Monday, January 31, 2022

The Problems With Pixar Day at Sea

Earlier this month, Disney Cruise Line announced their next type of special themed days, Pixar Day at Sea.  These days are coming to the Disney Fantasy at the beginning of 2023.  DCL hasn't announced everything about Pixar Days yet, but they appear to be similar to the existing Star Wars Days and Marvel Days, with Pixar character appearances, Pixar-themed activities, and a special night deck show.

Sounds like fun, right?  I think so, but not everything about Pixar Day is good news.  Pixar Days at Sea will be on the Fantasy in early 2023, the time of year when Star Wars Days at Sea normally happen.  Both Pixar Day and Star Wars Day are on the Fantasy, so what does this mean for the future of Star Wars Day at Sea?  Is Pixar Day at Sea replacing it?

Let's take a look.  DCL still has the option to search for Star Wars Day cruises on their website, but when you search for it, the only cruises that appear are those happening this year, before the introduction of Pixar Day at Sea.  There are a few options of what DCL could do with Star Wars Day at Sea:  Move it or get rid of it.

We'll start with moving Star Wars Day.  Maybe DCL is going to keep it on the Fantasy but move it to a different time of year.  This would be convenient, as the Fantasy already has the special Star Wars hornsMoving Star Wars Day's time is possible, but isn't the point of the themed sea days to get more people to sail at less-popular times of year (like the beginning of the year, when Star Wars Day currently is)?  

Alternatively, Star Wars Day could keep its existing time of year but be moved to a different ship.  It probably wouldn't go to the Wish, since it'll only do short cruises (some without a day at sea).  Also, DCL is not going to have any problem with getting people to sail on their new ship.  It wouldn't be moved to the Dream, since Marvel Day is moving to it.  I also doubt it's going to the Magic, since it'll be doing a wide variety of itineraries that don't really need the added spice of a special day at sea.  What about the Wonder?  Like the Magic, it'll be going on a variety of itineraries, like Alaskan cruises and Baja cruises.  A lot of these are short, and there isn't enough time on those cruises for a special sea day.

If Star Wars Day at Sea does move, maybe the move won't be immediate.  Star Wars Day at Sea could take a hiatus and skip a few years.  Once the sixth and seventh ships enter the fleet, I don't know what the ships will do, so maybe Star Wars Day at Sea will take a break until then.

While it seems possible, getting rid of Star Wars Day at Sea and replacing it with Pixar Day at Sea would be disappointing.  I really like Pixar movies, and I know I would enjoy a Pixar Day, but a Star Wars Day just sounds so much better.  To make things worse, doing that would be a complete break of the promise that Woody made in the original Toy Story: "No one's getting replaced." Well, at least the promise lasted 26 years.

Let's move on to the other problem with Pixar Day at Sea.  It's Pixar.  While Star Wars and Marvel are very distinct from traditional Disney, the line between normal Disney and Pixar is more blurred.  Here's an example:  When you think of Cars, do you think of it as a Disney movie or a Pixar movie?  If you're like me, Cars is more of a Disney movie than a Pixar movie.  Lightning McQueen is more of a Disney character than a Pixar character.  The same goes for other Pixar movies, like Toy Story.  To me, these are Disney movies, not Pixar movies.  There isn't a huge difference between Pixar and Disney.  What's more, Disney has even made movies set in a Pixar universe:  The two Planes movies are in the Cars universe.  To a casual, everyday Disney fan, is Pixar different enough from normal Disney to make a Pixar Day at Sea different enough from a normal day at sea?   

As I said, not a ton has been announced about Pixar Day at Sea, so I'm sure we'll learn more soon.  If it does end up replacing Star Wars Day at Sea, I might have to scream like Mike Wazowski does when he gets hurt.  

What do you think about Pixar Day at Sea?  Should it replace Star Wars Day?  Leave a comment if you want!

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

What to Expect on a Marvel Day at Sea

Introduced in 2017, Marvel Days at Sea are a special type of sea day exclusively on the Magic during parts of the year.  My family and I are planning on going on a 5-night Bahamian cruise from Miami on the Magic at the end of this month, and this cruise will have a Marvel Day at Sea.  I've never been on a cruise with a Marvel Day at Sea (but I have been on two cruises with Star Wars Days at Sea, so maybe the two days are similar), so I'm excited -and unsure- about the event.  I'm not the biggest Marvel fan, but I've enjoyed watching some of the Marvel movies and playing Spider-Man on the PS4, so I'm looking forward to the Marvel Day.  To make the most out of the event, I'll be taking a look at the special features of a Marvel Day at Sea.

When searching for information about Disney Cruise Line, the DCL website is always a great resource.  However, the Marvel Day at Sea page isn't updated with the latest safety protocols and restrictions, so I'll be making my best guess as to whether some of the listed activities will be happening or not.  

Similar to what various Star Wars characters do on a Star Wars Day at Sea, many Marvel characters will be going around the Magic during Marvel Day.  This is one of my favorite parts of Star Wars Day at Sea, because you never know who you'll run in to or how they'll interact with you or others.  Some of these characters will be appearing in special scheduled character greetings, where guests have to book a time to meet the characters.  I'm scheduled to see Iron Man and Black Panther.  Because we're in the age of COVID-19, the characters' interactions will likely have to be distanced from guests.  This might make it a bit harder to take photos with the characters, but they're super heroes, they can figure something out.   

Speaking of characters, it's almost guaranteed that there'll be some Marvel characters in the Oceaneer Club's Marvel Super Hero Academy.  Like Star Wars Day at Sea, you can expect to see special Marvel-themed activities in all of the youth clubs.

Another good time to find Marvel characters is the Marvel Heroes Unite deck show.  I'm guessing this is a lot like Star Wars Day at Sea's Summon the Force deck show.  It'll probably involve a wide range of Marvel heroes and villains in a "grand extravaganza."  The DCL website doesn't say anything about fireworks, but videos like the one below show fireworks during the deck show.
While Marvel Heroes Unite looks really cool, will it even happen?  The DCL website's Know Before You Go page says that deck parties are currently paused due to DCL's health and safety restrictions, and I would classify this show as a deck party.  If it does happen, there may be two different showings, so less people are on deck at a time.  I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

The above video features a special show in the Walt Disney Theatre featuring Doctor Strange.  It looks like an interactive show, and since it's interactive, it won't be exactly the same twice.  Even if you're a Marvel Day at Sea veteran and have seen the show many times, I'm sure you can still enjoy it.  I think this show will still happen, as DCL hasn't stopped Walt Disney Theatre shows.  There may be multiple showtimes to accommodate everyone, since the Walt Disney Theatre currently operates with a limited capacity.

Another interesting character experience is the Star Spangled USO Show.  This is a Captain America show in Fathoms based on the "Star-Spangled Man With a Plan" song from Captain America:  The First Avenger.  It seems like a lot of fun, and if it's happening on my cruise, I'll probably check it out.

Of course, you can't have a Marvel Day at Sea on a Disney cruise without Disney.  In the Mickey & Friends Super Celebration, Mickey Mouse and his friends will be dressed up in Marvel-related costumes.
According to this video, it looks like this event is in the atrium.  It looks like it attracts a lot of guests, something Disney doesn't want to do now because of COVID-19, so this may not be happening.  Maybe instead of all gathering together in the atrium, Mickey and company will be wandering the Magic, like the Marvel characters will be doing.

During Star Wars Day at Sea, Star Wars movies play all day in the Buena Vista Theatre.  This is likely no different on Marvel Day at Sea, as there are even more Marvel movies than Star Wars movies.  I'm really hoping they play the new Spider-Man:  No Way Home, as I haven't seen it yet, but since it's partially owned by Sony, DCL may not be able to play it because of legal reasons.  Anyway, expect to see plenty of Marvel movies showing on Marvel Day at Sea, just maybe not Spider-Man.

In addition to the movies in the Buena Vista Theatre, Marvel TV shows will be playing on Funnel Vision throughout the day.

For more casual Marvel fans, Marvel 101 will be held to give an overview of the Marvel universe.  This sounds very similar to Star Wars 101 from Star Wars Day at Sea.  I didn't really need Star Wars 101, but I'd probably benefit from attending Marvel 101.  Maybe it'll supersize my Marvel knowledge.

While it'll help guests get a fundamental understanding of Marvel, Marvel 101 probably won't be enough for people hoping to win Marvel trivia.  The DCL website even says it's "challenging," so it sounds like they aren't messing around.

If you get tired of watching or learning or answering questions, you can always learn how to draw Marvel characters.  I'm not an artist, so I probably won't be attending this event, but plenty of people will have a lot of fun drawing at it.

All this stuff is great, but what about when you get hungry?  Like Star Wars Day at Sea, there will be themed Marvel menus at the rotational restaurants (however, you'll have to either use the DCL Navigator app or ask for a paper menu).  According to the 2020 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line, the menus show which Marvel character would choose a menu item.  This is not something revolutionary, but it'll make choosing a meal more fun.

Will there be special ship-wide announcements made by Marvel characters?  I didn't find an answer to this.  During Star Wars Day at Sea, imperial officers came on the announcement system and instructed the guests to report all sightings of rebels.  This added a lot to the immersion of the day, and I really hope it's a part of Marvel Day at Sea.

I'm also curious about the Marvel Day at Sea merchandise that will be sold in the shops.  A Marvel Day at Sea shirt would nicely complement my Star Wars Day at Sea shirt.  After this cruise, all I'd need is a 'normal day at sea' shirt.  Disney should start making those!

Marvel Day at Sea seems very similar to Star Wars Day at Sea, but that's not a bad thing!  In fact, it's a super thing, because Star Wars Day at Sea is awesome!  Since I'm not a super huge Marvel fan, I don't think I'll enjoy Marvel Day quite as much as I enjoyed Star Wars Day, but I'm sure it'll still be super fun.  There's a lot of Marvel in a Marvel Day at Sea, and I'm expecting to be surprised with new activities that haven't been done before this year when the day arrives.  As long as my family and I can get on the Magic, I'll have a report of super proportions about the day after the cruise.  Our cruise is getting super close, and I'm super excited!  I should stop before this gets super annoying.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The Most Important Things to Know About DCL's Current Pandemic Changes (as of 1/2/2022)

As you may know, Disney cruises happening now are a lot different from Disney cruises before March 2020.  My family and I are planning on going on the Magic at the end of this month, and I thought it would be helpful to us and others if I summarized the most important changes and restrictions that are in place on the DCL ships.  I won't be going over everything on the DCL Know Before You Go page, just what would be most beneficial for a guest to know.  Let's take a look!

Before Boarding
There's always been a lot to do before you get on a cruise, but now there's even more to do.  Beginning on January 13th, 2022, all guests 5 and older need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  Instead of being vaccinated, guests under 5 years of age need to take a COVID-19 test between 3 days and 24 hours before their cruise.  In addition, guests need to upload their proof of vaccination to DCL's Safe Passage website.  This can be done within 15 days of the cruise's start.

As usual, guests need to complete the online check-in process on the DCL website.

On the day of the cruise, all guests need to complete the health questionnaire (the DCL website says that everyone must do this, regardless of age.  I guess for kids who are too young to read, their parents can help them).  In addition to the normal cruise documents, guests need to bring their proof of vaccination (or test results, for those who are too young for the vaccine) with them.  At the cruise terminal (or in DCL's parking garage in Port Canaveral), all guests will be tested for COVID-19.  If someone tests positive, all members of their travel party will not be able to board the ship.

Inside the terminal, all guests 2 and older are required to wear face coverings.

Basics on the Ship
Currently, the DCL ships are all operating at limited capacity, but this will make it much easier to find a beach chair on Castaway Cay.

Like in the terminal, all guests 2 and older are required to wear face coverings indoors, except when inside their stateroom or "actively eating or drinking."  However, masks are not required outside, which is nice.  The DCL website also says that face coverings are not required at "designated locations," but I'm not sure what this means.  Additionally, face coverings could be required at some ports of call based on their governments' restrictions.  If restrictions change based on a port of call, I'm sure the crew will let the guests know on the ship.

There's a lot more cleaning going on around the ship, so don't be surprised if you see even more cleaning than usual.  Stateroom housekeeping happens twice a day, in the morning and in the early evening.  Housekeepers will not work on rooms when guests are inside.

Also, expect to see many more cleaning and hand sanitizing stations around the ship.

The mandatory emergency drill on embarkation day is still mandatory, but it's quite a bit different.  Instead of everyone gathering at a specific location at a specific time, all guests need to go to their assigned assembly station and use the DCL Navigator app to check in.  The website doesn't say that this must be done at a specific time, just at some point before the ship leaves port (this could be as late as 7 pm because of the stricter cleaning being done).  Along with the modified drill, a safety video will be shown on screens around the ship, stateroom TVs, and on the DCL Navigator app.

As you may have seen, there's now a much greater focus on the DCL Navigator app.  As we've seen, the mandatory drill now uses the app.  There's now a virtual queue to disembark the ship at a port that uses the app.  This queue is only used at the busiest times, so it's not absolutely necessary.  Also, you can now use the app to directly communicate with a cast member from Guest Services, Port Adventures, or the dining team, which is convenient.  While this is convenient, you now need an appointment to meet in person with these cast members, which is not convenient.  At least you can call Guest Services using the stateroom phone.  The DCL Navigator app can now be used to view transactions and purchases as well.  Overall, a lot of what used to be distributed to guests, like menus or Personal Navigators, is now on the app.  These changes will require guests to carry their phones around with them more, and I'm sure some people won't be happy about this.  I'm okay with these changes, as long as the app consistently and reliably works.  I'm hoping that DCL used the pandemic break to upgrade the Wi-Fi capabilities of all of their ships.

Onboard Activities

One of the most popular things to do on the first day of a cruise is to attend the deck party while the ship sails away.  However, because deck parties are so popular, they aren't happening at the moment.  In addition to the sail away party, the pirate night deck party won't be happening.  Instead, it is replaced with two separate, piracy-free fireworks shows.  Guests will be assigned to one fireworks show that they can attend.

The cruise that I'm planning on going on includes a Marvel Day at Sea, which normally includes a deck party.  Maybe if we all wear helmets like Iron Man then the deck party can still happen.  I guess we'll see.

The "it's a small world nursery!" isn't operating at the moment, so it looks like children under age 3 will be spending a lot of time with their families.

The Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are both open, but they're now much more rigid than they were in the past.  To enable their children to enter these clubs, parents will have to book sessions for their children.  These sessions can be booked either before the cruise on the DCL website or the DCL Navigator app.  Each child gets one session per day, and if I was still young enough for the Oceaneer Club or Lab, I wouldn't be happy with this.  The Club and Lab were previously places where the fun was unlimited, but at the moment, there's a limit on the fun.

In the Club and Lab, kids will spend time in groups of 15 with one counselor, which drastically limits the amount of people kids can meet in the youth clubs.

While the Oceaneer Club and Lab are drastically restricted, youth activities at Edge and Vibe are very similar to how they were before the pandemic, though likely with lower capacity and more cleaning procedures.  No reservations are required, thankfully.  Previously, upon entering Edge or Vibe, everyone had to clean their hands using a sanitizing wipe, but now, I wouldn't be surprised if this protocol has been increased.

The sports decks are severely restricted, with no basketball or ping pong.  The website doesn't mention Goofy Golf or foosball, but I'm guessing those won't be available either.  Thanks to the restrictions, the sports decks are essentially now just places to spend time outside.

Scheduled character greetings aren't currently happening, so instead, you'll have to hope you run into your favorite characters to get socially-distanced photos with them.

Fish extenders, the gift holders you sometimes see outside of staterooms, are currently prohibited.

Since I'm the DCLKid, I usually don't focus much on the Fitness Center or Senses (areas normally reserved for adults), but there's some interesting stuff to talk about here.  The minimum age to use the Fitness Center is now 14, and those under 18 will need an adult with them in the Fitness Center.  

As with most other indoor spaces on the ships, face coverings are required in the Fitness Center.

The gym equipment has been spread out to encourage social distancing, and the Fitness Center now has elevated cleaning procedures.

In both Senses and the Fitness Center, guests need to make reservations using the DCL Navigator app for spa/salon treatments or classes.

One of the few situations in which guests do not have to wear face coverings inside the ship is when "actively eating or drinking (while stationary and maintaining an appropriate physical distance)."  Looks like I won't be allowed to get an ice cream cone and eat it while walking back to my stateroom.  Since face coverings aren't required outdoors, you should be able to walk around while eating outside.

In the past, DCL has had some self-service restaurants, like Eye Scream and Cabanas.  However, everything that was previously self-service is now served by crew members.  This is a much more sanitary way of serving food and since the crew is trained, the line at Cabanas may take less time to get through.  In addition to food, drink stations will also be manned by the crew now.  The drink stations will likely take longer than they did in the past, and I'm wondering if a crew member will constantly be by the drink station.  Would someone be standing there until the middle of the night?  Sounds like a pretty boring job.

Down in the main rotational dining restaurants, dinner seating times will be staggered.  This is like what DCL has done in the past, but maybe instead of having one 5:45 seating time, there could also be seating times 5:40 and 5:50 to promote social distancing.

No menus will be distributed to guests at any of the restaurants or bars.  Instead, guests will use the DCL Navigator app to view menus.  I liked how the menus looked, but this isn't a dealbreaker.  Disposable paper menus will be available upon request.  At the rotational restaurants, you'll probably be able to ask your server to bring you a paper menu by default every night.

Castaway Cay
Since most of the Castaway Cay guest experience is outside, the experience on the island isn't that much different from what it was like in early 2020.

Like on the ship, Castaway Cay has elevated cleaning procedures in effect for the trams and rental equipment like bikes.

On Castaway Cay, face coverings are only required on trams (or other island transportation), in merchandise shops, in Cookies and Cookies Too and the dining pavilions (when not actively eating or drinking), in restrooms, and while taking a photo?  This might be an error, but "while stationary and maintaining an appropriate physical distance," face coverings are required.  Well, at least you won't have to smile for the picture.  Other than these, face coverings are not required on the island.

Like on the ship, there is no longer self-service food on Castaway Cay.  Instead, crew members will serve guests food, drinks, and ice cream.

Unlike the Oceaneer Club and Lab, Scuttle's Cove (the Castaway Cay equivalent) does not require reservations.  This may be because the internet connection on Castaway Cay isn't very reliable, unless DCL has upgraded since early 2020.

The Castaway Cay 5K is no longer an official race, but guests can still run it on their own and pick up a medal afterward.

Pelican Plunge is still open, but the line now forms on land in an effort to encourage social distancing.

Other Ports of Call
The safety restrictions at ports of call are all different (the Know Before You Go page has links to various ports of call), but there's one major change.  If you're traveling with an unvaccinated child, you cannot get off the ship with them at a port of call unless you book a DCL Port Adventure.

Debarkation Day
The DCL website doesn't say that Cabanas will be open for breakfast on debarkation day.  The rotational restaurants will be open, with staggered seating times like at dinner.  Additionally, the Cove Café will be open on debarkation day.

Unvaccinated children will need to take a COVID-19 antigen test on the day before the cruise ends.

Guests do not need to use a virtual queue to leave the ship on the last morning of the cruise.

Overall, there are a lot of changes, and Disney cruises now are significantly different from how they were before the pandemic.  Thankfully, I don't think these changes will completely mess up the experience.  As long as nobody in my family tests positive for COVID-19 at the cruise terminal in Miami, I'll be able to provide more detailed information about the restrictions and changes on the ship and on Castaway Cay.