Monday, September 21, 2020

Wave Goodbye to Wave Phones

Disney's cruise ships feature some impressive technology, like the Enchanted Art on the Dream-class ships and the Animation Magic show where guests' drawings become animated characters.  In addition to these fun technology features, the ships also have the most modern maritime communication systems.  But, can you guess a maritime communication system on the DCL ships that isn't very modern and feels antiquated in the age of advanced smartphones?  Wave Phones!

Wave Phones are small phones found in the staterooms that work on the Disney ships.  They can call and text other Wave Phones, though they can't text people using the DCL Navigator app.  Like the app, they can only send and receive calls and messages while connected to the Wi-Fi on the ships or on Castaway Cay.

While they're pretty reliable and work well, Wave Phones just feel old.  Texting on a Wave Phone is slow, because it has a number keypad, not a keyboard.  Also, guests usually carry their cell phones around with them, and having two phones, the Wave Phone and a normal cell phone for the DCL Navigator App and for photos, is cumbersome.  So, when the Disney Wish starts cruises, why not replace the Wave Phones and all of their features (save for the number keypad texting) with an improved DCL Navigator App?

I don't like you very much, app.  Wait, the Sail-A-Wave party is on the Fantasy now?  Cool.

Let's get something out of the way:  I don't really like the DCL Navigator App.  Back in April, I expressed my dislike for the app and thought of how the app could be improved for when the Wish starts cruising, but I never mentioned Wave Phones.  I'm disappointed in you, April 2020 DCLKid.  Anyway, today I'm going to focus on the communication features of the app, instead of the app as a whole.  

The DCL Navigator app already allows users to text other users onboard the Disney ships and on Castaway Cay.  In order to send and receive messages, users must have a somewhat strong and consistent Wi-Fi connection.  This connectivity is a problem on Disney's fleet, and it's especially bad on Castaway Cay.  Many areas on the ships and Castaway Cay just don't have connection.  As I mentioned in April, the Wish would need more Wi-Fi access points to provide a consistent connection everywhere around a ship.  Also, I'm certain that Lighthouse Point, Disney's new private(ish) destination, will have much better internet connection than Castaway Cay.

Implementing the ability to call other people using the DCL Navigator app while on the ship wouldn't be too difficult.  Sure, the app would need some major software updates and major testing.  Is Disney looking for onboard app testers?  Could I go on a cruise for free?  No?  Anyway, Disney already offers Cellular@Sea, an expensive cellular service to use on the DCL ships.  A feature of this service is that  users can call people using their phone's native calling feature.  I've never tried it, but it's probably not as good as talking on the phone on land.  Also, some mobile carriers also offer similar cellular plans for their customers to purchase for their cruises.  Again, these are probably just fine.  A downside to these cell plans is that they cost money.  If you want to call someone on the ship with you using your personal phone, they'd need a cell plan as well, and the costs add up.

Omitting Wave Phones on the Wish and creating a functional calling feature on the DCL Navigator app would probably cost Disney less than including Wave Phones in every single stateroom.  You may have noticed how Disney has recently tried to reduce the amount of paper they use by not distributing the paper Personal Navigators in each stateroom every night, and has encouraged guests to use the app instead.  Maybe a more stable and reliable app with a calling feature would make me finally prefer the Navigator app over the paper version.  Finally, we can't forget that when the Wish launches in a post-COVID-19 world, people will likely prefer to use their own phones than what is essentially a rented phone.  So, with all of these positive changes involved with not including Wave Phones on the Wish, I think it's likely we won't see them on the Wish.  No features would be eliminated, and it would make cruising a more streamlined process.  Come on Disney, what's the worst that could happen?

I mean, they could get a ton of angry comment cards from people who love Wave Phones, but other than that, everything'll be fine.


  1. Some really interesting thoughts on the Wave Phones. I like your ideas and WISH for them to disappear on the new ships in favor of shipwide WiFi calling if possible. I am not holding my breath...I suspect Disney will try to save some $$ given the current cruising cash flow crunch and this may be one investment they defer.

  2. Definitely not a fan of the wave phones. I like your idea about updating the app to work better. They could even include a fire tablet (they are fairly cheap) in the room so people could have something with a larger screen on it.