Friday, July 23, 2021

The Dream is Coming Back!

Earlier today, on the Disney Cruise Line website, it was announced that Disney cruises from Florida will finally resume!  The Magic at Sea cruises recently started in the UK, but those cruises are only available to UK residents and they don't stop anywhere.  The cruises that'll leave from Florida are much closer to normal cruises, as they're available to anyone and will visit ports of call like Castaway Cay.  

The Dream will be the first DCL ship to resume cruises from the US.  It'll be doing 3-night and 4-night Bahamian cruises from Port Canaveral, like what it was doing before cruises were shut down.  However, all of its August itineraries and a few early September itineraries have been changed.  Previously, the Dream was scheduled to do standard Bahamian cruises with stops at Castaway Cay and Nassau (the 4-night has a day at sea as well).  Now, instead of stopping at Nassau, it'll spend two days at Castaway Cay!  This is an improvement.  On both 3-night and 4-night cruises, the days at Castaway Cay are consecutive.  Disney probably made this change to have more control over health and safety measures.  Disney can control what happens on Castaway Cay, but not at any other port.  If I was booked on one of those cruises, I'd be happy, since Castaway Cay is a lot more fun than Nassau.

Since the Dream wouldn't have to go anywhere between days at Castaway Cay, I'm guessing it'll just spend the night docked at Castaway Cay.  It would be awesome if guests were allowed to stay on the island until later in the evening.  Cookies and Cookies Too could serve dinner!  Unfortunately, it doesn't look like this is going to happen, as the aboard time on Castaway Cay is 4:45 PM on both days.  Maybe pirates come out at 4:46 and capture anyone who doesn't get back on the ship in time.

Later in September, the Dream has stops at Nassau scheduled, but those stops could change.  If you're interested in those cruises, check the DCL website for the latest information.

The Dream is cool, but what about the other ships?  The next cruise on the Fantasy is scheduled for early September and the next cruise on the Wonder is scheduled for late September.  The Magic won't be doing any cruises from the US until November.  Disney has only released specific information about resuming cruises on the Dream, so information about the other ships will probably come later.

As I'm sure you know, cruises this August won't be the same as cruises before the shutdown.  There will be restrictions, but these cruises have less restrictions than the Magic at Sea cruises.  Some of the restrictions are similar to those found on the Magic at Sea cruises.  Here's an informational video about some of what'll be different on the Dream in August:
The video does a better job explaining than I can, so I won't waste time restating what the video already explained.  It goes over most of what guests need to know, but it doesn't mention some notable changes.  Thankfully, the DCL website has more information.  Just so you know, this information is about the Dream only.  This gives a pretty good idea of what to expect on the other ships, but specific details about them will be released later.  Here's a big list of what I thought was important.

  • Guests can use the DCL Navigator app to talk with crew members from Guest Services, Port Adventures, and dining teams.  If it works well, it'll be very helpful.
  • Using the DCL Navigator app, guests can schedule an appointment to meet with a crew member in person.  This makes me think that the Guest Services and Port Adventures desks will have significantly less crew members at them to help guests.
  • Face coverings will be required inside, but not outside.  It's funny, in the past, guest were only allowed to wear masks when getting their picture taken.  Times have changed.
  • Deck parties won't be happening.
  • Fireworks will happen on two different nights, but guests will be assigned a fireworks show they can attend before their cruise starts.  Unfortunately, they're not pirate themed.  The fireworks will happen during a more generic "Disney Ever After" show.  This might cause a mutiny.
  • Up-close character experiences won't be happening, but they'll still interact with guests from a distance.
  • Less people will be allowed in the Walt Disney Theatre at a time.  There will only be one Broadway-style show in the Walt Disney Theatre per cruise.  It'll be shown many times during the cruise, so everyone who wants to see it gets a chance.
  • Guests will need to book sessions for their children in the Oceaneer Club and Lab before their cruise online or on the DCL Navigator app.  Each child can only have one session per day, which is unfortunate for kids that love the Club and Lab.  If a child does not have any sessions in the Oceaneer Club and Lab, they can be booked through Guest Services if there's availability.
  • Edge and Vibe will be open, and no reservations are necessary.  
  • Kids at youth clubs will likely be told to wash their hands more.  We were already encouraged to do this frequently, but it looks like that'll happen more now.
  • The 'it's a small world nursery!' will be closed.
  • The minimum age to use the Senses Fitness Center has been lowered to 14.  Guests under 18 need to have an adult or guardian with them to use the Fitness Center.
  • Some Senses treatments and features won't be available.
  • Pools and water slides will be open.  Unlike the Magic at Sea cruises, guests won't have to wait in a virtual line to go to the pools, which is nice.  Capacity will be limited in the pools, but that's a good thing, since the pools are often too crowded to have fun.
  • Guests can't play shuffleboard, ping pong, or basketball.  However, the website says nothing about mini golf or the sports simulators.  This is because Disney copied this section of text from the Magic at Sea information page.  The Magic doesn't have a mini golf course or sports simulators, so how could they be temporarily unavailable?  I'm pretty sure these two features will be unavailable.  They should temporarily rename Goofy's Sports Deck to Goofy's ______ Deck.  Also, did DCL forget that foosball exists?  If the other Sports Deck activities aren't available, foosball probably isn't available.
  • All food and drinks will be served by crew members, so guests can no longer serve themselves.  I don't think this will be a huge problem, but I probably wouldn't be able to make custom drink combinations or unrealistically tall ice cream cones.
  • Menus won't be given to guests at meals, so they'll have to use the DCL Navigator app to view the menus.  Alternatively, guests can ask to get a paper menu.
  • Hanging bags on stateroom doors to collect gifts from other guests (fish extenders) isn't allowed.
  • A new contactless payment system will be used.
  • Payment history and receipts will be visible in the DCL Navigator app.
  • When getting off the ship at Castaway Cay, guests will use the DCL Navigator app to join the virtual queue.  However, when less people are debarking the ship, the virtual queue won't be in use.
  • All Port Adventures are still happening, just at a lower capacity.
  • The Castaway Cay trams will still be running, but enhanced cleaning measures will be in use.  Also, to promote physical distancing, less people will be allowed on a tram at a time thanks to modified seating.  Face coverings are required when riding on trams.  To avoid this, walk.
  • Disney says that hammocks on Castaway Cay are temporarily suspended.  But aren't hammocks always suspended?
  • The line for Pelican Plunge will now be on land.
  • The Party Patrol exists.  The Party Patrol consists of characters that ride beach vehicles around the island.  This seems like the kind of thing that'll be a permanent feature.  Can I join?
  • Scuttle's Cove, the youth club for ages 3-12 on Castaway Cay, won't be operating.  It would probably be challenging to implement the Oceaneer Club and Lab reservation system to Scuttle's Cove.
  • Teen Hideout (essentially Vibe on Castaway Cay) will be open, and no reservations are necessary.  Also, In Da Shade will be open.  Both of these will have reduced capacity, but they'll offer "recreational activities, including basketball, foosball, table tennis and pool".  This doesn't make sense.  Why are basketball and ping pong/table tennis allowed on Castaway Cay but not on the ship?  Maybe it has something to do with Disney copying the text from the Magic at Sea page.  If it's allowed at Castaway Cay, it's probably allowed on the ship.  We'll see what happens.
To me, these restrictions and new practices probably won't ruin the cruise experience.  Sure, some things are a lot different than they were (it'll probably take me a while to get used to not getting my own food and drinks), but they could be worse.  The reservations required at the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab seem very annoying, but they won't affect my family.  We're glad that Vibe and Edge don't require reservations.  Also, I'm really happy there won't be a virtual queue to go to the pools like on the Magic at Sea cruises.  

You may have noticed that I mentioned the DCL Navigator app a lot.  DCL is relying on the app more than they ever have in the past.  This is convenient for people with smartphones, since it's all available in one place.  But, there are some people that don't have smartphones who would be inconvenienced by the convenience.  Also, there's the other problem of the app not working.  My family has had many problems with the app malfunctioning, often due to a bad connection on the ship.  With more features that utilize the app and more people using the app, there's more that could go wrong.  Hopefully DCL anticipated the potential problems and upgraded the Wi-Fi technology on their fleet and Castaway Cay.  

As more cruises happen and the pandemic situation improves, many of these restrictions will probably be removed.  I don't think they'll be completely gone by January 2022, when my family is planning to go on the Magic, but I'm thinking there will be less of them by then.  The Dream's first cruise since the March 2020 shutdown will begin pretty soon, on August 9th.  The resumption of cruises on the Dream is an exciting next step toward cruises resuming fleetwide!  We'll get there, eventually.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Non-Gimmicky Restaurants are Important!

Like the four existing Disney Cruise Line ships, the Wish will have three rotational restaurants.  However, the Wish's three restaurants are all completely new.  There's Worlds of Marvel, a "Cinematic Dining Adventure".  I haven't seen most of the Marvel movies, but this restaurant looks interesting.  Also, it has small cupcakes that grow big?
I have no idea how that's going to work, but it looks cool.  Also, being able to interact with Marvel characters without waiting in a line to see them will be fun.  

The Wish will also have Arendelle:  A Frozen Dining Adventure.  There will be a large stage in the middle of this restaurant, where a new story, set after Frozen II, will take place right in front of the diners.  Since it's happening live, guests will probably be able to interact with the characters and impact on the story, so it may be different every time.  This restaurant seems to be taking the live performances featured in Tiana's Place on the Wonder and Rapunzel's Royal Table on the Magic to the next level.  If the story is something everyone can enjoy, this restaurant will be a lot of fun to eat at.

The Wish's other rotational restaurant is 1923, a restaurant with a cool 1920s theme.  From what we've seen of it, I think it's my favorite of the Wish's rotational restaurants.  Unlike the other two restaurants, it's pretty straightforward.  Here, there's no live show to watch or super heroes to help.  Without an innovative special dining experience, the fun at this restaurant is your family or travel party at your table.  

Disney wants families to spend time together on their ships.  The word "family" (or "families") was used thirteen times in this video, so its obvious that Disney designs their ships with families in mind.

So, two of the three rotational restaurants on the Wish will have a major gimmick.  Sure, participating in them probably won't be forced, but from what I've seen, they're the focuses of the restaurant.  During dinner at these two restaurants, guests will be encouraged to pay attention to what's going on in the restaurant, instead of paying attention to their families.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.  When I'm on a Disney cruise, I rarely see my family members.  I spend the days going all over the ship and having fun, mostly without them.  Dinner is often the one time of day that we all spend together on a cruise.  It's really fun to talk what we did that day, how much ice cream we ate, and what we're planning to do next.  At 1923, we'd have the entire meal to catch up and discuss what we did that day, since there's nothing to distract us.  My fear for Worlds of Marvel and Arendelle is that we won't be able to talk very much because of what's going on in the restaurant.  Sure, 1923 is less flashy and exciting than the other two restaurants, but this simplicity is actually beneficial for families!

Of course, Worlds of Marvel and Arendelle aren't the first DCL restaurants to have a feature that you wouldn't find at a normal restaurant.  On the four current ships, Animator's Palate has a variety of special features.  For example, there's the Animation Magic show, where guests draw characters that dance to Disney music on large screens on the walls later in the dinner.  I enjoy this show, and, since it's pretty short, it doesn't take much time away from our family conversations.  Same with Crush the sea turtle.  He swims around and talks to guests for a while, but he's a considerate turtle and gives families plenty of time to talk.

This is what the Wish's two restaurants need to do.  Disney is not going to change the rotational restaurants before the Wish launches (though they could change them in a future dry dock renovation), so let's think about how Arendelle and Worlds of Marvel could work.  They'll have their gimmicks and special experiences, but they can't take up too much time of the meal.  Family conversations are important! Wow, I sound like a parent. Even if 1923 is the only rotational restaurant where uninterrupted family conversations can happen, the other two restaurants must give families plenty of time together.

Disney hasn't said too much about the special experiences at Worlds of Marvel and Arendelle, and I doubt we'll know how much time these experiences will take up until the Wish launches.  

I don't think the other two future DCL ships will have the exact same rotational restaurants as the Wish, but Disney needs to include a non-gimmicky restaurant.  Sure, it would be more attractive to potential customers if every restaurant had a special experience, but it would weaken one of the most important parts of a family vacation:  Family!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Disney Cruises Are Back!

In March of 2020, Disney Cruise Line and many other cruise lines suspended the operations of their entire fleets as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Initially, I thought this suspension would only last a few weeks, but here we are in July 2021, and that Disney Cruise Line Operational Update is still at the top of the DCL website.  While some cruise lines have resumed limited operations, Disney's four ships haven't had any guests on them in over a year.  However, that changed today!  

The first Disney Magic at Sea cruise started today, July 15th.  As you may know, these cruises depart from the United Kingdom, and only residents of the United Kingdom are able to go on them.  Also, they don't visit any ports of call.  The Magic is the only DCL ship doing these cruises (if all the ships were doing them, the cruises would be called Magic, Wonder, Dream, and Fantasy at Sea), so the three other ships haven't resumed cruises yet.  Although they're not regular cruises, the Magic at Sea cruises are a good starting point for Disney cruises to resume across the fleet.

It's great to finally have cruises going again.  However, after these Magic at Sea cruises are over, the Magic will stop cruising again.  It's like DCL is taking a step forward but then taking a step back.  Cruises on the other DCL ships would've been happening at the same time as those canceled cruises on the Magic, so it doesn't make a ton of sense.  Sure, the cruises after the Magic at Sea cruises were normal cruises that would've visited places, but the other cruises scheduled to happen then are normal as well.  Many of these canceled cruises would've departed from New York City, so maybe the reason that they were canceled was to completely avoid NYC and just resume cruises from Miami.  Does Disney have a problem with big apples?

I'm really excited for cruises to resume fleetwide, and today was a major step toward that happening.  As of now, the closest non-Magic at Sea cruise is scheduled for early August on the Dream.  I don't think it'll get canceled.  It's already mid-July, and if it was going to get canceled, I think Disney would've done it by now.  We'll see what happens, DCL could do what they did in March 2020 again.  
Until that cruise happens (if it doesn't get canceled), let's celebrate the Magic at Sea!

Thursday, July 8, 2021

That's Not Cabanas...and Donald Duck Has a Cantina?

Earlier today, Disney Cruise Line updated the Wish's website with information about the Wish's non-rotational dining options, like the poolside restaurants.  All of the restaurants announced follow the standard set by the previously-announced restaurants:  They're unlike any of the existing DCL restaurants.  Disney didn't reveal much about them, but let's take a look at what we do know!

First, we'll talk about the largest of the restaurants that were announced today:  Cabanas Marceline Market.  Contrary to what the name suggests, this is a restaurant, not a shop.  It's named after Walt Disney's hometown of Marceline, Missouri.  According to its description, Marceline Market will have ten separate food stations, all based on different Disney movies.  Disney didn't say which movies will be featured, but in their rendering of the restaurant, there's art on the wall that gives it away.  Take a look at this screenshot:

I was surprised at how high the quality of the image is.  If this image is correct, there will be food stations themed after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Ratatouille, Beauty and the Beast, Zootopia, Tangled, Alice in Wonderland, Bambi, and Pinocchio.  Judging by this image, there will also be a food station that has something to do with Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.

I think each food station will have food related to its theme.  For example, the Zootopia station might have a focus on salads and vegetables, while the Ratatouille station may feature French food.  Do you think the food from the Ratatouille station will be as fancy as food from Remy (named after the rat from Ratatouille) on the Dream and Fantasy?  In addition to the ten food stations, there will be a "café-style beverage bar".  I hope there's more than one, because Marceline Market is probably going to be pretty big.

I think it's good that Marceline Market won't only focus on one movie, and the distinct stations will make it easier to find the food that you want.  Also, telling others where you got food will be very easy:

"Hey, that looks good, where'd you get it?"
"It's from Beauty and the Beast."

The Marceline Market description says that guests will enjoy "a walk-around experience for breakfast and lunch, and table service at dinnertime."  Is a walk-around experience a buffet?  It might be, but maybe Marceline Market won't be a buffet.  The pandemic may have influenced the design of the Wish, so maybe guests won't be able to serve themselves food.  Instead, crew members might be serving food.  As long as it's flexible and works efficiently, I'll be okay with it.  Also, the restaurant's table service dinner is like what's been done at Cabanas for dinner.  Guests will be able to eat inside or outside, like at Cabanas.

Marceline Market is very different from DCL's existing casual restaurant, Cabanas.  I've always enjoyed the tropical theming of Cabanas, since it fits perfectly with the atmosphere of a cruise.  I was surprised that Disney chose not to put Cabanas on the Wish and instead try something new.  They had renovated the buffet restaurants on the Magic and Wonder into Cabanas to keep them in line with the Dream and Fantasy, and I thought that they would want to keep the branding the same across the fleet, like what they've been doing with other things like the Walt Disney Theatre and the youth clubs.  It seems unlikely, but maybe the four Cabanas restaurants will be updated into Marceline Markets in the future.  

Before hearing about Marceline Market, I didn't know about the city of Marceline.  According to Wikipedia, it had a population of 2,233 people in 2010.  The Wish will be able to hold 4,000 passengers, so Marceline Market will likely serve more people in a day than the entire population of the city.

I'm looking forward to getting more information about Marceline Market, like what food it'll serve and how getting food at breakfast and lunch will function.

I'm also looking forward to the other type of casual restaurant, the poolside quick service restaurants!  Together, the Wish's poolside restaurants are known as the Mickey & Friends Festival of Foods.  Included in this festival are Daisy's Pizza Pies, Goofy's Grill, and Sweet Minnie's Ice Cream, three restaurants that are similar to what we've seen on the existing DCL ships, just with different theming and, possibly, different menus.  In addition to these, two other restaurants, Mickey's Smokestack Barbecue and Donald's Cantina, will be part of the Mickey & Friends Festival of Foods.  This is exciting!   Other than Cookies and Cookies Too on Castaway Cay, we've never had a DCL barbecue restaurant.  Also, Donald's Cantina will be the first DCL Mexican restaurant.  The Mickey & Friends Festival of Foods will have more variety than those on the current DCL ships, which helps to solve an inconvenience that I never considered.  On the current ships, if you're on the pool deck and want to eat something that's not at one of the outdoor restaurants, you'd have to go into Cabanas which has air conditioning and is cold.  But on the Wish, with its additional two restaurants, there'll be more outdoor food options and less of a chance that guests won't want anything from them.  

Unfortunately, there isn't a rendering of the Mickey & Friends Festival of Foods on the Wish's website.  However, since all five restaurants are grouped under the Mickey & Friends Festival of Foods name, I think they'll all be close to each other, similar to Flo's Café on the Dream and Fantasy.  I'm hoping that the Festival of Foods flows better than Flo's so that it doesn't get too crowded.  

Unlike Marceline Market, the Mickey & Friends Festival of Foods will have a tropical boardwalk theme, which will work well, since it's right by the pools.  Also, since the Wish's family pools are all named after characters from the Mickey Mouse universe, the restaurants will fit in perfectly.

I'm glad Disney finally announced more of the Wish's guest areas.  I'm looking forward to learning more about Marceline Market and the Mickey & Friends Festival of Foods.  Specifically, I want to know the menus for each of the restaurants.  What foods will Donald's Cantina and Mickey's Smokestack Barbecue serve?  Will I be able to order a whole pizza at Daisy's Pizza Pies?  Could guests order combination foods, like a barbecue chicken pizza or a hot dog in a tortilla?  Will Sweet Minnie's Ice Cream have blueberry ice cream?  Will there be a soft drink station near the Mickey & Friends Festival of Foods?  I can't wait for that next delicious announcement!

Will the Senses Fitness Center Allow Teenagers on Future Cruises?

Update 7/23/21: Today, DCL announced that cruises from the US will resume in August, starting with the Dream. On the website with information about these cruises, Disney announced that teenagers (ages 14-17) will be able to use the Fitness Center, as long as they're with a parent or guardian!

The United Kingdom's Magic at Sea cruises are scheduled to begin next week.  There will be many new health and safety practices in place, and I think they're pretty restrictive.  The DCL website has information about these policies, and even if you aren't going on a Magic at Sea cruise, it's worth checking out.  It's hard for me to imagine how some of the restrictions will work, like having to wait in a virtual line to go to the pools.  At least the pools aren't virtual.

One of the changes that surprised me the most was that teenagers (aged 14-17) will be allowed to use the Fitness Center as long as they're with an adult or guardian.  This is new for the Magic at Sea cruises, and I think it's in place to give teens more to do on the restricted cruises.  Vibe will be open, but its activities will be limited.  So, to stop teens from getting bored, they get to exercise!  Fun...  All guests will need to make a reservation to use the Fitness Center, and they can only use it for 45 minutes per day.  That time limit seems short, but it's good for people who want to exercise but don't like doing it.

Allowing teenagers into the Fitness Center is a positive change.  Before this change, exercise options for teenagers were limited.  We could use the promenade for running or walking, the pools (when they weren't crowded), or the sports deck for a variety of activities.  But now, a much larger selection of exercise activities are available for 45 minutes a day.  I probably wouldn't spend any time at the Fitness Center, but I'm sure many of my peers would.  I don't even need the Fitness Center, I get enough exercise going up and down the stairs.

After this summer's Magic at Sea cruises are over, will teenagers still be allowed to use the Fitness Center?  I think so.  They'll have to be accompanied by an adult, so it's not like a group of teenagers could go around the Fitness Center and bother adults or damage the exercise equipment.  Also, teenagers are already allowed to receive Senses Spa treatments in the Chill Spa, so teens in the Senses area isn't an entirely new thing.  If allowing supervised teenagers into the Fitness Center works well this summer, I'm guessing the change will spread across the fleet when cruises that go places return.  Of course, Disney may want to keep the Fitness Center an adults-exclusive space, but for all the teenagers that would like to use the Fitness Center, I hope this is not the case.

While writing this post, I realized that I have no photos of the Fitness Center.  That makes sense, as I've never been able to go.  If DCL allows teens there on my next cruise, maybe I'll let my phone's camera get exercise and take some pictures!