Our First Cruise Back
by Erin Sistar
Our boys are not into toys anymore and it is hard to shop for Christmas anyway. So for a number of years they have gotten vacations instead of toys. This year, Christmas came early to the Sistar home. We surprised the boys with a 3 night cruise on the Disney Dream. This was their 7th Disney cruise, so to them the ship feels like a 2nd home. We were all very excited to see the changes and how everything was going to work in the COVID environment.
This was our first Very Merry Christmas Time cruise and we had no real idea what to expect. As we boarded we noticed the beautiful ship decorations. There was a huge 30' tree on deck 3 as you entered the ship and a gorgeous gingerbread house just across the foyer. All the crew members were dressed in red and white scarves, all the characters had Holiday themed costumes, and Holiday music could be heard all over the ship. Being welcomed onboard, instantly put us all in the Christmas spirit.
After we made it through the new check in process and COVID protocols, we headed off to our favorite restaurant on the ship, Animator’s Palate. While we ate a delicious lunch, we looked over the ship’s itinerary. We quickly noticed an upgraded Disney Cruise Line app. It was intuitive, quick, and easy to figure out. First up was the new Muster Drill. If you have ever cruised before, then you know that every guest has to attend a mandatory muster drill. You usually report to your life boat, the crew takes roll, and then they go over the rules and protocol of what would happen in case of emergency. Due to the new COVID rules however, large groups are not allowed to gather anywhere on the ship, and so the muster drill has been changed. Now everyone is required to take a picture of their muster station with their Disney app and then head to your stateroom to watch a mandatory safety video. It was very easy and we really liked the change.
We always love Pirate Night on the Disney cruise boats. We always have a blast dressing up. I was told by the staff at the cruise reservation call center there would be a pirate night, but sadly once we got onboard we found it had been cancelled. There also was not the usual "dress up" night, which we did not miss at all. We do not know if this is to be a permanent change or just a temporary one. We were told that on the 4 night cruises, both of these events were still on the schedule. With all that being said, we did have fireworks when Santa and Mrs. Claus came onboard.
Disney cruise line ships always have excellent Broadway style shows. In the past, there has been a different show every night. However, in order to keep us socially distant, Beauty and the Beast (stage show) was shown on 2 consecutive nights. That way everyone onboard would have the opportunity to see at least one show. Side note: I have a friend who is currently a performer on the Disney cruise ship Fantasy and they say Disney is showing only 3 shows total on that cruise. The Fantasy does 7 night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings.
On all of our cruises, we usually order the picture package where we can get all of our vacation pictures in digital form . Normally, I jump in line for every cute background and character I see. As you might have heard, character meet and greets are currently not like they used to be. I like to think of it as photo bombing. The characters are either in front of or behind the guests. Waving and saying hi from a safe distance is all that is allowed these days. Hopefully hugging will return sooner than later.
It was great to be back on the ship. We have really missed cruising. For our family, it’s the perfect vacation. I don’t have to clean or cook and my boys can hang out at the pool, watch movies, ride the aquaduck, and try all the different flavors of ice cream. Just so you know, on this sailing they had vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, banana, and blueberry in unlimited supply. We made sure to set up our place holder discount, 10% off our next cruise, and we are ready to go again. May 2023 can’t get here fast enough. We can’t wait to sail on the brand new Disney Wish. What can I say, we love cruising.