Over the last month or so, I’ve heard a lot of chatter about guests not getting personal navigators delivered to their stateroom at turndown. You know what the news is, now you’re going to hear the rest of the story. While the reports we were hearing were consistent, the details were scarce. The more and more I read, the more and more it sounded like a code red, SOS, mayday, the sky was falling.
Knowing that we’d soon be sailing, I did my best Elsa impersonation and let it go in order to experience whatever onboard Personal Navigator situation there was to experience myself. At least, how things were going on the Disney Fantasy. I cannot speak firsthand about the other ships, however I suspect there was shoreside directive to the fleet. If you followed along with our trip reports, some of what you are about to read will be a repeat, but hang in there, I promise there will be some more.
Before we get too far along, let me take a bit of your time to lay out the basic guest expectation based the way things have always gone. Guest checks in for cruise at the terminal, Cast Member gives guest a Personal Navigator for day 1. Each night at turndown, the stateroom host leaves the Personal Navigator for the next day on the bed next to a towel animal.
Over the years, the Personal Navigators have evolved, changed, and shrunk. For example, here is the first ever Disney Cruise Line Personal Navigator from the Disney Magic’s Maiden Voyage in 1998. In 2013, Disney released the Personal Navigator app which offered guests an alternative to the paper copies and included additional details for each event. Then, a few years back, Disney Cruise Line decided to reduce the size of the Personal Navigators from the full booklet and insert each day to only publishing the booklet on embarkation day and only providing an the insert with the grid schedule and times each night. Frankly, this was an expected change and it reduced Cast Member workload, as well as paper and printing costs. This change didn’t really bother many as the important information for each day was still provided each night with the single page insert.
Ok, we arrived at Port Canaveral to embark on the Disney Fantasy for a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise, being Platinum Castaway Club members, we skipped the line and checked-in at the concierge and platinum desk in the terminal. After reviewing our passports and taking an updated security photo, we were presented with our KTTW cards, lanyards, and the Personal Navigator for day 1. Before leaving land, it appeared everything was normal…….or so we thought.
After the show on the first night of the cruise, we retired to our stateroom for the night. To find all the regular handouts on the bed except the Personal Navigator for tomorrow.
The next morning, our daughter went down to Guest Services in the morning. However, upon her return she declared she had some bad news to share. The Personal Navigators are not out for guests to pick up as they please and are only available if you stand in the Guest Services line, which for some reason on this cruise seemed to have a line 90% of the time we walked past. I then made my way over to guest services to get a schedule for Emily and I to share. I mentioned it was not left in our stateroom last night with the rest of the handouts and was immediately told to use the Personal Navigator App. Exsqueeze me? Baking powder? I explained that we would prefer not use the app and would prefer a paper copy. The Cast Member helping me at Guest Services was kind enough to ask if we would prefer a paper copy in our room to which I couldn’t say yes fast enough. This was all that it took to get a copy of the next day’s Personal Navigator schedule left in our stateroom at turndown each night.
Ok, everything is great, everything is grand, I’ve got a paper copy of the Personal Navigator in the palm of my hand. Everything is perfect, its falling into place. I can’t seem to wipe this smile off my face. Life’s a happy song, when there’s someone by my side to sing along. Sorry, I slipped back into my lounger watching The Muppets on our last sea day.
One night after dinner I ran into Siren, a fellow passenger who recognized me. We started to talk about the Personal Navigators. Remember when I said we received a copy in the terminal. Well, guess what, he didn’t. The Cast Member checking him in at the bank of check-in windows in the terminal did not have any available. That tells me the vast majority of guests, new cruisers, as well as Silver and Gold level Castaway Club members not sailing concierge did NOT received the embarkation day Personal Navigator. It turns out, Siren noticed a few people in the terminal with the paper Personal Navigator. At first he was unable to find a copy until he spoke with another guest who had one that said they received one at the Concierge and Platinum Check-in desk. Sure enough, minutes later Siren had a copy of the Personal Navigator in his hand so that he and his family could start planning their embarkation day.
The embarkation Personal Navigator includes a lot of really helpful information in a concise format that is extremely informative to new cruises as well as an excellent resource for seasoned cruises who simply need to find the current location to make a change for to their dinner rotation.
Think about how things go on embarkation day…… You arrive at the terminal and for the sake of argument let’s say you are embarking from a port of call where you have cellular data service. You are not going to log into DCL-Guest WiFi network to use the Personal Navigator App, as this will prevent you from sharing your experience with family and friends as you cling to the last few bars of cellular service as you sail away from land.
Ironically, we sat next to a family that burned through their free embarkation day 50MB Disney Cruise Line Internet Data plan and purchased another package before 1PM as we were still docked at Port Canaveral. Why? Because they joined DCL-GUEST and their phones would no longer get data from their respective cellular data networks. I wish I was making this story up for the sake of this post, but I’m sad to report that this is true. Ultimately, this makes me wonder if Disney Cruise Line is working guests into paying for data plans.
Think about this for a minute, the more Disney Cruise Line pushes the Navigator App, the more guests will be connected to the DCL-GUEST network. The more time guests are connected to the wifi, the probability increases that they will forget to logout of the data plan thus wasting megabytes. In turn, this could lead to guests queueing up at the Connect@Sea desk with “where did my MBs go?”, simply buying more data, or in some cases they will simply stop using their device.
I got a bit off course there, sorry. Even though I am blogging and posting to social media, I try to limit my screen time during the cruise. I cannot be the only one that is glued to a desk and a mobile screen while on land that prefers a break from a device while cruising. Honestly, I felt like Disney Cruse Line was bullying me into using the app. After sitting on land for a week now, I look back and now realize there is truth to this statement given the length one must now go to get a printed daily schedule. Primarily, if you are a new cruiser, you may not be aware of the paper version of the Personal Navigator. We noticed plenty of guests walking around the Fantasy with paper Personal Navigators in hand. Clearly, we are not the only guests who prefer the paper grid. This was also confirmed by comments left on our trip reports and social media replies. Out of all the comments, there has not been one that states, I only want to use the Peronsal Navigator app.
I’m all for the reduction in paper waste and printing costs, but at least keep the schedules out in various places around the ship for those of us who prefer the old school option. I also appreciate that the paper copies are still available in your stateroom each night upon request, but I do not understand the additional hurdle of standing in line at Guest Services to get a copy.
I do not want to speak for everyone who feels the same as I do, but I will tell you what I’d like to see Disney Cruise Line do going forward with respect to Personal Navigators. I believe the paper and app versions of the Personal Navigators compliment each other. The paper copy has all the important information for each day in a concise format that if left in your pocket when you go in the Mickey Pool, or left on a deck 4 lounger will not cause panic within your sailing party. (I left my iPhone on a deck 4 lounger in Alaska, 30 minutes later as I was heading to dinner, I realized it was missing and thankfully, it was still on the chair.)
There are repeat cruisers that have been cruising with Disney for over 20 years and to abruptly discontinue presenting those guests as well as first time guests who choose to pay the ever increasing premium to cruise Disney with a Personal Navigator upon checkin without any mention is insulting if you ask me.
Seriously, this has absolutely nothing to do with reducing paper. Just look at the pile of useless paper that was delivered to our stateroom during our 7-night cruise.
I left out the 3 shopping guides, as I was not sure if those were sent to everyone’s stateroom still or were simply included because we requested a paper Personal Navigator.
If I had to wager, I bet those Adventures by Disney and Disney Vacation Club advertisements, and the shopping handouts are all being paid for by the respective entities and that is the reason why they are still being delivered. Also, to be fair, the Port Adventure tickets are still needed for excursions with third party tour operators who collect the tickets upon boarding their transportation.
In closing, your honor, I feel we can all meet in the middle with the following:
- Offer guests an embarkation day navigator at check-in and introduce them to the Navigator App.
- Ask the guest if they would like to receive a paper Personal Navigator each night at turndown
- Provide self-service paper copies of each day’s Personal Navigator at Guest Services or even outside the Walt Disney Theater each night.
- Continue to offer guest the port shopping guides at the events, the port shopping desk, and at the gangways.
This will help reduce the paper consumption and printing costs by printing probably less than a ream of paper Personal Navigators for each day based on guest demand. The important part of all of this is that Disney Cruise Line needs to be transparent with their guests and give them the choice.
We have a box of all our old Personal Navigators which are always fun to look back on. I heard from readers that they like to use them as part of their post cruise scrapbooking projects. Digital is not taking over, people still like to disconnect on their cruises, and people are not going to want to print screenshots of an app to place into a scrapbook.
I encourage you all to comment on this post with anything I missed, but Disney was once really in tune to guest feedback. Although, they are asking guests in a recent post cruise survey (see embedded twitter poll below). My best suggestion for those of you that feel passionate about the current state of Personal Navigators on the ships to take few minutes to contact Disney Cruise Line directly.
— Scott Sanders (@TheDCLBlog) April 2, 2019
UPDATE: Email response from Disney Cruise Line from a reader who sent Disney a note.