No Vaccine Passports at Disney World or in Florida

We’re back with another roundup of Walt Disney World news & rumors. This one covers a job listing for a fireworks designer, Cast Members’ incentive for getting inoculated, and why vaccine passports will not be used anywhere in Florida. (Updated April 3, 2021 with official vaccine passport ban details.) 

Let’s start with fairly significant developments around topics we’ve been discussing the last few months. Florida passed a bill shielding companies that make good faith efforts to public health guidance from pandemic-related lawsuits, while also raising the standard of proof.

During the signing of that bill, Governor DeSantis stated he would issue an executive order banning vaccination passports or other other methods of proving individuals have been vaccinated, citing privacy concerns. He further called for the Florida Legislature to pass a bill making the ban permanent.

April 3, 2021 Update: Governor DeSantis has issued the promised executive order, effectively banning vaccine passports in Florida. Among other things, the EO states that it’s based upon Florida’s desire to protect individual freedom and patient privacy.

The executive order further indicates that requiring vaccine passports for taking part in everyday life—such as attending a sporting event, patronizing a restaurant, or going to a movie theater—would create two classes of citizens based on vaccination; and it is necessary to protect the fundamental rights and privacies of Floridians and the free flow of commerce within the state.

As for the mechanics of how the state accomplish the vaccine passport ban, the order states:

“No Florida government entity, or its subdivisions, agents, or assigns, shall be permitted to issue vaccine passports, vaccine passes, or other standardized documentation for the purpose of certifying an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status to a third party, or otherwise publish or share any individual’s COVID-19 vaccination record or similar health information.”

Additionally: “Businesses in Florida are prohibited from requiring patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business.”

There had been some question about how Florida could enforce such an order at private businesses. That’s also addressed in the order, as businesses that are non-compliant with the order would not be eligible for state grants or state-funded contracts.

The new executive order seems to slam the door on vaccine passports in Florida. However, it also raises a number of questions, including how cruise lines or airlines would be able to operate out of Florida if those industries or international destinations require proof of vaccination.

That could raise potential issues for travel out of Florida. For example, it may be required of the cruise industry to verify vaccination status. As a company doing business in the state, that would put Disney Cruise Line in a precarious position. It would be something of a Catch-22: they potentially could not operate without requiring vaccinations, but could not check for them under this EO.

It would be a similar scenario for airlines operating out of Florida’s international airports. Numerous countries have set in motion plans for vaccine passports that will be required, and it’s probable the same will be true for international arrivals into the US. The European Union, for example, has announced a “Digital Green Certificate” that will be required for travel.

There’s also the possibility that businesses in Florida already implementing vaccine passport plans will challenge the executive order. All of this will need to be sorted out. It’s possible that subsequent EOs will issue carve-outs that sidestep some potential problems. Suffice to say, we probably haven’t heard the last on vaccine passports in Florida. So stay tuned! 

Obviously, this has significant potential impacts for Walt Disney World. We’ve been discussing health rule relaxations for months here, and one counterpoint to that is always the potential for lawsuits. The newly-enacted law should sufficiently address that. (Unless we’re now going to quibble over what’s necessary for good faith efforts.)

Late last year, we covered digital health/vaccine passports being developed by IATA, CLEAR, and IBM that would allow users to share test and vaccination results in a verifiable and privacy-protecting manner. At the time, we speculated that Walt Disney World could be a potential candidate for using such a system. In multiple subsequent posts, we’ve called that unlikely.

In large part, our quick about-face was driven by reader comments. We anticipated a mixed reaction to the first discussion of vaccine passports, with a split of people for and against them. The actual response was overwhelmingly negative–probably 75% or more readers were against them.

One of the things we love about the comments section here is it gets us out of our own “bubble.” We may not always agree, but it’s invaluable to see other perspectives. In this case, I had been reading about vaccine passports extensively before posting that, and the response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic–just scattered privacy fears. However, that was in the context of international travel, where people (probably realistically) have the perspective that it’s this or nothing for 2021.

Walt Disney World and other domestic destinations are obviously different beasts entirely, and that was reflected in sentiment here. That’s not just here–we saw a lot of public pushback against digital passports and there’s a reason they haven’t gained much mainstream traction in the last several months.

Beyond that, the stellar vaccination rate in the United States pretty much obviates any need for a vaccine passport at Walt Disney World. By the time such a system could even theoretically roll out, it would be practically unnecessary thanks to widespread vaccine availability.

The topic of vaccine passports is now seemingly becoming grounds for the next culture war, so I’ll sidestep all of the impassioned arguing (and ask that commenters please do the same) and simply say that Walt Disney World is probably relieved by Florida’s move.

The executive order takes something controversial–that they probably would not have done at this point anyway–out of Walt Disney World’s hands. If visitors disagree with the approach, someone else is the villain.

The fact that Disney Cruise Line will not be requiring vaccinations before their upcoming United Kingdom “Disney Magic at Sea” summer staycation sailings lends credence to the position that Walt Disney World wouldn’t have used vaccine passports. Cruises are dramatically different in nature than theme parks (obviously), and are a better candidate for such a system–or requiring vaccines, in general.

Several cruise lines, most notably Royal Caribbean, are requiring proof of vaccinations for adults and pre-cruise testing for kids on their summer sailings. Disney is actually something of an outlier on that front, and my best guess there is that they don’t want to alienate a segment of their core demographic. Given how well the UK’s vaccine efforts are going and the limited nature of these sailings, it’s not like they’d struggle to fill the ships with such a requirement.

Part of me does wonder if, as with Florida’s move to ban vaccine passports, Disney Cruise Line would welcome this decision being taken out of their hands. The federal government has also stated that it will not develop or play a role in vaccine passports, so that eliminates an offering from the CDC. However, it’s possible CLIA could require something of its members. It’s also possible Disney Cruise Line will go a different route once longer sailings resume; it’s not really possible to have an outbreak aboard a 2-4 night sailing given average incubation periods.

I know by now that this is an unpopular opinion, but that’s my hope with cruises. I’m not the least bit concerned about my personal safety–once fully vaccinated, I will be ready to rock–but rather, the possibility of a cruise ending prematurely (CDC policy under the resumption framework) if something happens. Moreover, I’m not keen on wearing masks or dealing with a bunch of plexiglass on cruise ships this fall when vaccine verification and pre-cruise testing of kids is right there as a more effective and less burdensome alternative. That’s just me, though. We can agree to disagree on that.

On a somewhat related note, Walt Disney World is offering Cast Members an incentive to get inoculated by September 30, 2021. According to the above notice from the Unite Here 362 Walt Disney World Union’s Facebook page, Cast Members will get four hours of pay to get vaccinated.

Additionally, leaders will work with Cast Members on vaccination appointment scheduling, and will not record an attendance notation for Cast Members who miss time at work so long as they provide advance notice of the appointment. This is great news, and hopefully will help facilitate that return to normalcy we’ve been yammering on about so much! 😉

Let’s conclude with a more fun and lighthearted note: my dream job is open at Walt Disney World! Disney Live Entertainment has posted a job listing for Principal Fireworks Designer. This is the creative leader and overall representative for the Fireworks & Special Effects Design department.

Per the job listing, the demands of this role require an in-depth understanding of the “design intent and the ability for realizing it through the effective execution of the creative process.” Disney Live Entertainment’s Fireworks & Special Effects Principal Designer directs all special effects design including pyrotechnics, helping to prioritize, organize, and problem solve during entire course of a project.

Sadly, due to an “unfortunate incident” with fireworks in college, certain undisclosed parties are not allowing me to throw my hat in the ring for this role. (C’mon, it’s been over a decade, the statute of limitations has run on my offense!) There’s also the problem that all of my pyro experience is on the amateur circuit, and mostly relates to roman candles. That, and the reality that Disney Live Entertainment will likely hire from within, and this job listing is more a corporate formality than anything else. Still, dare to dream, amirite?!

What’s interesting here is that the first job responsibility listed is “participate in project’s creative development including blue sky brainstorming, project kick-offs, internal reviews and other project specific check-ins.” This does not relate to Harmonious, which is far beyond the blue sky stage–even though installation is still in progress, development is fully finished on EPCOT’s upcoming nighttime spectacular.

Prior to Walt Disney World’s closure, there were rumors of Magic Kingdom receiving a new fireworks show for the 50th Anniversary. I never put a ton of stock into that, as Happily Ever After is still incredibly popular and scores really well with guests. However, between the “Project Nugget” work and this job listing, perhaps that’s a possibility?

Personally, I’d love to see that. Disneyland’s approach to cycling through fireworks shows the last ~5 years has been really savvy, with fan favorites making occasional comebacks–and enhanced by projection mapping technology. That keeps things fresh and gives locals a reason to keep returning.

Walt Disney World is obviously more tourist-centric, but that’s less true today than it was during Wishes’ run. It would be a nice treat for the World’s Most Magical Celebration to have a special limited-run show paying homage to Magic Kingdom’s 50th Anniversary along the lines of “Celebrate Tokyo Disneyland.”

Importing a show from Japan might seem like idle daydreaming, especially when there are no fireworks, period, at Walt Disney World. However, something to keep in mind is that Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration will last (at least) 18 months. A new show debuting in March 2022 could still run for over a year.

Beyond that, a lot of Celebrate Tokyo Disneyland could be recycled since it was designed for Cinderella Castle and the parks share many of the same attractions. Roughly 90% of the show could be reused, with the rest only lightly modified. My only request/demand is that the Country Bears riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad segment is longer in the Magic Kingdom version. Fifteen minutes sounds about right.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


Thoughts on any of this Walt Disney World news? Is it a good or bad idea of Walt Disney World to incentivize inoculations for Cast Members? Do you think it’s still possible Walt Disney World or Disney Cruise Line will use a vaccine passport, or is that idea pretty much dead at this point? Any theories about the fireworks designer job listing or 50th Anniversary fireworks at Magic Kingdom? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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