I returned just over a week ago from an amazing Disney Familiarization trip and wanted to give you all details of my experience and travel to the US during this time as travel slowly starts to recover after Covid.
Sunday, Sept 12, 2021 – Pre-Cruise Stay at WDW
We (my niece Nicole and myself) left on Sunday, Sept 12 on Air Canada from Toronto to Orlando. We arrived at Toronto Pearson Terminal 1, three hours prior to our 10:15am flight. Check-in at Air Canada was easy with our negative Antigen test results in hand.
After dropping off our bags we headed to security and this is where things weren’t great. I have Nexus but because I was travelling with my niece who didn’t have it, I chose to stay with her in the regular line and let’s just say… Security and US customs was a nightmare that morning. The security belts weren’t running when we got into the line, as there were so many people in the customs hall that they had stopped allowing people through security for awhile. We waited maybe 15-20 minutes before the belts started moving and we finally could place our bags in the bins for security check. Once rolling, this part was the easy part.
Once through security, we then waited for probably 2-2-1/2 hours in the customs line to get to a US customs agent for pre-screening into the USA. There were only 4-5 agents in the normal lanes (Nexus appeared to be moving some what quicker but still pretty solid) and by the time we got into the last section of line we had already surpassed our boarding time, still about 10-15 people away from seeing the customs agent. An airplane employee came down the row asking everyone what flight they were on and flights were being delayed to wait for the passengers stuck in line at customs.
When we finally got through, about 3 hours after arriving at the airport, we had to RUN to the gate (which was AC Rouge so the furthest possible gate in the airport). I had injured my back earlier that week so my ability to run quickly was lacking sorely. We finally reached the gate with no time to spare, got on board and were then told that the flight would be delayed due to customs, but also a computer issue on the plane. Our flight was delayed more for a total of over 2 hours from scheduled departure and we FINALLY were up in the air on our way to Florida. We touched down in Orlando around 2:50pm and were glad that our plans that day didn’t consist of visiting a theme park.
Once landed at MCO, (Orlando Int’l Airport), we took the tram from the gate to the main terminal where we would meet up with Disney’s Magical Express, their complimentary shuttle service to the Disney Resorts. This complementary services is sadly ending December 31, 2021 but we were able to still utilize it to get to our resort, Disney’s Coronado Springs.
We had to pick up our luggage (as the luggage delivery service that was usually a part of the Disney’s Magical Express was stopped due to Covid at the MCO airport).
The Disney app (My Disney Experience) allows guests to do online check-in and use your phone (or magic bands) to open your room door which is helpful if you don’t want to stop at the front desk to check in, although we did stop in and got key cards this time as we were too late to get magic bands linked to our pre-cruise booking. Note – The magic bands are no longer free so guests can either use their former bands if they have them, purchase new bands on My Disney Experience for a discounted rate pre-arrival (with lots of designs to choose from in varying prices), purchase magic bands on resort, or use key cards as their passes (room keys/tickets, etc). Soon they will have the function where you can use smart phone or Apple Watch like magic bands but that technology wasn’t up and running just yet.
Our room at Disney’s Coronado Springs, a Standard View, was comfortable and recently renovated with laminate hardwood flooring and barn doors to separate the bathroom sink area from the room. We had two beds and the room also has a small bar fridge in the one cabinet area and a safe in the cabinet between the beds. This is a moderate resort within Disney Resorts and is situated not too far from Epcot theme park.
Upon arrival we received a note about pick-up time for the shuttle to the cruise port and who to call for luggage tags if some were needed (which in our case were needed).
We got settled into the room and took the Disney Springs bus (bus stop close by the room) to downtown Disney for dinner at Blaze Pizza (which was delicious) and some pre-cruise shopping.
Monday, Sept 13, 2021 – Embarkation Day – Disney Dream
Bell service came at 7am to pick up our bags for the cruise. We didn’t have proper luggage tags so we gave the bell porter our cruise information for him to put the proper tags on our bags when he got back to the bell service office.
We had a quick bite in the marketplace dining area at the resort and rechecked with bell services that our bags were tagged before heading down to meet the Disney Cruise staff in the lobby.
Getting on the Disney Cruise Line bus at 9am we checked our bags were on board and took the 60+ minute ride from our resort to the cruise port. In the Disney Cruise transport you are entertained with Disney Trivia and Disney Shorts which makes the ride fly by!
When we arrived at the port we watched as the port staff tossed the bags from our bus onto the racks (not very kindly I might add). We didn’t get to see our bags taken off the bus as we were escorted off the boat over to the pre-testing area where everyone was to take a free PCR test before embarking on the cruise ship.
The pre-embarkation testing area was all in big white tents just across from the terminal in a parking lot. It was very organized and the line moved quickly. It took a total of 15 minutes to line up and get our tests (10:45am) which we self administered with the watchful eye of the nurses in each cubicle, and then we were escorted to a holding tent to await our results that were expected back within 30-60 minutes.
This was a bit of a nerve wracking time as Nicole’s test came back in 40 minutes, but mine took longer. We were told to check our results at the http://www.dclsafepassage.com website. At 12:15 I was finally cleared and given the green light and we were ready to head to the terminal to board the ship.
Once in the terminal we got our documents all checked, went through security and took the escalator up to the main hall. Walking through those big yellow Mickey ears at the end of the hall is always such an exciting moment. We had one last check of documents before we were on the ramp awaiting our turn to enter the ship.
Disney always makes embarkation super special as they announce each family’s arrival with claps and cheers. You can check out our entrance in my Reels on my Instagram page at @shawkes_vacationdreammaker.
Upon entering the ship, Mickey and Minnie were on the staircase welcoming everyone. Each family as they entered were placed on one of the starred circles on the floor and then Mickey & Minnie had a little welcome song and dance to welcome us all onboard. (I admit… I got teary eyed here).
Next was Muster Drill. If you’ve cruised in the past you will remember how unpleasant this mandatory experience is, but now post-Covid, it’s much easier and enjoyable. On the Disney Cruise Line App (which you can download at your phone’s App Store), you can complete your Muster Drill by visiting the actual station (ours was G on the port side, outside deck) and then completing information on the app. Inside your stateroom you’ll find the instructions for Muster as well as on the cabin TV.
While we waited for the go ahead to get into our cabin, we decided on a sit-down lunch at Animator’s Palate restaurant. This is one of the 3 main dining venues that guests of Disney Dream will rotate amongst on their 3 or 4 night cruise.
I chose the potato and leek soup while Nic had the tomato soup, and we both enjoyed the Chicken Caesar salad for our main course. Every detail is super special on a Disney cruise from the napkins, plates and cutlery and decor. Menus can be either a hard copy or the easier to use QR code you can access with the free Disney wifi (for onboard chatting, accessing your onboard account and the itinerary and daily activities).
We found that we could iMessage with our husbands at home with the free wifi, although we needed data or paid-for wifi to send pictures or video chat.
After lunch we found our cabin, Stateroom 10030 and got our carry-on luggage put away before we head out to explore the ship.
One of the things I love about Disney Cruise cabins are the split bathrooms – 2 sinks – one with the toilet and the other with the shower/tub so lots of room for families to get ready at the same time. The beds are super comfortable and the sofa turns into a very comfortable bed. Lots of storage within the stateroom – 2 closets and tons of drawers and cubbies to store your family’s luggage.
For the rest of the afternoon we explored the ship – the adult only sections (Pool and District), Cabana’s (buffet), pool deck and teen/tween hang outs as well as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where little boys and girls can be transformed into a princess, knight, captain or pirate. On Star Wars at Sea days, little ones can choose a Galactic Transformation.
By dinnertime our luggage hadn’t yet arrived outside our stateroom so we began to be concerned. We called down to guest services and advised them of our situation. They were very kind and had the housekeeping and guest services staff looking and would advise us of any updates on the app chat while we went off to dinner.
Dinner was in The Royal Palace our first night onboard. The Cinderella Themed Restaurant is done in rich colours and our servers, Tanner and Made, were dressed as footmen. The bread basket, although not the Cinderella carriage from back in 2014 when I was last onboard the dream, was still special as special. French Onion soup was a delicious appetizer before the delicious main course. One of the things that I love about cruising is how the servers are so willing to make changes, like my green beans, to replace the vegetable on the menu that I don’t like. Dessert is always a must when Creme Brûlée is on the menu!!
After dinner there was still no sign of our luggage and back to guest services we went to find out if they had any news. They still hadn’t located our bags but assured us they were searching the entire ship.
We decided to try and take our minds off our bags and head to the Walt Disney Theater for the evening’s show – Believe, an original play on the power of Belief. Masks are required at all indoor venues on the ship and social distancing was in place within the theatre with every other row empty and 4 seats between parties.
After the show we were back at Guest Services to discuss our options as we had nothing in our cabin for the night with our bags missing. Guest services were so understanding and sent us off with a little care pack of deodorant, toothbrushes, hairbrushes and shower caps along with $100 USD Onboard credit for us to purchase pyjamas, underwear and other essentials we would need for the cruise while they continued to work at locating our bags.
So off we went to our cabin with our little bag of essentials with the hopes of having our bags when we woke up the next day.
Stay tuned for Part 2… Sea Days and Private Island Days.
Until next time,
~ Sue ~
Your Vacation Dream Maker