. Also, normal (non-repositioning) cruises can stop at US ports, as long as the passengers aren't permanently getting off there. This is how some Disney cruises can go to Key West, Florida.
When I heard that these cruises wouldn't work, I wondered why the Passenger Vessel Services Act even exists. It was signed into law by Grover Cleveland, the 24th president of the US, to prevent cabotage, which I originally thought was when you sabotage a taxi. Cabotage is actually the movement of cargo or people between two locations in the same country by a foreign party. The Passenger Vessel Services Act makes more sense in the perspective of something like a ferry service between two US cities, keeping it domestic and not allowing ships from other countries to come in and make money off of it. However, this law doesn't seem beneficial at all for a cruise ship. It just gets in the way and makes cruises less flexible. Plus, it may actually be hurting the cruise industry by not allowing customers like my family to go on some cruises.
I'm really disappointed about the seemingly-perfect cruise not being possible. I never would've thought a vacation my family was planning on going on wouldn't be able to happen because of a law from the nineteenth century. The law against cabotage sabotaged our cruise plans. I guess we'll just have to look for another cruise to go on.
To learn about the Passenger Vessel Services Act, I used a really useful and educational page on the Carnival website. I know, I'm a traitor, but since none of Carnival's ships are registered in the United States, it's in the same situation that Disney is. Also, the Wikipedia article about it was a lot of help when I was writing. Finally, if you're ever unsure if a back-to-back cruise is possible, calling DCL and asking about it is one of the best ways to get an answer.
Since it's so old, I'm sure my family and I weren't the first people to have plans ruined because of this law. Even though it's not doing much good for the cruise industry, I don't think it's going anywhere anytime soon. Maybe someday it will be revised to allow more freedom for cruises in the US. Do you think requesting that on a DCL comment card would work? It's Disney, so anything's possible!