You may not have heard, but I recently got to SAIL ON A DISNEY CRUISE! Yippee! I was one month shy of not having been on a Disney Cruise in two years, and thankfully I was invited to sail on one of the first departures for the Disney Fantasy from Port Canaveral after returning to the seas. Our itinerary was originally a 7 night Caribbean sailing that they modified to a Castaway Cay only 4 night sailing. I’ve never sailed on a 4 night before, and I’ve never done a double dip to Castaway, so this was an awesome opportunity I couldn’t pass up to see all the changes and new protocols in place since the virus started.
How was embarkation?
Embarkation was for sure a different experience, but NOT in a bad way. Port arrival times start later than they used to, I believe the first group they offered was for 11:30 compared to 10:30 like before. They will NOT allow you to arrive at the port earlier than your time, even by a few minutes. If you drive up early, they will have you pull your car to the side and wait until your scheduled arrival time.
I’m not sure how it works if you take an uber to the port, but friends who flew in and used Disney transportation had their port arrival times bumped earlier when they got on an earlier flight, so that’s one huge bonus of doing Disney transportation to the airport. It might be pricier, but having the ability to get on the ship earlier if your flights change, that’s amazing!
Where do you take your pre-sailing test?
If you arrive at the port without a car, they will direct you to air conditioned tents they have set up in the parking lots. They have chairs set up in groups of 4, and Disney cartoons on to entertain you while you wait. There is also a screen that shows you when staterooms get cleared from their test and are allowed to board the ship.
For those of us who drove ourselves to the parking garage, when you arrive, you verify that you are within your port arrival time and they forward you along to the bag drop off area regardless of whether you are checking any luggage or not. Once you take care of that, you’re directed to the parking garage where you pay the parking fee. The person at the gate said they will refund your money if you test positive at the port, so that was a relief!
How does testing work?
Next you drive around a long maze of cones to get to another check in person who scans your QR code AGAIN and hands you your testing packet. I only received one, but they give you as many as passengers you have with you. You are then directed to pull forward into the garage where the entire first floor of parking spaces is dedicated ONLY to covid testing.
Once you get in a spot, a DCL cast member will come over and check you in, AGAIN. I was told to wait in my car after testing but before receiving for my results, but someone I was traveling with in another car said they did not give her those directions. Also, be aware that there ARE bathrooms located on the first floor of the garage, so if you need to use them during your waiting time, they are available.
How long does it take for your results to come in?
The amount of time it takes for you to be tested really just depends on how long it takes for someone to come tell you to administer the test. It’s a self-administered test, the lady watched me VERY closely and had me redo it when she felt I wasn’t doing big enough circles. After she was satisfied with my swabbing skills, I plunked the test back in the bag, handed it back to her and she put it in a container for the guy to come collect.
I was told to keep checking the SafePassage App (I never realized there WAS an app, I had done everything on their website.) or my email and I would be notified of my results in 45-60 mins. In actuality it took about 35 minutes before I got the all clear. During the waiting time people roamed around the parking garage, headed down to the first floor to use the restroom, or hung out in their cars.
Where do you go after you’re cleared to sail?
Once they cleared us to board the ship, and it seemed like they cleared EVERYONE from the 12:30 port arrival time simultaneously, we all headed towards the terminal. This was a bit different from previous times I’ve sailed from Port Canaveral. They required everyone go leave the parking garage from the third floor (that’s normal) but then once we got there, we were not allowed in to the port from that floor, we had to go down the escalator to the first floor entrance where they had everything set up there. Both the people from the parking garage and those who were waiting in the tents all converged in to the same lines at the terminal.
New cruisers had one check in line, silver and gold castaway members a second line, platinum castaway members were in the third, and concierge guests were in the last line. It seemed like this line to get to the area where we could finally go through the metal detectors was one of the longest ones we encountered. I think that might have had to do with everyone getting cleared to get onboard at the same time, and a massive number of gold and silver castaway guests compared to new cruisers, or it could just be because we were all clumped together in a not huge area.
Can you still take pre-cruise photos?
Once you were fully checked in, you could then proceed to the ship. Photo spots were set up in the terminal vs. how it used to be where you would get your picture taken once you had walked through the Mickey head doorway. There were lots of physical distancing markers throughout the queue to get on the ship, and that process probably took us about 15-20 mins once we walked through the head.
Please tell me we see Mickey & Minnie…
They still announce your family name when you get onboard, but as soon as you get on, a cast member will direct your family to stand on a “blue dot” in the atrium. Mickey and Minnie are hanging out there in their captain’s outfits (which is nice since you no longer get a character photo in the terminal while waiting to board the ship) and after all the dots are filled, they start a quick show welcoming you onboard.
What about sail away festivities? Muster drill?
This show takes the place of the sail away party and it’s a cute substitute, especially for families with kids who are psyched to see Mickey and Minnie for the first time. Once that’s done (it’s VERY fast) you then go to your muster station where you have to take a picture of your muster sign to prove you have been. We had technical glitches with ours, so I don’t 100% understand the process, but since I know how muster drills work, I was ok with it.
After that, you’re free to go! We were lucky that our room was ready as soon as we got onboard, but that had more to do with the ship not having had guests onboard that morning, so the rooms were already fully cleaned when we arrived. If you’re on the Dream or later Fantasy sailings when they’re back to sailing 7 night voyages, your room probably won’t be ready until 4:30.
Was it a good embarkation experience?
Overall I was really impressed with the new procedures. I liked the idea of the indoor “show” to welcome you onboard. I liked all the space between me and other families. I LOVED the muster drill not being something everyone has to go to at the same time, but instead it was something that you had decent amount of time to complete so you were at the station by yourself.
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