Disney Cruise Line to Require Vaccines for Ages 5+ in 2022

Disney Cruise Line will require all guests ages 5 and older to provide proof of vaccination in order to sail beginning in January 2022. This post shares the latest ‘Know Before You Go’ update from DCL and offers some commentary about the change.

Back in August, the Bahamas began requiring that all passengers ages 12 and older be fully vaccinated in order for a ship to be allowed entry into any of its cruise ports, including private islands in the Bahamas, such as Disney’s Castaway Cay. To comply with that new requirement, DCL began requiring all guests ages 12 and older be fully vaccinated to board the ship.

The emergency order in the Bahamas expired at the beginning of November, but the Bahamas issued a new rule effectively extending its vaccination policy indefinitely for cruise guests ages 12 and older. Disney Cruise Line has taken that a step further by making the policy uniform and adjusting the age down. Here are the full details from DCL:

Currently, Disney Cruise Line continues to require all vaccine-eligible Guests (based on US eligibility requirements) to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at the time of sailing. This will be a requirement for all Guests (US and international) ages 5 and up for sailings beginning on or after January 13, 2022.

Guests who are not vaccine-eligible because of age must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result (paid for by the Guest) taken between 3 days and 24 hours before their sail date. Guests ages 5 through 11 may complete this testing requirement in lieu of being fully vaccinated for sailings that depart before January 13, 2022. Guests 4 years of age and under must complete the testing requirements. The test should be a NAAT test, rapid PCR test or lab-based PCR test. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted.

Guests sailing on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy through May 30, 2022; the Disney Magic through May 8, 2022; or the Disney Wonder through April 17, 2022, may modify their sail date or cancel their sailing without any Disney-imposed cancellation fees by contacting their travel agent or Disney Cruise Line’s reservations team at (866) 325-6685 or (407) 566-7797 by December 1, 2021.

Please note that cancellation fees imposed by third-party suppliers, including airlines, as well as travel insurance, are not refundable. Refunds will be processed back to the original form of payment. Standard cancellation policies and terms and conditions apply for any cancellation or modification requests received on or after December 2, 2021. Guests and travel agents will receive an email from Disney Cruise Line outlining additional details and next steps.

In consideration of guidance from the CDC and the World Health Organization, Disney Cruise Lines accepts the following vaccine types: Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Covishield, Novavax, Sinopharm and Sinovac.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines fully vaccinated as 14 days after receiving:

  • A single dose of an accepted 1-dose vaccine
  • The second dose of an accepted 2-dose vaccine
  • The full series of an active (not placebo) COVID-19 vaccine in the US-based AstraZeneca or Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trials
  • The second dose of any “mix and match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines (administered at least 17 days apart)

Guests must provide proof of vaccination by uploading their vaccination card to the Safe Passage by Inspire website no later than 24 hours before their sailing.

You might recall the saga prior to this involving the CDC, cruise lines, and State of Florida. If not, here’s a quick refresher. At the start of summer, the CDC issued guidance providing that if cruise lines certify that 98% of their crew and 95% of their passengers are vaccinated, they would have an easier path to restarting passenger operations.

However, Florida enacted a vaccine passport law, effectively banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. There was the opportunity to create a carve out in that law for cruise lines, but the state declined to make that. (For significantly expanded commentary, see this spring’s article: No Vaccine Passports at Walt Disney World or in Florida.)

This resulted in numerous legal challenges, some of which were initiated by cruise lines. In a separate case involving the CDC and Florida, the court sided with the state, which had argued that the CDC overstepped its authority with overly onerous regulations that cost it millions in tax revenue. We could devote tens of thousands of words (there will no doubt be countless law review notes on the subject this year) to explaining and analyzing those decisions and their implications, but most are now rendered moot.

Norwegian Cruise Line challenged Florida’s law and a federal judge ruled in the company’s favor, temporarily halting enforcement of the Florida law prohibiting businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination. Following that, Norwegian Cruise Line resumed sailings out of Florida with a 100% vaccination mandate for guests and staff–but the state appealed the legal decision.

There has not yet been final resolution to Norwegian Cruise Line’s case, so the status quo allows it and any other cruise line to require vaccines when departing from Florida. Since then, Disney Cruise Line and other cruise lines were on a list of businesses released by the state as violators of its vaccine passport law. Florida has since clarified that it would not be enforcing fines against cruise lines until a decision on the appeal has been made.

What happens with the appeal remains to be seen. Our initial assumption was that Florida would quietly drop the appeal as self-defeating, but we also expected that Florida would previously create a carve-out to its vaccine passport law to accommodate to cruise industry, so who really knows. If Florida wins its appeal, everyone loses due to the Bahamas’ new set of rules that apply to the cruise industry. The state loses more tax revenue, cruise industry loses direct revenue, and guests lose the option to sail and spend money.

For now, all we know for sure is Disney Cruise Line will require that all guests ages 5 and up be fully vaccinated for sailings beginning on or after January 13, 2022. In addition to this, all guests, regardless of age and vaccination status, are required to take a COVID-19 test at the terminal before boarding. Guests with positive COVID-19 test results—as well as those sharing the same stateroom and their close contacts—will be denied boarding.

We’ve actually heard two separate stories of guests being denied boarding due to false positives at the terminal. The guests in question requested a retest, which Disney Cruise Line denied (presumably for liability purposes?). While they received a full refund from DCL, they were denied boarding for (essentially) no reason and Disney’s guest recovery sounded like it left a lot to be desired.

Ultimately, this is one of several reasons why a return to cruising doesn’t interest me yet. While I’m not concerned about my own safety in the least as someone who is fully vaccinated, there are too many hoops to jump through, compromises to the on-board experience, and the potential risk of being denied boarding erroneously. I realize many of these policies are beyond Disney’s control, but the “why” of the rules matters less to me than their existence.

The totality of all that just makes Disney Cruise Line unappealing to me right now. With so many viable vacation opportunities back in nearly normal form and without restrictions, cruising just is not as attractive to me–and that’s as someone who is fine with vaccine policies like the one above.

I can only imagine how many cancellations DCL is seeing at present, from guests with a range of perspectives on its policies. In addition to those cancelling who don’t want to get themselves or their kids vaccinated, there are also people like me who feel the ‘whole package’ of policies is overly burdensome and the experience negatively impacted too much for a vacation with luxury pricing.

To that point, Disney Cruise Line has been offering some great deals for Florida residents and others, so perhaps the discounted sailings are enough for some people to jump through the hoops. Sarah got a great rate on a girls’ cruise and said the ship was practically empty–she had a blast!

Planning to set sail aboard one of the DCL ships? Read our comprehensive Disney Cruise Line Guide to prepare for your voyage, plus plan entertainment, activities & excursions, and learn what to expect from your Disney cruise! For personalized planning & recommendations, click here to get a cruise quote from a no-fee Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. They can find you all of the current discounts, and help you plan the details of your cruise.