I just returned from a wonderful cruise onboard Disney Dream. This was my first big ship cruise since December 2019! For me that is a really long time between cruises. I was first booked to cruise Disney in August of 2020 but we all know how that went - cancellation after cancellation but I was always hopeful that each time I moved my cruise date would be the last. Finally almost exactly 1 year from the date I was originally booked to cruise, I was able to get onboard the Dream!
Yes it is true that some things have changed due to the pandemic but it was still very magical! So much was still the same so here is a quick recap of things I found the same and some that were not.
Before you go to the ship
Hasn't Changed - Disney wants you to check in online and choose your port arrival time and you do still need to do the health questionnaire. You will get an email and an app notification to do it before arrival.
Has Changed - They are much more strict with the scheduled arrival time. We arrived just 10 minutes before our scheduled time thinking it would take 10 minutes to park and get into the terminal but the scheduled time applies to the parking lot as well. If you arrive early they will direct you over to a waiting parking lot until your time. I am not sure how they are handling if you arrive early in a shuttle but I assume it is similar and we did see a bunch of tents set up in the parking lot so maybe one of those is where guests not arriving in their own car will wait.
Things have changed since my cruise but for my cruise if you were not vaccinated you had to test before the cruise at home and again at the port. Now the Bahamas has ruled starting September 3 every cruise passenger coming to any Bahamas island - which includes the cruise line's private island - must be vaccinated. You will need your proof of vaccine and a mask with you when you head to the port. Masks are currently required anytime you are indoors, except when in your own stateroom.
At the Port and Boarding
Has Changed - You will now check in on the lower level of the terminal. Here you will show all of your documents and get checked in and then are allowed through to the metal detectors and then the escalator upstairs.
Hasn't Changed - There are still designated lines for Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Concierge guests for check in. You will be assigned a boarding group and you cannot board the ship until your group is called. Your group is determined by your pre-scheduled arrival time.
Has Changed - You will not get your room key at check in. Instead your room key will be waiting in a sealed envelope on the wall by your room door. Stateroom hosts seemed to be hanging out in the halls so that they could make sure everyone got to the correct room and got their keys.
Hasn't Changed - Your party will still be announced over the microphone as you enter the atrium and characters and crew are there to greet you.
Has Changed - Only a small group at time is allowed to be in the atrium for the greeting and there are designated spots to stand on to allow for distance.
Hasn't Changed - There is still plenty of food available to you when you board, including Cabanas.
Has Changed - Speaking of food when you board, yes Cabanas is still open but just slightly different in that you will not serve yourself but instead let a crew member know what you would like from their station and they will plate it for you. You also have the option to choose one of the main dining rooms that will be open for lunch as well. I am so used to only the buffet when I got onboard that it was nice to actually be able to go and sit down and be served after going through the whole arrival process.
Hasn't Changed - The Kids Clubs are still open but in a slightly different way.
Has Changed - You do need to make a reservation for the kids club. This can be done in the app once onboard. I was not cruising with any kids but when I looked in the app I was always able to find open slots for the kids club so at least on my cruise there wasn't an issue getting kids in.
Hasn't Changed - The spa is still offering most treatments with the exception of a few. The fitness center is also open with some social distance in place.
Has Changed - If you enjoy the Rainforest room like I do this is a change you might like. You can now have the Rainforest room all to yourself (and anyone in your party up to 10). You can book a 1 hour and 45 minutes time slot to enjoy all the relaxation with no strangers! I don't know about you but to me this was the most perfect thing ever and I couldn't wait to book my spot so I headed right to the spa as soon as we got onboard. I was able to grab a nice afternoon slot on our sea day and I can't think of a more perfect way to spoil myself after the stressful last 18 months!
Hasn't Changed - Disney still puts on the most amazing Broadway style shows at sea! They also play all the new and old Disney movies in their wonderful movie theater at sea and funnel vision on the pool deck.
Has Changed - Social distance is being applied in the theaters so the available seats are much fewer. You will also be directed to your seat by a crew member in order to make sure the distance is kept. Your entire party does need to arrive together to be seated. Since less people can enjoy the shows at one time Disney is repeating just 2 different shows throughout the cruise to allow enough times for everyone to be able to get in to see them.
Hasn't Changed - All pools, splash areas, and Aquaduck are open.
Has Changed - Social distance rules are in place for the pools and splash areas. That means there might be times when the pool or splash area are too full and you have to wait until someone leaves. We never saw any lines during our cruise but we were told if there is a line they will limit the time guests can swim or splash.
Hasn't Changed - There are still lots of characters making appearances throughout the ship and on Castaway Cay.
Has Changed - You cannot get autographs or get too close for photos. I found the distance selfies to be pretty fun but I can understand that kids might want to hug their favorite character.
Hasn't Changed - Disney still does fireworks at sea.
Has Changed - In order to keep crowds smaller they are doing fireworks on 2 nights. You will get a notification in the app on your night for viewing and your dining staff should also let you know. My guess is the nights were split by dining times so all guests in the Main dining got a notification for fireworks the first night they did them and those of us in second dining got it the next night.
Hasn't Changed - Disney still offers plenty of adult only entertainment too. Drink classes, Happy Hour, Trivia, and music are all offered still in the bars and lounges.
Hasn't Changed - Disney still does the rotational dining so you will move between the 3 main dining rooms during your cruise and your servers will go with you.
Has Changed - You will now only be seated with your travel party so no meeting new strangers at meals.
They are trying to not hand out menus so you can check the menus on the app or scan the QR code on the table to see the menu. If you are having issues like I did a few times with he QR codes they will bring you a paper menu that you can keep since they cannot give it to someone else.
Hasn't Changed - there is still daily housekeeping twice a day and yes there are still towel animals too!
Has Changed - All staterooms undergo deep cleaning after each cruise and you will see the magnet on your room door that shows the commitment to cleanliness so you know it is ready for you. Many of the touch items have been removed so don't worry when you don't see throw pillows or room service menus in your room.
Hasn't Changed - Disney still has the most amazing crew members that are so very happy to have guests back onboard!
Has Changed - If you need to speak with a Crew Member in Guest Services, Port Adventures, or Dining you will need to use the app to either chat on there or make an appointment if it is something that can not be done over chat. You can also take advantage of the onboard booking offer right in the app!
Has Changed - When getting off the ship in a port of call such as Castaway Cay you will need to use the app to get in a virtual queue to get off the ship. This is to keep guests from crowding on the gangway. You do not need to get in a queue to return to the ship though.
Hasn't Changed - For me it seemed like nothing has really changed with this process. You do still have to get up early, grab breakfast, and get off the ship. You can still leave your bags out in the hall the night before to have them transported to the terminal but Disney was recommending guests carry off their own bags since they won't be sanitized going off like they were coming on. On these short cruises, at least for me, it is easy to pack just a carry on size bag so I always have preferred to just carry off myself.
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