When I board a cruise ship the first place I like to head is the Spa. Well sometimes I grab lunch first but I always get to the spa early on embarkation day. This is the time when you can tour the spa and check out everything they have to offer. Sometimes they even have a spa raffle you can enter when you do the tour. The thing I want to see most in the spa is the Thermal Suite! If you haven't been to this amazing area on a ship before you are missing out.
Almost all cruise ship spas will have some type of thermal suite. They might call it something else, such as Disney calls theirs the Rainforest Room or Princess calls it the Enclave. Whatever they call it, the thermal suite is an area of the spa where guests can relax and do a little self care on their own. In the past few months I have been lucky enough to sail on a few different ships and try out each of their thermal suites.
What will you find in a Thermal Suite?
First off I will say they are co-ed so you will find everyone wearing bathing suits.
While it varies from ship to ship most thermal suites will usually have at least a steam room, sauna, and aromatherapy showers. Many now have a salt room too.
Some offer hot tubs and/or cool tubs (yep cool water actually feels nice after the steam room or sauna). If you are lucky they will have a thalassotherapy pool - these are a bit different than a hot tub as they are larger, use saltwater, the jets are stronger, and they usually have a full body size reclining seat in the water. I really enjoyed the one in The Enclave on Princess Sky. Disney Dream and Fantasy have 2 hot tubs on an open air deck portion of the Rainforest room which I also really enjoy.
Some of the more unique things I have found in thermal suites are the mud room on Virgin and the snow room on MSC and NCL. I can't say that I am normally a fan of mud or snow but it was fun to try them out in the spa. I also really liked the crystal room on Celebrity Apex.
After you've experienced some of the features you will want to just relax and enjoy the zen feeling so most will have some type of heated lounger that you can just melt into. These are usually my favorite. I say usually because I was not a fan of the heated seating in Virgin's spa. Some ships place their thermal suite in really nice locations like Celebrity Apex which was at the very front of an upper deck so your view from the heated loungers was amazing, especially around sunset! The thermal suite on Apex also had nice big window views from the sauna and hanging chairs so there are lots of places to relax and enjoy the view. Not all thermal suites will be in a location with a view which isn't bad either. I kind of liked the darker quiet feeling of the Enclave on Sky Princess which is in interior area of a lower deck.
How do you access the Thermal Suite?
Some spas will give you time in the Thermal Suite before or after a booked treatment.
If you are not planning to book any spa treatments you can usually book a day pass or length of cruise pass to visit the thermal suite whenever you want.
Some ships even offer a special stateroom category you book that includes access to the thermal suite during your cruise. Be sure to check pricing since sometimes those spa staterooms are a great deal if you are planning to spend time in the thermal suite anyway.
Viking Ocean Cruises even goes a step further and includes thermal suite access to everyone.
During covid rules you had to make an appointment for your thermal suite visit so they could control the number of guests in there at a given time. Disney went as far to make it a private appointment which I really loved even if I didn't love the price tag for that hour and 45 minutes. Now covid rules are easing so most spas are running pretty close to normal again.
Going to the thermal suite can also come with a bonus. You will be able to use the changing room area before and after so you will get a robe and can store anything you don't want to bring into the thermal suite. That area usually also has showers you can use which tend to have some upgraded bath products and lotions.
Another bonus - no kids allowed in the spa!
If you are like me and love to find nice quiet spots to relax when you cruise I highly recommend checking out the Thermal Suite in the ship's spa.
Compared to the other major cruise lines Disney's fleet is considered small with just 4 ships. I personally think Disney was pretty smart with the way they built their fleet. They started out with 2 ships back in the late 90s and waited to see how that went before building more. The next 2 ships came a little more than 10 years later. Now here were about another 10 years after those 2 ships and Disney will be adding a couple more starting with the Wish in 2022.
The First 2 Ships
Disney's first ship was the Disney Magic which set sail on her Maiden voyage on July 30, 1998. Having just been onboard the Magic this month I can say for sure she doesn't look her age at all! Disney does an impeccable job of keeping their ships fresh and new looking all the time. Honestly at times I didn't remember which ship I was on since they all look just as new. The Disney Wonder followed the next year with her Maiden voyage on August 15, 1999. The Disney Magic and wonder were almost identical when they debuted. Both have 875 staterooms and 11 decks and are 984 feet long (that is longer than Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom!). Both ships were built at Fincantieri Shipyard in Italy (Palo was inspired by the Italian roots of the ships). Over the years they have each gotten some modifications that make them a little more unique. For example the Disney Wonder started doing Alaska so in one of her refurbishments Disney added some more indoor viewing areas.
Did you know that Disney had to get special permission from the Coast Guard to have the yellow lifeboats? Before Disney all lifeboats were bright orange and Disney really wanted to keep the Mickey color scheme so they had to prove to the Coast Guard that yellow was just as easy to spot as orange.
Did you know that Disney was also the first to offer a rotational dining system where guests moved between 3 different themed dining rooms during their cruise and their dining team moved with them too? This meant guests kept the same servers but got to experience a different dining room.
Did you know Disney was the first cruise line to be able to dock their ships right at their private island? All of the other cruise lines were using tenders to get into their private islands and some still do.
Did you know that Disney was the first cruise line to offer a split bathroom in most staterooms? Having a separate room for the toilet and shower is really convenient for families..
2 More Ships
The Disney Dream set sail on her Maiden voyage January 26, 2011. The Disney Fantasy followed the next year with her Maiden voyage on March 31, 2012. Just like the Magic and Wonder the Fantasy and Dream were built as sister ships almost identical to each other. They both have 1,250 staterooms over 14 decks and are 1,115 feet long. These ships were built at Meyer Werft in Germany. Dream and Fantasy debuted the first water coaster at sea.
Even though the Magic and Wonder were over 10 years old when the new ships came out all 4 ships still looked very similar. Disney kept the same look for all 4 ships and even though they are bigger, not a whole lot else inside was different from the classic ships. You still get 3 main dining rooms which guests rotate through but since Dream and Fantasy are bigger and hold more guests you will notice that the dining rooms also are much bigger. All 4 ships have the Cabanas buffet which is always in after of the upper deck. Dream and Fantasy also added another adult only dining option with the addition of Remy. along with Palo.
If you are a spa person you will have noticed that Disney greatly improved the spa on the new ships. They realized on the classic ships that putting the spa under the basketball court not a good idea. One of my favorite places on any ship is the Rainforest Room and Disney did so much better with that space on the new ships. I love that the Rainforest room has 2 hot tubs on an open air verandah included. I am very excited to see what Disney does with the spa on Wish!
Did you know that the Magic and Dream are both done in art deco style inside and the Wonder and Fantasy are done in art nouveau style? That is one subtle way Disney connected the Classic ships with the New ships.
Did you know that all 4 ships each have a different character statue in their atrium? The Magic has Mickey, Wonder has Ariel, Donald is decked out in his Admiral attire on the Dream, and Minnie is dressed in her vintage best along with her luggage on the Fantasy. The Wish will have Cinderella waiting to greet guests in the atrium.
Disney you know all 4 ships have different characters that look like that are busy painting the ship's name on the very aft of the ship? Magic has Goofy, Wonder had Donald and his nephews, Dream has Fantasia Mickey with the brooms doing the work, and Fantasy has Dumbo. Wish will have Rapunzel using her hair to keep here hanging on the back of the ship.
While I love all 4 ships I am partial to the Classic ships mostly because I like smaller ships but also because the Wonder was the first Disney Cruise I took and was also what inspired me to become a travel agent 20 years ago!
Which is your favorite ship?
I was in need of a little Holiday spirit after finding out my Christmas Market cruise was canceled last minute so a Disney cruise seemed like the next best thing. Since I had already been on the Dream and Fantasy this year I loved the idea of getting onboard the Magic. It had been so long since I sailed on the Magic so I was so excited to get to see her again! The Magic is currently sailing out of Miami - which for me is about the same amount of driving as Port Canaveral so that didn't play a part in deciding. However I always forget how much I hate driving around Miami.
Port of Miami
There are other drawbacks to cruising on Disney out of Miami. Since Disney doesn't have their own terminal in Miami that means you are using a shared one (I am so happy Disney announced plans for their own terminal in Fort Lauderdale). I wondered how the pre cruise testing would be different. In Port Canaveral as I reported we were able to do the test in our car after entering the garage and then just hang out until the test results came back. In Miami the first issue came when finding out the parking garage closest to the ship was closed so we had to go park in one that was at least a mile away. Disney of course had shuttle buses ready to take us back to the terminal.
Having already experienced check in at Port Canaveral I knew that you should only arrive at the time you were given for your port arrival - however in Miami no one even asked or checked our reserved arrival time so it seemed we really could have arrived anytime. In Miami you will go into the terminal building through security and then you arrive at the testing location. After your test you will head upstairs to wait on your test results. This is the area with all the chairs where you would normally wait for your boarding time. Disney has a few large screens set up and they were posting the reservation numbers that were clear to check in as the test results came in. This was helpful since wi-fi in the terminal didn't seem to be working and even my cell service was very spotty. TIP - always print out any important papers since you just never know if your phone will work. After you get the good to go test result you can head into the next room where you will get to check in for the cruise. I was disappointed that they did not have a separate line for the different Castaway levels but it wasn't very crowded so the line wasn't too bad. We got checked in and like the Dream and Fantasy we were told our room keys would be waiting on the door when we get to our room.
Onboard the Magic
We were welcomed onboard in usual Disney fashion except this time the atrium was also decked out in holiday decorations too since this was a MerryTime Cruise. It was just the holiday pick me up I needed with the large tree and gingerbread house greeting us in the atrium! Rooms were not ready yet even though it was after 2 pm. We were told we need to wait until 3 so we figured we would go grab a bite to eat in Cabanas. On our way up the crew was really encouraging everyone to do the safety drill check in so we figured might as well knock that out of the way now. Just like the other ships you use the app and find your meeting location and take a photo. We were done with that quickly and back on our way to food. We hung out in Cabanas until our room was ready so that we could drop off our carry on bags before exploring more.
Dining and Shows
When checking out our schedule on the app I saw that on this 5 night cruise we would be in Lumiere's the first 2 nights and then Animators the next 2 nights with just the last night in Rapunzel's. I had not been onboard Magic since Parrot Cay was changed over to Rapunzel's so I was a little bummed to only get 1 night in there. I was happy that I hadn't booked Palo for that night at least. I got lucky and had picked Palo night for the same night as Pirate night and was so glad since that is my least favorite night in any dining room. Sorry pirates but I am over you.
Lumiere's and Animators are very similar to their counterparts on the Dream and Fantasy. I was so happy that my husband got to experience the drawing part of Animator's this time since I had really hoped we would do it on Fantasy and they didn't. Rapunzel's was a new experience for me and I have to say right away walking in I just loved the whole design of the restaurant. It has very cozy feeling and I love the purple and the lanterns! This is a dinner and a show type dining room and the storyline is that it is Rapunzel's birthday so you have appearances by her and Flynn of course along with a couple of the Snuggly Duck regulars. It was fun but make sure you stay until the end so you don't miss the lanterns.
For the shows on this 5 night cruise Disney was offering 2 main shows that would each be performed 2 nights in a row. So the first 2 nights there was Tangled and then the 3rd night they showed a movie in the theater and the last 2 nights were Enchanted Dreams. I was excited to get to see Tangled the Musical for the first time! I have seen Dreams before but it has changed a bit since last time I saw it. I found myself trying to remember which song was taken out to make room for Frozen. I also noticed that Annemarie got new PJ's since last time I saw it. Even though Disney was doing them each 2 nights to make sure there was enough room for everyone to get to see them and be socially distanced there seemed to be a lot of people saying that they went both nights and saw each show twice. Our sailing wasn't very full which I was very happy about. It also appeared that there weren't many families with kids over age 12 and I am not sure if that was due to the vaccine requirement or just that school was still in and it isn't as easy to take the older kids out.
Since this cruise was in December it was a Merrytime themed cruise - which was one of the main reasons for picking it since I had just lost my holiday travel plans. Besides all of the beautiful decorations around the ship and also on Castaway, there were holiday activities offered each day. Storytime with Mrs Claus was very popular and there were also holiday crafts you could make. Santa was in the atrium posing and waving in front of the tree - you did have to take a distanced selfie or photo but that was OK with me. While we did see a good amount of characters at different times during the cruise but I was disappointed to never see them dressed in any holiday outfits. Maybe we just missed those times but on our Halloween cruise we were always seeing the characters in costumes. Character meets are still kept distanced and on the schedule they are listed as character appear and wave events. The ship photographers have come up with a way to add some characters to your photos too. I was happy to try it out and let the photographer direct me on what to do. He had me pose in funny ways like dancing and when I saw the photo Daisy had joined me dancing. There were others too and you might feel silly doing the poses but the photos are cute.
Stops - Cozumel and Castaway
Our cruise stopped in Cozumel and Castaway Cay. For me I have been to Cozumel many times and this cruise was about enjoying the ship so we opted to stay onboard instead of getting off in Cozumel. Many people did opt to get off and at the time of our cruise if you were vaccinated you could go off on your own but if you were not you did need to be on a Disney excursion. That did mean that any families with little kids would have to be on a ship excursion to get off. It might sound funny but I was very happy to see 3 other ships in port with us that day! Of course during normal times there probably would have been double that in Cozumel.
Our cruise ended up with an extra visit to Miami as the night before our Castaway day the captain came on to tell us that unfortunately a guest needed to be medically evacuated so we had to head into Miami to do that. He assured us we would still be getting to Castaway the next morning but maybe just a little later. I liked the idea of watching us pull into Miami since I am always asleep when the ships return to port at the end of the cruise. I enjoyed watching the city get closer from our balcony. It was also a bonus to have cell service again for about an hour.
Castaway is always my favorite stop and this visit we were greeted by a rainbow over the island as we pulled in! Of course a rainbow meant there was also rain close but we lucked out and besides being a bit windy the sun came out and it was a wonderful day! We headed right to the adult beach to grab a spot and enjoy the day. The water was so shallow that we could walk in only about knee deep water all the way out to the buoy that marks the furthest out guests can go. It was fun walking all the way out there and we even found one of the famous Castaway starfish. I have seen one every time we have been there and if I hadn't seen someone pick one up last time I would maybe think they were not real. The lunch at the adult beach always offers some better options than the family buffet but I do wish they would find a better way to do it. As of now you have to go all the way through the line to find out what the main course options are and then it can get kind of confusing and crowded in there. This time around they were grilling rib-eye steaks to order so that meant a long line of people waiting on their steaks. I feel like if they just posted the main menu outside so you could see it before walking in that would really help a lot. Then you could put your entrée order in and then make your way through the line so that it might be ready once you get down there. I like the way Blaze pizza does the ordering process in Disney Springs so I think the adult buffet on Castaway could work well like that.
It was a great cruise and I really enjoyed being back on a classic ship again! I love the smaller ships and have always felt the Magic and Wonder were designed very well. Next blog I am writing will be a comparison of the Classic and New Disney ships so I will talk more about that then.
It was great to get to soak up some holiday excitement while cruising! If you would like to add a little holiday magic to your next cruise you might want to think about going in November or December.
I have recently sailed on Disney Cruise Line and Virgin Voyages and both offer an amazing spa. Disney has the Rainforest room and Virgin has Redemption Spa's Thermal Suite. They are very different and are also dealing with covid differently. Here is my experience with each -
Disney Dream's Rainforest Room. On the Dream the Spa area and fitness are all together on Deck 11 all the way in the front of the ship. This is also where most of the adult only stuff is located so it is a nice quiet area. There are 2 hot tubs, 4 different types of showers, along with a steam room, sauna, and heated lounges. Disney has decided to change the rules for the Rainforest Room due to covid so that only one party is allowed at a time. You reserve a time slot for a flat fee of $175 and you and up to 10 people in your party are able to have the Rainforest room all to yourself! Yes it is a little pricey but after the year and half I had I knew it would be worth every penny for me! I couldn't wait to book my slot as I always enjoy a visit to the Rainforest Room and thought alone would be even better! I understand that eventually they will go back to normal operations but I would love it if maybe Disney would still offer a few times each day where guests could book a private experience.
The Rainforest Room includes a semi-enclosed outdoor section with the 2 hot tubs. Inside it has heated loungers, a steam room, sauna, and aromatherapy showers. The heated loungers are my favorite place to read a little and nap a lot I also really love that outdoor area with the hot tubs as there is just something relaxing about having a sea breeze and hearing the ocean. The showers and steam room and saunas are also nice. You do have the option to purchase some scrubs to use in the showers but I opted out of that for this time. The area is a bit small and used to get kind of crowded before covid so I do wish it was bigger. Either way it is a nice little sanctuary to just unwind and de-stress even if only for an hour and 45 minutes.
Virgin Voyages Redemption Spa Virgin's spa is down on deck 5 mid ship. The thermal suite is pretty big and offers a mudroom, salt room, sauna, steam room, along with hot and cold plunge pools There are also some heated marble hamman benches. It is $70 for a day. As with all things Virgin the covid policies seemed to be much more relaxed than Disney. While they are not doing private time bookings they did say they are limiting the number of guests due to covid. The funny thing is when you book your day you don't have to pick a time in advance and so I am not sure if they are just limiting the number of guests per day or if you book the day and arrive when too many people are already in there they would tell you to come back.
When I went there were a few people but there was plenty of space to spread out and usually have one of the rooms to yourself. When I checked in at the desk I was told hold on let me get your mud. I wasn't really sure what to expect since I hadn't tried a mudroom before so when she handed me this shot glass size cup of mud I had to laugh. I am not sure what I was picturing but this wasn't it.
I figured since I had my mud might as well go for the mudroom first. The little sign by the door said go in let your skin warm and then apply mud and relax and let it soak in and then wash off. Sounded easy enough. It was a little strange at first but I just thought of the mud like any other scrub I might use on my skin. It actually felt pretty good until it was time to rinse off and the water was a bit chilly. I figured ok now I will go warm up in the other rooms. I tired out all of the rooms along with the pools. I skipped the 2 coldest ones which looked like hot tubs but I knew from watching others get in that they were pretty cold. I was disappointed that the one that was most like a pool didn't have any jets and the water was a bit too cool for me. I was also disappointed by the heated benches as they were very uncomfortable. I tried a few different spots and as much as I love the warmth they just do not seem to be designed for relaxing. Another thing I would recommend do not pick a port day to visit. Being down on Deck 5 meant you were close to ground level and we were parked right next to another ship so the view wasn't that good and it was a bit noisy. Even though I could go as much as I wanted to during that day I didn't end up going back after my first visit.
I enjoyed my visit to both of these spas and highly recommend you check on out on your next cruise!
I didn't mention this but in case you haven't been to one of these things before they are co-ed and you do wear your bathing suit. You will also be provided with a robe and plenty of towels.
I know you might think I am crazy to say that an adult only cruise line and the most family friendly cruise line would have anything in common but they do. Here are 5 things I have found already -
#1 Both Disney and Virgin were already big in the Entertainment and Travel industries before going into the Cruise business and they both changed the way people thought about cruising.
#2 Both cruise lines really switched up the way dining is done onboard a cruise. Disney introduced their rotational dining where you get to enjoy the 3 main restaurants and your serving team goes with you to each one. Virgin has done away with main dining rooms and also a buffet (which technically was perfect timing since we have probably seen the end of the buffet as we knew it anyway). Instead Virgin offers over 20 different places you can eat onboard and it will not cost you anything extra.
#3 Both cruise lines brought their entertainment knowledge to their cruise ships. Disney was the first to really bring theatrical shows onboard and Virgin is also doing entertainment with their own Virgin twist. The show I got to see while onboard for the day was nothing like what I had seen on a cruise before and I cannot wait to see what else they are doing.
#4 Both cruise lines include basic beverages like soft drinks in your cruise fare. I know it might sound like a small thing but most cruise lines will charge you extra for a soda. Virgin is also including Wi-Fi and Gratuities in their cruise fare. It would be nice if Disney did the same, especially the wi-fi since that would mean crew could use it too. I found out by talking to a lot of crew lately that it really is the most important thing to be able to talk to family at home.
#5 Both cruise lines had the same President when they started. Tom McAlpin did so many things to make Disney Cruise Line what it is today and now he is doing the same for Virgin. PS - That is Tom in the photo with me above.
Maybe I will find even more similarities while I am cruising - stay tuned for a full report when I get back in a few days!
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.
As I was packing for my cruise there were a couple new things I had to add to my packing list such as masks and proof of vaccine (or test results). Hopefully these new items are only temporarily on my packing list but did you know there is a long list of items you cannot pack for a Disney Cruise?
It has been awhile since we all cruised and you might have forgotten some of the things you cannot bring onboard or these might be things you never even knew you couldn't bring. I will admit there are a few things I didn't know about either. These are Disney Cruise Line's rules so this could vary on other cruise lines.
Surprising Prohibited Items
I knew that things like firearms, explosives, or any weapons (with the exception of Disney brand toys like Light sabers or Thor's hammer or plastic pirate swords) were not allowed. Also things like illegal drugs, candles, and pets just seem like common sense things that you know you cannot bring onboard. However there were a lot of things on the prohibited list that surprised me.
You CANNOT bring on:
- Flotation items such as: Inflatable Pool Floats, Pool Noodles, Surfboards, or Boogie boards
- Inflatable Mattress
- Musical Instruments
- Streaming Devices (such as Roku or Amazon Fire Stick)
- Sporting equipment is not allowed with the exception for golf clubs and some sports balls but they must be stored in your room and only used off the ship.
- Over the Door Hanging Organizers (apparently Disney can fine you $100 if you have one since they damage the door.) I have never used one myself but I know that tends to be one of the tips people say helps them stay organized in the small space of the room.
I knew most cruise line's do not allow you to bring extension cords/power strips or an iron, but there is a long list of other electrical appliances that I wouldn't have even thought people would want to bring onboard like -
You CANNOT bring on:
- Coffee Makers
- Electric Blankets
- Hot Plates
- Rice Cookers.
I cannot think why anyone would bring these things but if Disney had to list them I assume that means someone at sometime tried bringing it on.
You CAN bring on -
Other electrical appliances such as - curling irons, flat irons, blow dryers, shavers. Things like baby monitors, humidifiers, portable fans, and white noise/sleep machines will be inspected and if approved will be returned to your room.
Food and Beverage
You may or may not know that you are actually allowed to bring on an adult beverage when you first board the ship as long as you are 21 or older and you carry it on. The rule for Disney Cruise is a maximum of 2 bottles of wine or champagne, or 6 beers no larger than 12 oz. If you wish to drink the wine or champagne in the dining room you will be charged a $25 corking fee. You also cannot consume any of these beverages you brought onboard in any public areas.
You CANNOT bring onboard any
- Liquors or Spirits. Any of those bottles you might purchase while in ports of call or in the ship's store will be stored until the end of the cruise.
- Homemade or precooked foods, open container foods.
- Large coolers - Only coolers no larger than 12" x 12" x 12" area allowed to be brought onboard and they must be carried on and only for use to store medications, baby food or other dietary restrictions.
You CAN bring on non-perishable snacks in sealed packaging (just remember once you open it you need to finish it or throw it away before the end of the cruise as you cannot take opened food packages through customs.)
It can be fun to decorate your stateroom door and I usually suggest it to also help you find your room in a long hallway of doors. There are some rules though.
You CANNOT use -
- Over the door hangers
- Any Adhesive device (like command strips)
- Guests may not hang, attach or otherwise display any flag, banner or sign from any part of the ship, including stateroom verandahs.
- Seasonal and/or celebratory light bulb strings or other hanging items are not permitted.
You CAN only use magnets to attach things to your doors.
Some guests also like to hang little gift holders over the metal ornament on the wall next to your stateroom door (called fish extenders as the metal decoration is usually a fish). They plan ahead with other guests to leave little items in the pockets during the cruise. As of right now Disney is not allowing these due to covid rules.
Who Would Bring These Things
Here are a few other things I never even really thought about but I guess people have brought them so they end up on the prohibited list -
You CANNOT bring -
- Ham Radios
- Metal Detectors (that is actually on the list twice)
- Pool Cues
- Ski Poles
- Power Tools
- Hookah Pipes.
- Remote controlled recreation devices - that includes drones
You can always check out - https://disneycruise.disney.go.com/faq/prohibited-items/list/ for the complete list. If cruising on another cruise line you can usually find the list of prohibited things under the FAQ section.
Over the years I have been on many cruises varying in lengths of 2 - 30 nights. Each cruise is unique even when you are going to the same ports. I was just on a 4 night Royal Caribbean cruise and it inspired me to write this blog about the good, bad, and, ugly of a short cruise. These might not hold true for every short cruise but I think it is good to be prepared.
- If you cannot take a lot of time off of work or school a short cruise can be a great way to just get away for a few days.
- Since they are shorter they do tend to have a smaller price tag than a longer cruise.
- If you have never cruised before and are a bit worried about how you might feel on a cruise a short cruise can be a good way to test the waters so to speak.
- Some cruise line rewards programs count the number of cruises you do not the number of days so for those a couple short cruises could bump you up a level to get better perks on your next cruise.
- You won't have a lot of time to visit many ports so you could possibly have just 1 stop on a short cruise.
- You also won't have much time on the ship either so by the time you finally figure out where everything is it will be time to get off.
- You may not get to really relax as much on a short cruise.
- Shorter cruises just cannot offer the same experience as a longer cruise. If you are taking a short cruise for your first cruise you may decide cruising isn't for you but a longer cruise can be very different.
- Cruise lines know with the short cruises the ship will get a lot more wear and tear so they tend to use the older ships. If you have seen the ads for the fancy new ships with all the crazy extras don't expect to find that on your short cruise.
- Since they are older ships the decor may seem very outdated and just plain ugly.
- Many times on short cruises you get a bit more of a rowdy crowd looking to blow off steam and party hardy in a short time so it could get ugly.
Disney Cruise Line is one of the exceptions to the rule as they started using a brand new ship for 3 and 4 night cruises from the beginning. Disney Cruise Line is also the only premium cruise line to offer short cruises year round.
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