This week, a Disney Cruise Line ship has seen its passengers denied entry to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. The Disney Fantasy, which is sailing a 7-day Caribbean voyage out of Port Canaveral, was not allowed to let guests disembark the vessel on December 30 during her call to the Virgin Islands.
Although guests from another vessel were allowed off, the Disney cruise ship did not receive the so-called Free Pratique needed to allow guests off.
The last few weeks have proven to be hectic for the cruise industry as yet another cruise line has been denied the opportunity for guests to explore ashore. Disney Fantasy is the next in what is fast becoming a long list of vessels that have been denied entry to a Caribbean port of call.
Even though the cruise line states the vessel has less than 1% off guests and crew members with positive COVID-19 infection, the authorities in St. Thomas did not clear the vessel and grant Free Pratique. This is the license given to a ship to enter a port once the vessel shows it is free from contagious diseases. Disney released the following statement:
“The Disney Fantasy did not call on St. Thomas today due to both an increase in COVID-19 cases on the island and a small number of fully vaccinated Crew Members and Guests – less than 1% of those on board – in isolation for COVID-19.”
“Those affected by these breakthrough cases are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, and we are following CDC protocols for managing cases on board. We continue to operate with multiple layers of health and safety protocols in place, such as requiring vaccinations, PCR tests at the port prior to embarkation for all guests, testing of our crew multiple times per week, enhanced cleaning protocols and a requirement that masks be worn in all indoor spaces.”
The 129,750 gross ton Disney Fantasy, which can accommodate 2,500 passengers, is sailing 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruises with calls to the British and US Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.
St. Thomas Could Deny Cruise Ships
According to the Virgin Islands Daily News, the island will not be permitting entry to any guests sailing onboard a vessel with positive cases amounting to more than 1% of the total guests and crew onboard. This is, according to local authorities, within the agreements set up with the cruise industry:
Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion: “We are assessing the percent positivity on each ship and adhering to the contractual agreement for passengers and crew members. If it falls within our agreed upon critical level, which they all have, we do not approve disembarking of passengers unless there is a life-threatening emergency.”
While Disney Cruise Line stated the denial of entry was due to the local and shipboard caseloads, according to the Health Commissioner, St. Thomas’s local caseloads did not factor into the decision to deny entry to guests onboard Disney Fantasy.
Nonetheless, it is yet another example of the confusion that has taken hold in recent weeks. Various ports have denied entry to cruise ships based on whether or not there have been positive cases onboard. Quoting a number of 1% emphasizes the confusion. A ship with 6,000 people on board would have 60 cases and be denied entry. A ship with 1,000 people would have only 10 cases and be denied.
Possibly the confusion will soon be a thing of the past as the cruise industry, the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), port agents, and islands such as St. Maarten are working on a solution that will make the whole process a lot smoother.
It will, hopefully, also stop the process of ships having to find out at the dock they will not be allowed to disembark passengers, as was the case with Disney Fantasy, a process where cruise lines are blamed for arbitrary rulings from ports of call.