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.

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