Monday, October 18, 2021

The Wish's Youth Clubs!

In a pair of recent Disney Parks Blog posts, new information about the Disney Wish's youth clubs was announced.  One post focused on the Oceaneer Club, and the other focused on the clubs for older kids and teenagers.  In addition to these, a recent Disney Parks video highlights what's new with the youth clubs.  Take a look!

Similar to the previous announcements about the Wish's youth clubs, most of this video is focused on the Oceaneer Club.  That's okay, because there is a lot to talk about here.

Before this group of announcements, we already knew a bit about the Wish's Oceaneer Club.  Like the current Oceaneer Clubs fleetwide, the version on the Wish will be for ages 3-12.  However, the Wish doesn't have an Oceaneer Lab like the other ships.  Instead, the youth club for this age group is combined into a single club that takes up a pretty big portion of Deck 2.  This was likely done to make the club more straightforward.  Besides, the hallways between the Club and Lab are kind of awkward.  It's much simpler to have one club instead of two.  But since they combined the two together, shouldn't it be called the Oceaneer Clab?

Anyway, the Wish's Oceaneer Club appears to be similar to the current Oceaneer Clabs, just with more.  Fairytale Hall looks like some of the Disney Princess themed areas in the current Oceaneer Clubs like Pixie Hollow and Wandering Oaken's Trading Post.  Fairytale Hall on the Wish looks like these, but with more variety and more activities.  Similarly, the Wish's Marvel Super Hero Academy looks a lot like the other ships' Marvel Super Hero Academies, just with more activities and cooler technology.  Keeping with this trend, the Star Wars Cargo Bay looks like an expanded version of the previous Star Wars areas, the Millennium Falcon and the Command Post.  I'm really excited to interact with those creatures during the open houses.  Sure, these spaces are not entirely new, but they look like refined, definitive versions of the existing Oceaneer Club areas.  I had hours of fun in the existing Oceaneer Clabs when I was younger, and I'm happy that younger kids will get to have even more fun on the Wish with the more refined Oceaneer Club.  

In addition to those areas, the Wish's Oceaneer Club will have some completely new ones.  The Walt Disney Imagineering Lab looks like a lot of fun.  Is this what the Oceaneer Lab has become?  It might be where some of the activities held at the Oceaneer Lab will be held on the Wish.  I want to try out one of those ride simulation chairs, so I'm glad open houses exist.  The other entirely new area of the Wish's Oceaneer Club is Mickey and Minnie Captain’s Deck.  This area is geared toward kids at the younger end of the Oceaneer Club's age range.  It'll have special times reserved for the even younger kids at the it's a small world nursery.  This is probably possible because the nursery is adjacent to the Oceaneer Club.  I think the Captain's Deck will connect with the nursery to provide convenient access for the children and crew at the nursery during these special times.

The Oceaneer Club has taken up a lot of Disney's focus, but we can't forget about the other clubs!  

The next club up the age ladder is Edge, the club for ages 11-14.  Before this announcement, we knew almost nothing about Edge.  This iteration of Edge will be located on Deck 5 of the Wish, and it'll have a very colorful New York City loft theme.  It'll have some pretty cool-looking furniture and a soda bar.  This is really nice, as not having to leave the club to get a drink will be very convenient.  Will the soda bar serve specialty drinks?  That would be extra nice.  The rest of the Wish's Edge is similar to the existing Edges, with large screens for watching movies and playing video games, along with plenty of areas to socialize.  

A problem I've had with the current Edges is that they're too small, and I hope the Wish's Edge decreases this problem by increasing its size.  Edge appears to be pretty big on the Wish's deck plans, but I doubt we'll get a real judgment of its size until the Wish launches in June of next year.

Next, let's take a look at Vibe, the club for ages 14-17.  Disney says that the Wish's version of Vibe will be inspired by a "Parisian artists’ loft."  Similar to Edge, this version of Vibe is very colorful.  Also like Edge, it'll have some interesting-shaped furniture.  According to the artist rendering, it looks like Vibe will have at least one foosball table and a lot of TVs for movies and video games.  It will also have an interesting Mickey Mouse statue that's colorful like the rest of the space.

The Wish's Vibe is on Deck 12, right near the pools.  This means that it'll have huge floor to ceiling windows that provide views directly off the starboard side of the ship.  

While all of this is great, this Vibe seems to be a massive downgrade from the huge Vibe on the Dream and Fantasy.  Instead of a sundeck with private pools, it'll have big windows and pools nearby that can be used by all of the Wish's guests.  I think this downgrade was made because the sundeck at Vibe on the Dream and Fantasy is actually pretty restricted.  The sundeck is only open when a counselor goes out to it, and the area closes in the later afternoon because it's a source of light.  This is because the light can make it difficult for the crew on the bridge to see out into the ocean.  I've enjoyed the time I've spent at the Vibe sundeck, but I'm not devastated that it's not on the Wish.  At least adults at Senses and people walking on the promenade can still enjoy that area of the ship.

Something else that I doubt will be included in the Wish's Vibe is a soda bar.  Edge will have one, so why won't Vibe?  The answer is next door.

In addition to Vibe and Edge, the Wish will have The Hideaway, a flexible tween-teen-young adult club.  The Hideaway will be adjacent to Vibe, and the two clubs connect.  This new club can be opened to the kids from Vibe, reserved to the younger kids from Edge, and even closed off to young adults between the ages of 18 and 20!  Keeping the colorful theming going, The Hideaway will feature a dance floor, a DJ booth, a smoothie bar (that's where the Vibe kids can get their drinks), and plenty of interesting furniture.  What is it with DCL youth clubs and cool furniture?  I'm not complaining, because could you imagine going to a DCL youth club and sitting on a normal plastic chair you'd find at a school?  Disney Cruise Line's Youth Clubs:  Where even sitting down is an special experience.  

I'm really happy for the minority of guests between age 18 and 20.  Previously, these guests could participate in activities in the 18-20 Society.  These activities were held in areas around the DCL ships, not in a private club, so it's awesome that the Wish's 18-20 Society will sometimes have a home in The Hideaway.  I'm guessing that the 18-20 Society will continue to have its normal events around the ship, but hopefully it takes advantage of The Hideaway.

The Hideaway appears to be a bit smaller than Vibe, but when the two connect, the area will be huge!

My least favorite feature of The Hideaway is its name.  'The Hideaway' is very similar to 'Teen Hideout,' an area that's essentially Vibe on Castaway Cay minus the TVs, video games, and air conditioning.  On days when the Wish visits Castaway Cay, guests could mix up the two locations.  I hope nobody shows up to Teen Hideout expecting an activity at The Hideaway.  This might not be a huge problem, but maybe The Hideaway's name will be altered in the future to prevent this confusion.  Can they rename it The Lair?  What about The Bolthole?  They could make that Lightning McQueen-themed!  Red is the color of the season.

Overall, the Wish's youth clubs are solid.  There's not too much new here, but there didn't need to be.  Hopefully the clubs are all refined versions of what kids have come to know and love on the current DCL ships.  Plus, The Hideaway is really exciting, and I'm looking forward to learning more about how its dynamic operation will work.

Finally, one of my favorite features of the Wish's youth clubs is the fact that their names are the same as on the other four DCL ships.  Many of the Wish's areas and features are similar to what we've seen on past ships but with different names.  For example, Marceline Market is replacing Cabanas, the Wonderland Cinema and Never Land Cinema are replacing the Buena Vista Theatre, Luna is replacing the D Lounge, and Sweet Minnie's Ice Cream is replacing Eye Scream.  I'm glad the Oceaneer Club, Edge, and Vibe are retaining their names.  This will make people who have been on the four current DCL ships familiar with the youth clubs without even having to visit them.  It probably means that the names Oceaneer Club, Edge, and Vibe aren't going anywhere as well.  Maybe the names, like the clubs, will become more refined in the future.  When are we getting the Oceaneer Club Steakhouse, Mickey?

Monday, October 11, 2021

If You're Still Giving Out the Cards, Why Remove the Dining Information?

One of the most useful things you can bring around with you on a Disney cruise is the Key to the World card that you receive at the beginning of your cruise.  You can use it to unlock your stateroom's door, see the start and end dates of your cruise, see the assembly station you are assigned to, make purchases, get on and off the ship, and see the dining rotations.  That last one is one of my favorite features of the card.  It's so convenient to quickly glance down at your card and check what restaurant you're scheduled to dine at.

Well, that was one of my favorite features of the card, because Disney is no longer printing the dining rotations on Key to the World cards.  Key to the World cards will still be distributed and used for everything they were used for in the past, they just won't have a dining rotation on them.  Don't worry, this doesn't mean that Disney's rotational dining system is gone.  It just means that the schedule of each night's restaurant won't be on the Key to the World cards anymore.

According to the Disney Cruise Line Blog post, a recent minor change to Disney cruises is that the Key to the World cards are printed onboard the ships, instead of at the terminal.  Because of this, the cards are distributed to the staterooms instead of directly to the guests.  That post says that the removal of the dining rotation cuts down time for the Guest Services cast members who are printing them.

So, if it's not on the Key to the World cards anymore, how can guests see where they are scheduled to go to dinner?  The DCL Navigator app, of course.  The app has all of the dining information that used to be on the card, like the restaurant order, the table number, and the seating time.  It also includes the menus.  So, if you want to check where you're going to dinner, you have to pull it up on the app.  Sure, many people carry their phones around with them on a cruise, but taking out a phone and opening up the app then navigating to where the dining information is located takes longer than just quickly looking down at a card on a lanyard.  

This change has many of the same issues as many of the other changes we've seen that place more emphasis on the app.  How do people without smart devices view their dining information?  Maybe they could go to Guest Services and get a copy of it printed out.  For these people, it's an inconvenience that wouldn't even have been an issue if Disney had kept the dining information on the Key to the World cards.

In addition to being problematic, the removal of the dining information doesn't make much sense.  The Key to the World cards are still distributed and they're still necessary for every guest, so why is the dining information gone?  How much time does not printing it on the Key to the World cards save?  Probably around a second or two per card.  Maybe there's another reason.  Was it changed to use less ink?  That's not really a good reason, because the dining information wasn't even that large on the card.

Since I can't come up with any benefits of removing the dining information, I think the most likely reason for making the change is that Disney wants guests to use the DCL Navigator app more.  When it works, the app is good.  However, it often doesn't work as well as Disney wants it to, thanks to poor connection on the ships.  Connection problems could make the dining information inaccessible at times, a problem that could be completely avoided if it was still printed on the cards.  

If it works well, I'm okay if Disney wants us to use the app more.  However, that doesn't mean that they have to remove a useful feature that's been around since before I went on my first Disney cruise.  It's a shame, I never fully realized how nice it was until DCL got rid of it.

Disney seems to like getting guests to use the DCL Navigator app more often.  If this trend continues, could phones be an alternative method to open stateroom doors or disembark the ship in the future?  It's possible, but if it happened, the Key to the World cards would still be used, as people without compatible devices would need a way to go into their staterooms or get off at a port of call.  Plus

If something like that happens, it won't be for quite some time.  For now, we can hope that Disney brings back the dining rotation on the Key to the World cards.  If that doesn't happen by the time you go on a cruise, I suggest writing your dinner schedule and your table number on a piece of paper and putting that into your lanyard's card holder, next to your Key to the World card.  Maybe fill out a comment card as well, as Disney actually reads them and listens to guests' feedback.  

What do you think about this change?  Should DCL put the dining information back onto Key to the World cards?

Sunday, October 3, 2021

The Wonder is Back!

Welcome to what I hope is the penultimate installment of the "The _____ is Back!"  On October 1st, the Disney Wonder started its first cruise since Disney suspended operations due to the pandemic in March 2020.  The Wonder's first few cruises will start and end in San Diego, California.  Since this is a very long way from Castaway Cay, these are the first Disney cruises since cruises have resumed to visit a port of call other than Castaway Cay.  Instead of visiting Castaway Cay, the Wonder will be visiting some Mexican ports like Cabo San Lucas (on 4-night cruises) and Ensenada (on 3-night cruises) for a while.

The Wonder's last cruise from San Diego will begin on November 5th.  This is an Eastbound Panama Canal cruise, and everyone on this cruise must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to sail, likely because it's so long.  This will be the Wonder's most interesting cruise of 2021, and I hope it goes well. After this, the Wonder will go on some Caribbean cruises from Galveston, Texas to finish up the year.

With the Wonder finally cruising with passengers once again, all four of the DCL ships have now resumed cruises.  If nothing causes any of the ships to suspend operations, then I'll make the last post like this when the Magic returns to the United States and resumes normal, non-Magic at Sea cruises.  

The Wonder's cruise restart is wonderful news, but you may have heard some less wonderful DCL news recently about the Key to the World cards.  A post about that is coming in a few rotations, so I hope you're not too hungry for more information.