An Australian grandmother has fought off her health issues and is now set to take her grandchildren on a much-anticipated Disney cruise.
Donna Baldi was able to call her 12-year-old grandson, Theo, and tell him he’s going on his dream cruise. After the heartbreak of learning the line’s policy on unvaccinated guests, Donna previously had to tell Theo he and his little sister that they wouldn’t be able to cruise.
The battling grandmum contacted Cruise Passenger after seeing stories we wrote last month about having the NSW ban on unvaccinated passengers lifted.
She also wrote to Disney’s president of Signature Experiences, Thomas Mazloum, pointing out that Australia had lifted the ban but Disney still had it in place. She said she wanted to give Disney a chance to respond before being featured in a Cruise Passenger story.
The result could have been a bit of Disney magic! This week, the ban was lifted, freeing Aussie kids to board the first Disney cruises in our waters.
Donna told Cruise Passenger: “Thank you so much for your support through this. It felt like I had someone in my corner and we’re delighted with the outcome.”
She said when he told Theo , he was bound with excitement and asked if he could be the one to tell the rest of the family. When he told his little sister they’d be sailing she wept tears of joy.
Taking her grandkids on a Disney Cruise has been a dream for Donna Baldi since she diagnosed with a scull-base stage-four tumour in 2016.
“Someone asked me what I wanted to do if I wasn’t going to make it. I was happy with my life, my husband Sandro, my three sons and my career as a midwife, I had no regrets.
“But I told her that I had always dreamt of taking my grandchildren to Disney World and on a Disney Cruise. However, at that time we weren’t able to do that due to our financial situation.
How the drama unfolded
After bravely battling her condition, Donna was in improved health when Disney Cruise Line announced they were coming to Australia so she instantly snapped up two cabins on Disney Wonder for her husband and grandkids last October.
“When the Disney Cruise Line announced that it was coming to Australia, I was so excited and asked Sandro if he would be happy for us to take the cruise with our grandchildren. His immediate answer was “Book it”!
“On Christmas Day, we presented them with a treasure hunt, which involved many riddles and searches. After solving their last clue, they each found a gift wrapped with their name on it.
“Everything went a little quiet when they opened their gifts to find the Disney mugs they’re holding in the photographs. I assumed they were thinking that the treasure hunt involved a lot of work and time to be given a mug. However, when Summer took her mug out of the cardboard case, she exclaimed “There’s something in our mugs”! The kids were so excited to find a Disney Cruise ticket in each of their mugs.”
However, the dream came crashing down when in July this year, Donna received an email informing her of Australia’s Covid vaccination mandates for cruise, despite not being informed by Disney at the time of booking.
“Therefore, we had to inform Theo and his younger sister that they could no longer come with their cousins and grandparents on the cruise, that they had been so looking forward to,” she said.
“As you can probably imagine, all of the children were very upset and disappointed. Our two grandchildren that could still go on the cruise were upset that their cousins were no longer allowed to go on the cruise with us.”
Since Australia’s cruise protocols were rescinded, Disney has held out on updating their policies, and Donna’s grandson was phoning her almost everyday to ask if he and his sister would be able to come on the cruise.
“After hearing the news that the protocols were going to be rescinded, our 12-year-old grandson phoned us regularly to ask whether or not they had been. He, like all of the family, thought once the protocols were rescinded it would just be a matter of rebooking another stateroom so when they were rescinded, we were so excited to tell them the fantastic news.
“However, when I called Disney Cruise Line to rebook a second stateroom, we were informed that Disney Cruise vaccination requirements will continue to act in accordance with the protocols that had been rescinded by the NSW Premier. So, once again I had to pass on the news that, regardless of the change that we’d been eagerly awaiting, we were still unable to take the cruise as a family.”
The cruise line also worked with Donna to get her two cabins again on her original cruise, meaning all the kids will now be able to sail.
The family has been rejoicing, with all the kids delighted at the breaking of the news today.