The question on a lot of people’s minds right now is, what will happen when Disney Cruise Line resumes operation, and what will the long term effects of Coronavirus mean.

Of course, given the extraordinary circumstances we’re in, I can only speculate. There’s no historical pattern with which to base this on, so I’m shooting in the dark here.

The travel industry, in general, has been hard hit by the Coronavirus pandemic, and certainly, the cruise industry is no exception. However, the cruise industry is facing a unique challenge. Reports have been widespread of Coronavirus outbreaks on cruise ships. Stories about guests quarantined for weeks in their staterooms, unable to leave, have given even the hardiest among us sympathetic claustrophobic nightmares.

It is without question that this is going to decimate DCL’s bottom line this year, and probably next year as well (remember, Disney’s fiscal year runs from October 1 – Sept 30). While I’m all but certain DCL will be back in operation before the fiscal year ends, the number of people willing to go on cruises is not going to be what it was before, and it won’t be until we’ve gone a long time without hearing words and phrases like ‘Coronavirus’, ‘quarantine’ and ‘shelter-in-place.’

However, DCL does have some advantages that may mitigate some of those losses. First – DCL fans are fiercely loyal. There are real reasons we love Disney Cruise Line so much, and while I’m sure other cruise lines have loyal fans, I don’t think any of them can lay claim to the kind of fan following enjoyed by DCL. Second – Disney has a smaller fleet to fill. With only 4 ships, Disney is considered a ’boutique’ cruise line. It’s going to be easier to work with 4 ships, then it will be for Carnival – whose combined brands operate more than 100 ships.

So, what do I think will happen? Here are my guesses (and that’s all these are):

  • Discounts – We will see significant discounts on several ‘staple’ sailings (Bahamas, Caribbean). We’re already seeing this with recent Florida Resident and Military rates for this summer. Just compare the current offers (released March 30, 2020) to the offers released last year (March 25, 2019). Last March, there were 7 FL resident rates available through May 2019. This March, there are more than 20 available through August 1). Also, keep this in mind – no matter what the ‘fear’ – the lower the price goes, the more risk people are willing to take. I saw it after 9/11, I saw it this past week with a free-dining deal at WDW for guests who had to cancel, and we’ll see it with this. It will be especially pronounced for DCL since it’s a product that is routinely VERY expensive. Deep discounts will open up the experience to a LOT of people who otherwise might not be able to afford it.
  • Fewer sailings – DCL will scale back on the number of sailings they offer, especially to start. I don’t think we’ll see a full slate of sailings until later in the year. It will be cheaper for them to skip sailings, then to sail with ships that are half-full – so expect to see fewer dates.
  • Improvements to Castaway Club – If DCL is going to rely on its core base of fans, they’ll need to do things to and through the Castaway Club to appeal to that audience and get them to book. For YEARS Platinum Castaway Club members have been begging DCL to create a new tier. Right now, after your 10th sailing, you’re considered platinum, but for many people, they are on their 20th or 30th sailing (or more). This would be an excellent time for DCL to roll out a new tier for uber cruisers – the people with the time, money, and loyalty to sail Disney. Also, offering additional perks at all levels of its Castaway Club would encourage more people to sail.

I think we can expect to start seeing some of these things in the next two months. What do you think the long term impact of Coronavirus will be on DCL? Let me know in the comments below.

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