In the beginning of this pandemic cruising got a bad rap and then sort of became the scapegoat. Airlines and hotels had no problems getting back to business but yet cruise lines had to wait and wait and then had to jump through crazy hoops to get approved to restart. Personally I have always felt that cruise ships were 100 times cleaner and safer than airplanes or hotels and now I feel even more so.
I have been on 3 cruises since June and I felt safer than ever onboard each time. Heck I felt so safe in August that I turned around and booked another cruise for just 3 weeks later! In my opinion cruise ships have always been cleaner and better maintained than most airplanes or hotels. Let's not even talk about buses or trains that people use to get from one place to another!
I am not sure why it was made to hard for cruise ships to get back to business but now that they are let's talk about how much more they are doing to keep guests safe than any other vacation option. You might even decide a cruise ship is even safer than going out to your local restaurant!
#1 First off every crew member has to go through a quarantine and be vaccinated. They will also be tested regularly. You cannot say you know the same for every airline or hotel employee you might come into contact with that is for sure!
#2 As of right now all adults and kids 12 and older are required to be vaccinated get onboard just about every cruise. Ok so this is in part due to the Bahamas making it a requirement that every person 12 and old has to be vaccinated in order to visit any Bahamian island (even the private ones that no one lines on). I will say I find this very unfair that the Bahamas can require just cruise visitors be vaccinated when they will allow anyone vaccinated or not to fly into the Bahamas. Since the majority of major cruise lines are registered in the Bahamas and therefor required to make a Bahamian stop it seems very suspect that the Bahamas is also the only island making this vaccine rule for cruise visitors. Anyway that is rant for another time.
#3 Every single guest must be tested before boarding the ship. I applaud the cruise lines that are providing the testing at the port free of charge to those that are vaccinated (Disney and Virgin shout out to you both!).
#4 Cruise Line have been required to make a lot of changes onboard. Mostly to allow for social distance. This means lower capacity onboard and the removal of some tables and chairs to make space between. The cruise lines have also made great use of technology to make things as touchless as possible. Masks are also being required in any indoor areas and I know at least where I live no one is requiring masks inside so that already makes a cruise ship safer than my local store.
I know that I am not the only one that feels cruise ships are the safer since I saw The Points Guy wrote something similar recently.
So are you ready to say Bon Voyage to stress and get away on cruise now?
I am back from my 2nd Disney Cruise in less than a month! This time I sailed onboard the Fantasy and it was Fantastic! There have been a few changes to cruising since I went in August though.
The biggest change was the Bahamas announcing that all guests age 12 and older must be vaccinated to sail to any Bahamian port, even the cruise line private islands. This went into effect on September 3 but was only announced 8/20. I am sure this changed things for a lot of families especially since the Bahamas didn't allow enough time to get everyone vaccinated if they were already booked on a cruise.
Next up the CDC updated their requirements for cruising starting September 13.
This did mean that we had to take a test when arriving at the port when we didn't last time. The process was pretty simple though. We drove our own car over to the port so we entered the parking garage like before but this time we were directed to a parking space where someone gave us the test kits and explained how to do them. They were an easy test and you do not have to go as far up your nose as the other test. You put the swab in the vial and hand back the sealed baggie and then are directed to go park in the garage and hang out until your results come back which should be within 45 minutes. We parked went to the bathroom and then found a cooler spot to hang out in the parking garage while we waited. I can understand why Disney hasn't set up a seating area in the garage but having somewhere other than your car would have been nice. We got the message on our phone that we were clear to board so we headed over to the terminal to check in. This process was the same as before however what we hadn't factored in was that it would take pretty much an extra hour from our scheduled port arrival time to when we were actual able to get on the ship. By the time we did we were very hungry so next time we will plan our time better. Please note that while Disney is providing this test at the port not all cruise lines are offering that so if you are sailing with another line be sure to check if you will need to acquire your own test before boarding.
Besides these big changes we did see a few smaller ones. There was only one night for fireworks this time. We were up on the top deck for the fireworks and there seemed to be plenty of space for anyone wanting to watch up there so I am guessing that is why they went back to just 1 night.
Even though all adults had to be vaccinated the mask rule seemed to be more enforced than before. While on Castaway you are pretty much always outdoors except for the bathrooms and when getting lunch. Even though the food area is an open air area they were really strict about having your mask on and even had a box of disposable one handy as you entered for anyone that might not have brought a mask to lunch. We ate at the adult only lunch location so it really surprised me that they were so strict about it. I was glad to see hand wipes come back to all dining entrances instead of having to always use the sanitizer stations that squirt way too much for me.
This cruise was a Halloween on the High Seas so it was nice to see how Disney was handling that with new protocols. I had been on a Halloween sailing a few years ago and I honestly didn't notice that much of a change this time so the new policies did not take away from any of the festivities.
Even with the new rules in place I had an amazing time and would go back and do it all again without thinking twice!
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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