UPDATE: According to the Orlando Sentinel, Disney has reached out to correct that shelter was in fact designed to withstand Category 5 speeds. Disney has also stated that the employees were able to leave the shelter late Sunday night and return to their housing area, which saw no damage. Today’s winds remain around 40 mph on the island.
There may be trouble in paradise after Hurricane Dorian. Many readers have been asking us about the state of Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s private island in The Bahamas, just off the southern end of Great Abaco Island, where Dorian first made landfall yesterday as a Category 5 major hurricane.
Many assumed, given the multiple evacuation orders that were issued for the island, that the Cast Members who live on Castaway Cay year-round had also evacuated, but according to official statements from Disney Cruise Line, it appears they were actually left to ride out the storm on the island:
Granted, Disney Cruise Line claims the Crew had access to a storm shelter “designed for these types of situations and has restrooms, power, and is well stocked with food and water”, but specifics on what types of hurricane speeds and conditions it was “designed” to withstand have not been divulged. A DCL representative stated that it was designed to sustain up to Category 4 conditions, but given that Hurricane Dorian is on pace to outrank even Category 5 speeds, one has to wonder.
A piece by The Miami Herald’s Monique O. Madan, unveiled some Tweets, now removed, by concerned family members of the Crew left at Castaway Cay:
“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??,” Meg Green posted on Twitter.
In another tweet, she wrote: “Remember that time [Disney Cruises] left 97 employees on a tiny island in a Catagory 5 hurricane? I do.”
According to The Herald, Disney’s vice president of communications and public affairs, Kim Prunty, responded to Green’s Tweet on Sunday night:
“I understand your concern, as they are our co-workers. Castaway is south of the more significant weather. [Disney Cruise Lines] is in regular contact with island leadership and all are safe. Forecast calls for tropical storm force winds, which is what is there now. There are extensive measures in place to keep crew safe. A shelter on the island houses all crew and is stocked with a plentiful supply of food and water. “
Green’s response was: “Why risk the lives of 97 staff members? They had plenty of time to evacuate, but the decision was made to stay.” Green has since deleted the Twitter thread and did not respond to messages from The Miami Herald.
With many upcoming cruises modified, canceled, or otherwise not making it out to Castaway Cay in the first place, keeping Crew there seems somewhat unnecessary. Disney told the Herald evacuating the 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.
According to Disney Cruise Line’s official fact sheet, approximately 60 Disney Cruise Line crew members live and work full-time on Castaway Cay.