Disney Cruise Line Ending Most Indoor Mask Rules

Disney Cruise Line will soon be ending its indoor face mask rule in most locations! This covers details on the dropping of health safety protocol, exceptions to the rule change, and answers to frequently asked questions about DCL’s face mask policies.

In a statement, Disney Cruise Line prefaced its announcement by stating that it’s made following recently updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result of that, DCL is updating its face covering rules for sailings originating from United States ports of departure.

The referenced CDC guidance change is presumably the new criteria for community transmission levels released last week. While not directly applicable to cruising, the CDC’s new guidance is predicated upon principles that can be applied in a variety of settings.

The new CDC guidance still uses case numbers, but they’ve been deemphasized. Instead, more weight is given to hospitalizations and county hospital capacity. This change puts over 50% of U.S. counties at low or medium risk, meaning masks are no longer necessary there. Those counties account for roughly 70% of the United States’ population.

During a briefing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky stated that the changes reflect that the decreased overall risk of severe disease. It’s now lower because of widespread immunity provided by vaccines or prior infection, improvements in testing, and accessibility to new treatments.

In other words, circumstances have changed, bad outcomes are less likely, and evolving rules reflect that. It should go without saying, but March 2022 is very different from March 2020. The United States population is no longer immunologically naive, and long-lasting protection against severe disease still exists due to durable immune memory of B and T cells. (A component of why Omicron was milder.)

In addition to better immunity and more tools to protect ourselves, there’s also the practical reality that those who still want to wear a mask can continue to do so. At the CDC briefing, a senior scientist at the agency said as much: “People who wear a high-quality mask are well-protected, even if others around you are not masking.”

Against that backdrop, here’s the rule changes announced by Disney Cruise Line:

For sailings that embark through March 10, all Guests (ages 2 and up, including those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19) are required to wear appropriate face coverings indoors, except when in their staterooms or actively eating or drinking (while stationary and maintaining an appropriate physical distance). Face coverings are not required for Guests outdoors while on board the ship and at designated locations.

For sailings originating from a U.S. port of departure beginning March 11, 2022, face coverings will be optional in most indoor locations throughout our ships. Guests ages 2 and up, including those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, will still be required to wear face coverings in the Walt Disney Theatre.

Guests under 5 years of age who are currently ineligible to be vaccinated will be required to wear face coverings in Youth Activity spaces and in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique; and, while not required, we continue to strongly recommend these guests wear a face covering in all other indoor locations. Face coverings may be required in ports of call based on local government requirements.

Here are some of our added thoughts and answers to common questions (pretty similar stuff to past FAQ about Walt Disney World, for those who already read that).


Will Disney Cruise Line be asking guests their vaccine status?


Why not?

For one thing, this announcement doesn’t draw the same distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated guests that came with the similar rule changes at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Those included the following line: “We expect Guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings in all indoor locations, including indoor attractions and theaters.”

With Disney Cruise Line’s rule change, it’s possible to infer a similar “expectation” given the treatment of guests under 5 years old who are unable to be vaccinated in the rule change. However, there’s no express distinction for guests of all ages in all settings. This ‘distinction dropping’ is reflective of both the CDC’s updated guidance and the way many states have already updated their mandates or recommendations.

Beyond that, virtually no business anywhere is differentiating between vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, unless required by the state. It’s simply not worth the hassle and headache. It would be asking a lot of Cast Members at a time when there’s already a labor shortage and frontline employees everywhere are at about their wits’ end. This is why the new rule is, essentially, “there is no rule.” (Outside of the exceptions highlighted in the official rule change text.)

Why is Disney Cruise Line ending the rule on March 11, 2022 instead of immediately?

It’s likely that DCL realizes some families of unvaccinated children under age 5 are going to be uncomfortable with this change, and might want to cancel their vacations as a result.

Accordingly, it makes sense to give them some advance notice to plan accordingly. Either way, it could be a rough sailing ahead of this transition, so please comply with current rules and be kind to frontline Cast Members. Remember, they do not make the rules that they enforce!

This makes me feel uncomfortable to set sail with Disney Cruise Line, any risk mitigation advice? 

Given DCL’s stringent vaccine and testing requirements, one could argue that previous mask rules were overkill or redundant. If one would not make that argument, surely one would recognize that significant components of the DCL experience were either unmasked (e.g. indoor dining) or indoors for prolonged periods of time that negated or undermined the efficaciousness of masking. Sometimes things make us “feel” safe even when the realities of risk are at odds with that perception.

For those who are still concerned about face masks for whatever reason, the silver lining is that One-Way Masking Works. High quality masks are now widely available, so your safety is no longer dependent upon what others are doing–your health is in your own hands.

If anything, wearing a properly-fitted N95 or KN95 mask offers greater individual protection than you and others around you wearing cloth masks. A growing number of experts have said cloth masks are inadequate to protect from Omicron and other more highly-transmissible variants. At this point, the onus is on the individual to properly protect themselves, if they so desire.

(Here’s one high-quality mask we recommend. We don’t use it anymore, viewing higher quality masks as superfluous for two relatively young and healthy adults who are fully vaccinated and boosted, but they’re a good option if your personal profile or risk tolerances differ from ours.)

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