Like much of the rest of our world post COVID, the cruise industry has certainly changed with its return as a popular travel option. What are those changes? What can we expect as we return to cruising? And is it worth it to cruise now? What’s it REALLY like cruising during COVID? Let’s take a look.
The first big change you’ll see cruising during COVID is the pre-arrival requirements. Disney Cruise Line now requires all guests ages 12 and older to be fully vaccinated in order to cruise. Beginning January 13, 2022, all passengers ages 5 and older must be fully vaccinated. Proof of vaccination must be submitted prior to embarkation. Disney Cruise Line is using the Safe Passage website to monitor all necessary vaccination records and COVID testing. All guests under the age of 12 (or under the age of 5 beginning January 13, 2022) will be required to submit a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of embarkation at the guest’s expense.
In addition to the vaccination requirements or pre-arrival PCR test, all passengers (regardless of vaccination status) must have a rapid COVID test at the port upon arrival before allowed to continue with the embarkation process. This test is given right at the port at Disney’s expense. Once the tests for your stateroom come back negative, you are given the green light to enter the terminal to go through security and complete the check in process.
On Board Changes
Cruising during COVID also means that, now, there are some on board changes to expect. Masks are required in all public indoor spaces for all guests ages two and older. Masks are not required in outdoor spaces, including Castaway Cay (except in stores, restrooms, dining or spa locations which are indoors). The Bon Voyage party that many long time Disney cruisers may remember fondly is not currently happening due to social distancing efforts. Instead, during embarkation, Mickey, Minnie and the cruise ship director do a fun (and adorable) welcome show as each wave of guests board. There is even a great photo opportunity with Captain Mickey and Captain Minnie. Those mandatory muster drills look a bit different now too. Guests are given their assembly location and they simply need to locate their spot, snap a picture of it, and upload it to their Navigator App as proof that they’ve completed the drill. Once the ship completes their boarding, detailed instructions are made over the loudspeaker about procedures for evacuation and emergencies. Easy peasy.
One bit of disappointing news for cruising during COVID is that it’s a small world Nursery for kids ages 6 months through 3 years has not yet reopened. However, ALL of the other kids clubs have reopened and are just as hip and happening as before. Preteens at the Edge and teens at Vibe are still able to check themselves in and out of their clubs similarly to how they did pre COVID. The Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are a bit different. Cruising during COVID means that you now must pre register your kids for this youth club and make reservations for the clubs before you sail. Each child is able to pre-book a one and a half hour time slot in advance on embarkation day and then 2 and a half hours per day thereafter. However, once on board, you may book additional time slots through your Navigator app or in person based on availability. For our daughter, we never had an issue getting her into the club when she wanted to go. In the club, activities are still happening such as story time, character visits, crafts and science. The teens also had several scheduled events and activities to participate in and both came away with a new group of friends to text and Snapchat with (is that a thing?) after the cruise.
Activities, Spa, Dining
Cruising during COVID, we actually found that there were more opportunities and activities available than in Walt Disney World. All Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique locations in Disney World remain closed. On board the Disney Dream, however, the salon was open and princesses were lined up to take advantage of their magical transformations by their Fairy Godmothers. Character Meet and Greets have just resumed in Disney World, but on the ship, they were plentiful with dozens of scheduled appearances every day. Characters also appeared in the dining rooms. The princesses worked the room in the Royal Palace, and Mickey and Friends danced around the Enchanted Garden. Spas are running with full services both on board and on Castaway Cay. Fireworks at sea are most certainly taking place, as are the deck parties and Broadway style shows in the Walt Disney Theater. Rotational dining is as good as ever and guests continue to be able to book special meals at the adults-only Palo and Remy. The cruise line continues to offer opportunities for mixology classes and tastings at reduced capacity. Adult areas were open and activities were scheduled nightly such as trivia events and live music. Family events were also on the itinerary such as game show style family trivia and animation classes. Bottom line? There was more than enough happening on board to keep us busy and entertained.
The Navigator App
On that note, it is more important than ever to make sure you’ve downloaded the Navigator app prior to setting sail. This is now where you will see your dining rotation and activities, the daily schedule, show times. You will be able to make appointments or speak virtually to guest services through the app. A new COVID feature now is that you’ll be able to use the app to join the virtual queue to disembark on days at your different ports of call. The process was simple and just there to ensure proper social distancing at the exits on days at port. You’ll be able to view your folio and you will be able to use the app to book times for your child at the youth club. And, of course, you will be able to conveniently use the text feature to communicate with friends and family on board.
The bottom line is that, of course cruising during COVID looks a bit different now. But that doesn’t mean that the magic is somehow diminished or that you aren’t getting your money’s worth. In fact, we found quite the opposite. With reduced capacity on board and unprecedented discounts for sailings through February, now is the best time to take advantage of cruising. We felt safe with the line’s dedication to health and safety protocols and precautions. We were able to relax knowing that this was the cruise line’s top priority. Disney Cruise Line continues to be ranked at the top for family cruising by Travel and Leisure. See what they have to say.
The best thing you can do if you decide to sail now is to be sure you are familiar with the most up-do-date guidelines. Check out Disney Cruise Line’s “Know Before You Go” section of their website. And, of course, another top tip is to be sure to use a travel agent to book your cruise. As things continue to change so often, your agent will be able to tell you the most current guidelines and requirements and will be there for you to navigate all that is new cruising during COVID. Contact our agents and Kingdom and Cruise Travel for more information.