For many people, going on a cruise is a time to disconnect from the world and put the cell phone away. If you’re cruising on Disney Cruise Line, however, the newly revamped DCL Navigator app gives a good reason to keep your phone handy throughout the day.
Shortly before my most recent cruise, Disney released a new and improved version of the DCL Navigator app, so I took it for a spin on the Disney Fantasy. My traveling party ranged from the highly tech savvy IT professional type, to an eight-year-old digital native, to a pair of “tech light” seniors, with me being the middle of the range in terms of tech savviness. Overall, everyone in my party from the tech skilled to the tech novice found the app easy to use, intuitive, and helpful.
Before you head out on your cruise, you’ll want to download the app. At that point, the app does…. Well, not much of anything. You get a cute countdown timer. (Any time part of the countdown timer turns to a 0, you’ll get a cute Disney emoji icon.)
Once you get on board, however, the DCL Navigator app becomes a wealth of information and tools. First, you’ll need to connect to the ships Wi-Fi to be able to access the app functionality. Worried about burning through data? The DCL app doesn’t consume any of your free 50 MB or paid data plans. My parents opted not to sign up for any data plans (free or paid), and they were able to put their phone on Airplane mode, connect to the DCL Wi-Fi, and use it throughout. Once you get on board, you can use the app right away, but to use the chat feature, you need to do some easy setup.
In many respects, the new version of the app is similar to the version that preceded it, and has many of the same features, such as displaying restaurant menus (complete with notations about gluten-free and dairy-free options) and schedules, but with a cleaner look.
Although much of the information was the same, the new version has a similar feel to the My Disney Experience app. So what can you do with the app? Here’s some of its features.
Deck plans. Forget which deck the shopping is on? Can’t remember if Senses is forward or aft? Click on the ship icon in the upper-left corner of the main screen to see a map of each deck.
Get basic information. The app includes much of the information that is provided in paper format in your room, including information about Connect@Sea internet access and debarkation information, plus tips on how to use the app and its features.
Daily information. For sea days, you can find fun facts about the ship you are on. On port days, you’ll have a blurb about the history of your port of call and any other essential information you need to know.
Drink of the Day information. A vast improvement from previous versions, the new app actually tells you what is in the drinks of the day.
Dining Schedule information. Know where you’re going to eat, what the dress code is for the day, what time your dinner seating is at, and browse menus. (Note: This is the one part of the app where we found a couple things not fully functional–when we clicked on “View menus” and selected the Kids Menu, we got a page saying “no information found”. We were able to access the daily kids menus from the menu pages on the restaurant hours page, however. Also, table numbers did not appear in this app, even though there was a place for them. Because this version of the app rolled out less than a week before our cruise, I would expect these will be something that will be fixed in an upcoming release.)
Stateroom folio. Curious how much you’ve spent on those drinks of the day? Wondering if your child with charging privileges just took their friends on a shopping spree at Sweet on You? Keep track of your folio easily here, broken down by individuals in each room.
Overview of activities for the day. Just scroll through the list of activities throughout the day to see what you’d like to do. Activities that have already ended change to light gray. For any upcoming activities, click on the heart icon to favorite the activity. It will then appear on your main page and will send a push notification to remind you about the event 15 minutes before it starts.
From that screen, you can scroll over for different categories, as well as hours for certain items on the ship. There are tabs for Daily Activities (everything going on), Character Greetings, Dining and Lounges, Spa and Salon, Youth Clubs, Pools, Sports and Recreation, Shopping, Live Shows and Movies, and Guest Services.
Descriptions for daily activities. From the Overview tab, you can get a quick description of an event. On the Schedule tab, you can see when the event is offered, whether on a single day or multiple times during your cruise.
“Signature Events” (aka Disney’s main shows) and Port Adventures are automatically selected for you as favorites, although you can de-select shows (but not information about Port Adventures) if you choose.
You can also see a list of just activities you have selected as favorites for each day.
Information about Port Adventures. From the app, you are able to see what Port Adventures you have booked, who in linked staterooms is going with you, where and when to assemble, and the length of the adventure.
Items that you have selected as a favorite (with the little heart) and your Port Adventures will be pushed to your phone as reminder notifications 15 minutes before their start time.
Chat. One of the most useful features is the ability to use your own smartphone to communicate with others on board–no more clunky Wave phones! (Although the Wave phones are still in your room if you really want them…) You can receive messages from friends or family, automated messages to let you know when your child has checked out from the kids’ clubs, or important updates from DCL. Note: If you are not connected to the DCL Wi-Fi, you will not receive chat messages until the next time you do connect. If you are connected, you will receive chat messages as push notifications. If you want to keep Wi-Fi on at all times, but you’re paranoid about accidentally burning through data, just log out from your Wi-Fi account when you are done and stay connected to the Wi-Fi for app updates and chat notifications. It may add an extra step when you want to use your data plan, but it can also save you from any sort of surprises.
Overall, the app is easy to use and puts a ton of information at your fingertips. There are still minor fixes that need to be done, but the look and feel and information provided in this version far exceeds the previous versions. With most people these days carrying a smartphone on board with them wherever they go as it is also their primary camera, it makes perfect sense for this app to become an integral part of your cruise experience. And don’t worry–if you keep your phone in airplane mode and aren’t logged in to use a data package, you can use the app, but your boss still won’t be able to interrupt your vacation by sending you an email, text, or phone call while you’re sailing away!
Have you had a chance to use the DCL Navigator app? What are your thoughts? Any features you think Disney should add? Sound off in the comments!