Disney Cruise Lines under fire for not evacuating crew during Hurricane Dorian

Disney Cruise Line's flagship vessel, the Disney Magic. Credit: Heidi Gutman/Disney Parks via Getty Images

Disney Cruise Lines has come under fire for choosing not to evacuate all crew members from Castaway Cay, located near Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, which was expected to be hit by Hurricane Dorian on 1 September. The cruise line said that the crew had taken cover in a hurricane shelter and had monitored events through local island representatives.

However, concerns continue to be raised regarding Disney’s choice to leave crew in these conditions. Meg Green, the sister of one of the staff left to shelter on the island, posted on Twitter, “My sister is stuck in the middle of a Cat 5 hurricane. We were told they would evacuate and they didn’t. Left them behind!! Why??”. In a follow up tweet, she noted, “Remember that time [Disney Cruises] left 97 employees on a tiny island in a Catagory 5 hurricane? I do.” She subsequently deleted her account.

Anne Marie McNally, a politician from Dublin, Ireland, tweeted that unlike Royal Carribean Cruises, who evacuated their staff a week before, Disney Cruises gave their employees no chance to go home and assist families in hurricane preparation. “@DisneyCruise really need to be called out for endangering their workers lives like this,” she stated.

McNally argued that despite Disney’s choice to leave employees in a hurricane shelter in Castaway Cay that the workers could have been evacuated to safety and been able to assist their own families during the storm.

Given Green’s now-deleted tweets, family members were not made aware of the Castaway Cay arrangement until the last minute and may have felt anxious about the safety of their loved ones, heightening fears during an already fraught situation.

Considering that Disney Cruise Lines would have been forced to modify or cancel any plans to have guests at Castaway Cay until after Hurricane Dorian, questions have been raised as to why the staff members were kept in place instead of evacuated. Additionally, evacuating personnel in advance of the hurricane would have seemed prudent considering Castaway Cay’s proximity to Abaco, which was likely to see major effects. However, Disney responded that evacuating staff would have required a boat ride followed by a flight out of the area, and that the evacuation process was therefore deemed “too difficult” to carry out.

The cruise line offered a statement on 1 September noting that the shelter had “restrooms, power, and is well stocked with food and water”, which was later updated the following day to note that employees were able to leave the shelter and return to their housing, which had seen no damage. However, conditions will continue to be dangerous until the hurricane’s full effects have passed.

As per reports on 2 September, the hurricane caused extensive damage to Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, with five people killed and 21 injured in Abaco. Bahamian Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said, “We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of our northern Bahamas. Our mission is focused on search, rescue, and recovery.”