Sam Byrne, one of our Dreams Unlimited Travel agents, had the opportunity to sail on the Disney Magic at Sea sailing from Liverpool in the United Kingdom earlier this month aboard the Disney Magic!
Now that she has returned from her trip, we sat down and asked her some questions about how things were done on the ship and we think the information will be helpful to anyone who is getting ready to get back on a Disney cruise ship. We should also note that Disney Cruise Line has launched their own Know Before You Go details on every aspect of their return to cruising and you can find that information HERE.
If you find that we’ve missed covering something that you’d like to know more about, please leave a comment below and we will do our best to get your question(s) answered.
Our interview questions and answers are below!
What was required prior to the cruise in terms of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations?
Prior to Embarkation on the UK staycation, all passengers over 18 had to be double (fully) vaccinated at least 7 days before travel and show proof of that. Anyone under 18 had to provide proof of a negative covid-19 PCR test that had been taken within 5 days and 24 hours of sailing.
Did passengers have to undergo another COVID-19 test upon their arrival at the port?
If you were driving and using the official port parking, lateral flow tests were administered in your car. We then had to wait about 20-30 minutes to be given the all-clear which was sent to us via email that we had registered with prior to our online check-in. Once we received the all-clear, we could then leave the car and head down to the main check-in so we could have our IDs checked, and then it was time to board the buses to the ship.
Everything was socially distanced always signs standing spots so we knew just where to stand. Every member of the Disney shoreside, transfer drivers, check-in staff were wearing their masks at all times.
What happened once you boarded the ship?
Once onboard the ship, we were directed to D-Lounge so the ship’s crew could ensure that our Navigator App was set up properly. Although we were still in port, we were advised to set our cell phones to wi-fi mode and connect to DCL at Sea Wifi Connection. As much as you think you know how to use the Navigator App, think again! It’s important that you’re familiar with the most current updates too. The crew did an awesome job of showing me what I didn’t know.
How did the Muster Drill work with physical distancing?
Next, we were directed to our Muster Station. I wondered how the safety drill was going to work since, in the past, you have been in line close together with many other passengers. Once at our Muster Station, we were required to take a photo of the muster station sign using the Navigator app to prove we had visited, and we checked our names off with our muster crew member.
How were guests welcomed aboard the ship? Did they still do the announcements?
Once finished with the Muster Station we were directed back to the Atrium where we were announced by a crew member and greeted by Mickey and Minnie on the stairs. I actually wasn’t expecting this, it worked well to help the flow of the passengers I guess so they didn’t all rush to Cabanas at once and it was a great welcome to the ship because Mickey and Minnie did the cutest of all pre-shows. All families had to stand on our specific socially distanced spot where we waited for an awesome pre-show.
How did you receive your Key to the World cards with the different check-in process?
We then went off in search of our stateroom deck to see if our room was ready and it was ready early. Outside the stateroom was where our Key to the World (KTTW) cards were held in our mail fish in a secure envelope and we were free to go into our beautifully clean and sanitized stateroom.
Were the Castaway Club gifts left on the stateroom beds as they used to be?
They were and it was such a nice surprise!
How did things work with the staterooms and stateroom hosts?
DCL Staterooms were renowned for their cleanliness even before the pandemic, so I am used to a high level of cleanliness on a Disney cruise. I did love that all the product jars/bottles were given tamper-proof stickers as extra peace of mind. I don’t believe our stateroom hosts were officially allowed to be in the stateroom at the same time as the guests. Our lovely host, Jeryll, would knock on the door and talk to us from the corridor or catch us whilst we were going out to dinner or in between quick changes. We would also stop and chat with her in the corridor.
Again, she wanted to know how everything was with our embarkation and she genuinely seemed interested so she could feedback to Guest Services. Feedback was going to be key on these first few cruises.
With crew not being allowed in staterooms, was room service still available?
Whilst I think about it, Room Service was still on board, thankfully and although crew members were not be allowed into the stateroom while we were in there, they would knock on the door and then wait for us to answer and hand us the tray(s) of food to take into the room and if we had to sign for any paid items they would wait for us to come back to the door to do so.
The room service menu had all the usual suspects on it – this was a cheese plate we had.
What is the scoop on the safety announcements that were played onboard?
In order to remain physically distanced, we were all required to stay put wherever we were on the ship whilst the safety briefing was played through as audio throughout the ship. A video was playing on the TV in the staterooms and we could also watch this video on the Navigator app, all to allow for social distancing.
Was Cabanas open for lunch on embarkation day?
Yes! Once we dropped our bags off, we headed to Cabanas for lunch. Previous cruisers will be used to all the sanitization requests made by crew members before heading into any of the ship’s restaurants. At many dining locations around the ship, added measures have been installed.
Crew members directed us to a newly installed handwashing station outside the entrance, with soap, water, and hand paper towels clearly indicated.
We then walked into Cabanas where we were shown to our station for food. There were about 4 the same with desserts still in the middle of the stations opposite the doors to the outside seating area. Once we were shown our food station, we were told to always come back to this one to get our food from. There was no judging at all at what we asked to go on the plate and the servers were not frightened of loading it on. There is still a separate salad bar, shrimp, crab leg bar, drinks, and dessert station.
All food is behind plexiglass and we could not serve ourselves anything; all was served into glasses and onto plates for us by the crew members. I truly believe I ate less buffet food than ever before, because of this new process, except of course when it came to the shrimp “why yes I’ll have 2 bowls of shrimp please.”
For those who want to eat outside, you can still do that at the aft of the ship/Cabanas but you are required to sanitize your hands each time you come back inside for more food/drink.
What was the procedure with elevators?
There were sanitization stations outside the elevators and only one party can be in the lift at any given time. I actually found myself walking up and down the stairs more often than I would have usually. I have to say because of the reduced capacity, the elevators didn’t always seem that busy, not even in the atrium.
Outside of the elevators, you wave your hand up so there is no touching of panels outside and then inside easy to clean digital displays on the inside. Even though you have to tap the screen, you feel secure in the knowledge that a crew member is cleaning these panels often and, of course, we were sanitizing our hands a lot.
Face masks were required to be worn by all passengers over the age of 11 when inside the public areas of the ship except when at restaurants or bars while eating and drinking. We took lots of mask elevator selfies!
Was Senses Spa & Salon open?
Yes! Limited treatments were available onboard such as massages (stone, Swedish and deep all for a max of 50 mins) pedicures, and manicures. No facials. Masks had to be worn at all times in the Spa area. Great social distancing measures were in place.
Rainforest room access was not included with your treatment as that is a buy-out only for one party up to 6 people for an hour and 45 mins at $174.00.
What about the fitness center?
The Fitness Center had all of the important social distancing measures with machines physically distanced. Masks were not required when working out.
What’s different at the nightclubs and bars on the ship?
At each location when you sit at your table, you will notice little notes on telling you NOT to sit at some tables to help with Social Distancing.
All menus are digital; you take a photo of the QR code and it will take you directly to the menu of that location on your Navigator App. It was pretty cool but I really did miss seeing everything at a glance, scrolling all the time and being on our phones somehow detracted for me the beauty of being aboard the ship and leaving the socials at the port.
They did a good job, the bar menus will only show their specialty drinks for that location but of course, there is a full bar as well so you can order drinks that are not on the menu shown in the Navigator app.
You cannot sit at the bar or go to the bar to order your own drinks, it’s all table service.
If you happened to be called up on stage, you’re required to put on your face mask. All crew members wore face masks indoors.
Were there also different procedures in the ship’s restaurants?
All the dining rooms had all of their tables in place but, as individual parties, we were spread out so the serving staff did not have as many tables as usual. The upside was that we really got to know our Head Server on this cruise as he had fewer tables too. Tables were a maximum of one stateroom or linked parties up to a maximum of 6 people total.
Again, we had to take a photo of the QR code to access the menu. Usual menus, perhaps fewer choices on wines were available.
Servers had clearly undergone rigorous training on sanitization. They sanitized their hands at their stations between every visit to the station. They also wore masks and protective eyewear.
We were still able to order multiple dishes should we so wish, again I would say that service seemed faster. We were on staggered seating for Main and Late Dining. We had an 8.30 p.m. dining time and our friends had an 8.40 p.m. dining time.
For me, nothing has detracted from the Main Dining Room food which is still incredible!
How did the quick service restaurants work?
You have to tell the crew member at the front of the line what you want then they’ll either get it for you or direct you to the appropriate window. You’ll see lots of plexiglass protection in these areas.
Guests no longer serve themselves at the Eye Scream station but that didn’t seem to deter anyone by the looks of everyone I saw eating ice cream around the decks.
The drink station was also no longer help yourself, but you could still take your own cups and fill up from the paper cups the crew member would serve your drinks up in.
How did things work at Palo since they usually have a serve-yourself buffet?
It felt like there were less people dining than usual due to social distancing measures that were in place. There are a lot of changes to the menus, the price is now $45 for brunch or dinner and if you are a Platinum Castaway Club member, you get one $45 credit to use for either brunch or dinner.
The dinner menu is now a prix fixe for $45. You get to choose one appetizer, one salad, one entree, and one dessert from a limited set menu…don’t worry, the calamari is on the prix fix menu as is a 6oz filet and the souffle…. phew.
There is also an a la carte menu that you can choose from and if you’re a Platinum Castaway Club member; then your $45 is offset against your bill. You can no longer just order as many different dishes from the menu, which is a pity but goodness I still rolled out of there.
Now let’s talk brunch – no help yourself buffets remember, but the chef has taken the highlights from the antipasto and seafood bars and made two independent antipasto plates. The good news there is that you can order as many dishes as you want off the menu. Incredible food as always and honestly as much as I missed the buffet and the sticky buns, we were seated for way over 2 hours as we plowed through the menu and I left comfortably full.
The show kitchen meant we could also see their mask wearing.
Were the pools crowded like they usually are on a cruise?
As of the time of my sailing, we were still under UK restrictions so DCL was operating the ship with 1,000 passengers only, so there was lots of space.
The Goofy pool and the Aqualab were operating with a virtual queue that you booked on the Navigator app, but this has since been removed and now you get in line to get into those pools for just under 15 minutes at a time. You can see the social distancing measures for the beds and other measures in place.
The biggest complaint has been about some parents ignoring the policies and allowing their non-toilet trained kids into the pool causing closures to happen. Whenever a pool is closed, there is a good 3-hour turn around, and when you are only onboard for 3 nights, it can be a little frustrating.
Both the Twist ‘n’ Spout ad the Aqua Dunk had longer socially distanced lines during the day, but they were doable. I managed to nab a photo early in the morning.
Who knew we would get Caribbean weather off the West coast of England in the Irish Sea? With reduced beds around the Quiet Cove (adults 18 and over) pool, it could have been a struggle but our wonderful crew member, Edilio, made sure we were well looked after. Beds had to be socially distanced, and you could not move them at your will.
Were activities like Karaoke and Bingo still offered?
Yes and these all ran really well! Some events were restricted on the number of people who could attend, once a venue was at the newly restricted capacity you could not participate. You do not need to wear your mask for these arranged activities.
Premium Tastings still happened and worked well, with cast members ensuring that all traveling parties were at their own table. I’m a sociable person but I really loved having our own space at events and dining all across the ship, I know it won’t always be this way.
Was capacity limited inside of the ship’s stores?
Shops were only allowed a certain number of people in at any one time. Hand sanitization was required before entering.
How crowded were the theaters?
My sailing was the 15th of July in the UK we had to pre-book. Then we were given a time of show, after waiting in a socially distanced line. We were shown to our seats to watch Disney Dreams and there was an empty row left between parties and at least 2 seats in between. Since my sailing, I understand you can still prebook the shows but passengers have been told they can attend any show and they just have to leave space between themselves and another party.
The show has been amended and upgraded and is phenomenal. Honestly, the emotion of being back on board the ships after not travelling for so long and not being able to visit Walt Disney World, let’s just say I was not emotionally prepared for how the show would make me feel. You don’t realize how much of a Disney person you are until you just sit there balling like a baby to Belle singing.
Were character meet and greets still happening?
There isn’t a paper Navigator delivered to your stateroom the night before so you will not know where to find Mickey and his pals. One of the biggest reasons for this is because nobody wants 500 passengers congregating in the atrium all at once for social distance reasons. The Navigator app will tell you what time there will be “waves” from the Disney characters allowing guests to take physically distanced photos. During the day, characters can also be found at the Buena Vista Theatre, the Walt Disney Theatre, and D-Lounge.
If you are attending a quiz, animation event, or other activity, you may just find you have a special character show up.
Characters can be found in Fathoms during the day and at the children’s clubs as well. We saw characters out on deck on occasion and had a chance to see Disney princesses before dining at Lumiere’s one evening.
As you’ll see in the photos below, the characters were all over the ship, and sometimes they were wearing different costumes as well. We saw a lot of them during our cruise!
Was Shutter’s offering photo packages?
We had been advised that Shutters was not taking photos of guests with characters, so I did not book a photo package. If I had been sailing with my husband that would have been a different story as we love having photos taken of the two of us together. Shutters crew members were around the ship all day and could be found around the pools, the decks, in the atrium from late afternoon with some fabulous backdrops as always, photos from events and restaurants and there are also lots of “magic” shots available. On a 3-night cruise, I have seen some of my fellow cruisemates had up to 160 photos taken which is an incredible value if you book the unlimited package. Photos can be viewed on the screens but leaving space between other parties.
Any other important things to take note of as we return to cruising?
Guest Services: We could only get in line to see GS if we had previously made an appointment on the App. The Navigator has a Queuing system and I “chatted” with GS online a few times and they were really good and always answered my questions.
Onboard Booking Cruise desk was closed and so we had to make our placeholders either with Guest Services on the Navigator App chat or it was also available to book direct on the App on the debarkation morning.
Extra Gratuities: Make an appointment with Guest Services to make that happen if you want them added from your stateroom account as you cannot do it via the Navigator app. For speed, I took US dollars to put in the envelopes for those I wanted to tip extra.
Folio: On the last morning, it’s important that you remember to log into the Navigator app to have a PDF of your onboard account emailed to you. This will not be done automatically.
If you book your Disney Cruise Line vacation through Dreams Unlimited Travel – the official sponsor of DCL Fan – you will receive a shipboard credit up to $1000 plus a complimentary gift basket.
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Jackie Gailey is mom of two grown-up kids and wife to the greatest husband and dad. She was a Panelist on the 2013 and 2014 Disney Parks Moms Panel (now planDisney) and is now the Senior Editor for The DIS So far, she’s cruised once aboard the Disney Dream and once on the Disney Fantasy.