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.

1 comment:

  1. Perfect, get as many pictures as you can so the less fortunate people like me can see what a Disney Cruise is like!