Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Wonder's Bigger Alaska Problem

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.

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