Erin Norton, a travel agent with Simply Perfect Vacations, was one of the cruisers aboard the Disney Dream's Return to the Sea sailing on August 9th. The Disney Dream is now cruising to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral, Florida for three- and four-night cruises that visit Disney Cruise Line’s private island, Castaway Cay. Erin’s cruise was a 4-night cruise with two stops at Castaway Cay that Erin booked as a last minute getaway for herself and her mom, whom traveled with her. Now that the cruise has returned, we talked with Erin to see how this cruise went!
How was the embarkation process compared to cruises prior to COVID-19? Similar/ different compared to previous cruises?
Disney Cruise Line is now very strict with their port arrival times - which we had to select during the online check-in process. You can’t arrive early, they will make you wait until your port arrival time to being the check-in process. There are several check points once you arrive at the port. In the parking garage at Port Canaveral, there are at least 4 people that guide you through the new check-in process. There’s a check to ensure you have all your appropriate documents while you’re still in your vehicle. I had to show our reservation QR code - that I received after completing the online check-in process online - many times. My tip for future cruisers is to save the code on your phone! I saved mine on my phone and that was acceptable, I never had to show the printed out documents but would suggest keeping those for a backup.
Once in the cruise terminal, you go through security check and you show your passport as usual. The only part that has changed there is since you’ve already uploaded a picture during the online check-in, you no longer take one at the check-in desk. You go through metal detectors and can not bring any open food or water with you past that point. We didn’t have to wait in the terminal at all before getting on the ship.
Let's talk about the Safe Passage site. What is it and how easy was it to use?
The Safe Passage site is where you upload your pre-trip negative COVID-19 tests and/or proof of vaccination - which is required to sail with Disney Cruise Line. It is an easy to use website so if you're mildly tech savvy, you'll be able to figure out. There is no way, however, my elderly mom would have figured it out. With Safe Passage, everyone over 18 has to have their own account so I ended up setting up her account for her. It would have been easier if I could have done both of us on one account but it was easy enough to make two.
There were reports of people unable to board due to not having all the necessary paperwork and/or testing. Did you have any issues with this?
We had no issues at all. We thoroughly read all of the "Know Before You Go" information that Disney Cruise Line sent to us in advance and followed it precisely. We had everything ready for Embarkation Day so we went through all the security check points with ease.
Okay, you get through check-in and security what was next?
We got on the ship! As soon as you get on, you're welcomed in the same Disney Cruise Line greeting and then you watch the new Welcome Aboard show in the atrium. After the show, a Cast Member tells you where to go for muster and you go straight there. The new Muster drill now consists of you walking to your station and scanning the check-in point sign via the Disney Cruise app on your phone. I would advise people to get on the ship's WiFi and putting their phone's in airplane mode before heading to your check-in point.
Let's talk about your stateroom, did you know the balcony was going to be so big?
I actually tried upgrading out room at the port but at this time, they are not doing room upgrades so we got the room I booked. I had no clue the room was going to be so big! One thing I do want to say is that our Key to the World Cards were waiting for us at our stateroom. We did not get them in the terminal as per usual. That’s new for DCL as well. Here is a video tour of our stateroom:
How was the mask enforcement throughout the cruise? Did you notice any issues?
We didn't experience any issues of people refusing to wear masks where required. On the Dream, masks were only required indoors at the ship. At Castaway Cay, masks were required inside shops, in the food lines, in bathrooms and on transportation trams. There were a few reminders from crew members for people who forgot to put theirs on coming indoors but for the most part Guests abided by the mask rules.
How was the social distancing on the ship?
In the theater, for shows, you were shown to your seat by a Cast Member. Every other row was skipped and three seats were kept empty to separate parties. There was also social distancing on the upper deck for fireworks viewing.
How were activities on Castaway?
There were lots of activities available for guests! For example, we could have booked the stingray encounter, kayaking, paddle boarding, rented bikes or the Castaway 5k. There were also floats were also available to rent. We just found chairs and relaxed on the beach which was perfect. However, something I was looking forward to was relaxing the the hammock but there weren't any hammocks publicly available. Another problem we experienced was not having a beach wheelchair to rent at Serenity Bay.
How was the dining Castaway?
The food was really good! We ate at Cookie's Too and I really enjoyed the jerk chicken. I was hoping for a spicy chicken sandwich, like I've seen there in the past, but no luck this time. The fruit was really fresh and delicious.
How was the dining on the ship with the staggered seating times?
The staggered time were nice because we never had to queue up before entering the dining room. We missed eating with other people. We really enjoy meeting new people on cruises. I’ve made some really amazing friendships from meeting people on cruises so I missed that experience on this cruise.
At Cabanas, it is still a buffet but a Cast Member makes your plate. You just tell them what you want and they walk down the row and load it up for you. We took full advantage of the peel and eat shrimp and stone crab. Room service is still available and there isn't an extra charge! We got room service for lunch one day and it was good!
Let's Talk about Pirate Night! For those who many not know what it is, can you explain it some more?
One night on the Disney Cruise Line is Pirate Night. During dinner on Pirate Night the waiters are in their pirate uniforms and you can wear pirate themed outfit - some people will wear a full costume and some will just wear the pirate bandana left in your stateroom that night. The menu at dinner is the pirate menu some pirates came through animators palate. We also also saw the fireworks that night which is a new show, Disney Every After.
How was the new fireworks show?
I liked this show much better than the old show! There were two nights of fireworks which is nice though, gives you an opportunity to come back if you miss it the first night.
How was the rest of the entertainment on the ship?
We really enjoyed the Beauty and the Beast show in the main theater. Highly recommend seeing it. Of course the pools and the Aqua Duct are a must do. We also heard some great music from multiple musicians on board. Movies on the Sun Deck and in the Buena Vista theater they were showing Black Widow and Jungle Cruise.
There was a musician playing in District Lounge and a Piano Player in Pink, the champagne bar. There were late night movies in the Buena Vista Theater and there was some activities at the pub for adults such as the Newlywed show. There was also the mini-golf on the sports deck.
How were the Cast Members?
So remarkably friendly! So helpful and so thankful that we were back!
How was disembarkation? Similar/different compared to previous cruises?
Disembarkation was easy, same as previous cruises - just wait for your character to be called. Ours was called first so after breakfast we sailed right off.
Overall, did you feel like it offered the same/worse/better experience as Disney Cruises in the past?
One of the main draws to sailing with Disney Cruise Line is getting to meet characters and this cruise was no different. I liked the character set up on this cruise. It seemed like the characters were out a lot so you had multiple chances to see all of your favorites - Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Jack Sparrow, Chip and Dale, and the Princesses. With fewer people on board there was usually little to no wait. I liked that we weren’t crammed into the Theater every night. I thought the staggered dining times worked perfectly. I felt like the ship was just as clean as in the past. DCL has always been known for their cleanliness and this cruise was no different.
To book your next Disney Cruise Line vacation, you can email Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can request a quote by clicking here and answering just a few questions.
Simply Perfect Vacations is a travel agency specializing in Disney Destinations; Universal Orlando vacations and beyond. When you book your vacation package with Simply Perfect Vacations you will receive our concierge services from the day you contact us to the day you get home, and everything in between.
To get Disney vacation news like this and other travel highlights delivered straight to your email inbox, sign up for our newsletter. By signing up you'll get our mini-guide to the four Walt Disney World theme parks for FREE - helping you kick-start the planning for your theme park vacation!
Sharing with you the latest Disney News and Travel Deals.
Monday - Friday: 8:00AM - 6:00PM
Evenings & Weekends: By Appointment Only
Fort Thomas, KY 41075