While most of the attention during the global pandemic when it comes to Disney has been on the movie studio and the theme parks, there's another huge part of the company that has been suffering just as much, if not more, the Disney Cruise Line. Cruise ships have remained vacant for the duration, and recently, following additional guidance from the Center for Disease Control, Disney was forced to cancel yet another batch of cruises, anything that had been set to last longer than seven nights, into the summer. It's still going to be a couple of months before any cruises resume, but when they do, it's possible things could actually work out quite well.
Disney introduced the concept of the "Disney Bubble" during the NBA season when the company worked out a deal to have Walt Disney World host the balance of the season. All the players who went to the resort were regularly tested, and they were all expected to stay within the resort complex in order to be sure that everybody involved in the season reduced their exposure to any outside elements. Now it appears that something similar is exactly what we could get when the Disney Cruise Line starts back up early next year.
Guidelines released from the CDC at the end of October basically will require cruise ships to become a "bubble" with COVID-19 testing required when guests and crew board the ships and strict protocols in place, including mask wearing and limiting shore excursions to situations where the cruise lines' strict protocols can be followed.
Cruise ship vacations have a lot of different reasons for appealing to vacationers. While certainly the method of transportation, being more casual and relaxing than flying or driving, is a big part of the appeal, it is frequently the destination, just as much as the journey, that is the point. For many cruise lines, if shore excursions are severely limited due to the necessity of safety, it could be a big issue when it comes to attracting guests again, but this is where Disney may have a leg up on the competition.
If you're going on a Disney Cruise Line ship rather than a competitor, it's probably because you want the "Disney" part of the experience. That means that the on-board entertainment, like the Disney-themed stage shows and character meet and greets, are probably more of interest to guests, meaning Disney Cruise Line passengers will likely will have less of issue if they can't leave the ship as much. That's a feature, not a bug.
Beyond that Disney has its own private island, Castaway Cay. Most of the Disney Cruise Line trips through the Caribbean include a stop on the island, but since it's a location only visited by passengers on the Disney Cruise Line, the company should have more freedom when it comes to excursions there. If everybody on the island has been tested for COVID, then perhaps people won't need to be quite as strict with safety protocols while there, which would make the experience a bit more relaxing.
As vacations go, a cruise ship might be one of the better options available due to the strict guidelines in place. And Disney has shown with Walt Disney World that it can be successful hosting large numbers of guests without having any significant health issues. Currently, Disney Cruise Line is planning to restart trips, of seven days or less, starting in March 2021.