Editor’s Note: Below is a first-hand account from the Disney Dream’s first U.S. cruise in more than a year, setting sail on August 9th. Please keep in mind, with this being the first reopening cruise, the experiences mentioned may change as Disney is constantly evaluating and evolving their policies. For more from the Disney Cruise Lines return, be sure to check out our other articles.
The Disney Cruise Line Youth Activities (specifically the Oceaneer Lab and Oceaneer Club) are our son’s favorite aspects of cruising. We typically don’t see him much of the cruise as he thoroughly enjoys the games and activities with that team and so many kids. He’s an extrovert like his dad and thrives in large group environments, so he was quite apprehensive about how COVID protocols would impact his cruise experience.
But I’m very happy to say that he had a very different, yet incredibly enjoyable time. It was a bit harder for him in that siblings or children travelling together were afforded less distancing protocols while he was the only child in our travel party, so it meant more attention to distancing. As an example, the Millenium Falcon area features two seats so children who were in the same travel party could enjoy that area with another while he was only able to do it solo (or Solo, perhaps) — except Open House when we experienced it with him. Thankfully, this was a very rare situation. Most group activities didn’t cause him to feel excluded or uniquely isolated.
The COVID protocols for Youth Activities start with registration. Instead of simply dropping by, you’ll need to reserve times for your child via the app. We had quite a bit of a challenge with this process. Reservations would disappear from our “My Plans” section, but they still had them so we didn’t lose the reservation. However, we often didn’t know what we had booked because we weren’t able to see them in our app. Due to the reduced guest capacity on our cruise, Gideon was often able to stay beyond his scheduled block, but we were stopping by the location much more frequently than we would on previous cruises to ensure he was able to stay. If the app hadn’t been troublesome for us, we should have been able to simply book him numerous time slots.
In order to reduce congestion in the hallway outside Oceaneer Lab and Oceaneer Club only one parent is permitted to accompany check-in and the traffic in that hallway is one-way. While this is helpful in reducing congestion, if you are dropping off while you are enjoying Forward activities you’ll be doing a lot more walking. All are asked to use the hand sanitizer before travelling the one-way hallway.
At the desk you’ll confirm the reservation, scan the MagicBan for entry and stop by the familiar hand washing station. Then a colored sticker is placed on the DCL MagicBand to designate which group your child is assigned. During the first check-in, your child will receive a backpack with crayons that they intend for them to bring back with them each time they visit so that the kids aren’t sharing craft supplies.
A designated Youth Activities team leader will stay with that group through the time block and it will rotate among the Oceaneer Club & Oceaneer Lab locales like the Magic Play Floor, Pixie Hollow, Star Wars Zone, Andy’s Room, and Infinity.
Groups were typically 10 or less and seemed to be organized by the time window booked rather than ages. Even with the COVID protocols, numerous characters visited including Stitch, Tiana, Pluto, Daisy and a pirate.
One other important change to be aware of: food is not currently served inside the clubs. Normally, the kids have the opportunity to eat lunch and dinner there, but not during these times.
The Youth Activities team can use the app to remind you of pick up times or to simply share that your child decides they want to leave the Club. They are quite sympathetic to helping smooth things over if you’re in the midst of a Palo dinner or other event so that you’re unable to pick up your child immediately upon request.
On Castaway Cay days, Youth Activities are found at Scuttle’s Cove – a large outdoor sand and water playzone. Masking was required in the check-in/check-out zone but not in the playzone itself. As onboard, food wasn't provided, but due to the sun, they did stop for frequent water breaks to ensure the kids stayed hydrated. On our second day at Castaway Cay, nearby lightning led to the activities moving to a sheltered area.
Stay tuned for more from our experience upon the Disney Dream’s return.