Disney Cruise Line continues to improve its Navigator app
If you haven't sailed on a Disney Cruise Line ship in the past year, you may be surprised to learn that Navigators -- the printed daily schedule of activities that are left in staterooms each night -- now are available on a free app that connects to the ship's WiFi at no charge.
I'm among those who have not had the opportunity to test the app for themselves, but I have to think this is a step in the right direction for many passengers. Even if guests prefer to turn off their phones to save money or "disconnect" while cruising, the reality is that cell-phone cameras now are used more than any other type of camera, so a lot of us are carrying our phones around the ships anyway to document our vacations. Why not check the day's schedule digitally instead of also toting around the mangled paper navigator?
The appropriately named Disney Cruise Line Navigator App launched last September on the Disney Fantasy and now can be used on the Dream, Wonder and Magic. If you are planning a cruise, download the app - available for free in the Apple App Store for iOS devices and Google Play for Android devices - before you arrive at the port. You can set a fun countdown clock, which was added during one of the upgrades in the fall. (The app is designed for smartphones but also functions on tablets. The app does not work on BlackBerry or Windows phone devices.)
Once onboard, turn your phone to airplane mode and connect to the ship's WiFi network. The DCL-GUEST network is complimentary for app use only. If you use the network for other functions, such as e-mail, surfing the Internet or texting, you will be subject to charges. You can pre-purchase blocks of time, if you wish to use other functions on your smartphone or other devices.
So, what exactly can you do with the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App? The cruise line says you can "share details on everything from operating hours, Disney character experiences and ports of call to onboard activities, dinner menus for Main Dining locations and deck plans. Guests can even bookmark their favorite activities for easy reference." An update in June added "reminders," a feature that sends a reminder 15 minutes before the start of an activity you favorited. In addition, guests can see other details found in the paper Navigator, such as the drink of the day, the evening's suggested dining attire, and even a weather forecast. Perhaps one of the best features is that passengers can view details for the entire sailing, not just the next day, as they would with a paper Navigator.
One exception is while the ship is docked at Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line's private island. The network is disconnected there and cached content is displayed.
One thing that the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app does not do is store and display information about activities you have booked, such as meal times, excursions, spa appointments. It is not customizable, like the My Disney Experience is at Walt Disney World. That's a shame, because many regular guests during the past year have come to rely on the My Disney Experience app for keeping track of everything they have planned while on property. Still, we just bet that upgrade is coming, especially because Disney Cruise Line has said they are continuing to add features to the app with each upgrade.
It doesn't appear that Disney Cruise Line is planning to phase out the paper Navigators any time soon. That's good news for those who don't have smartphones or guests who don't want to use them while onboard. Or maybe you're like me and would prefer to have both options. I would use the app on the ship and save the paper Navigator for my scrapbook!
What would you do? Tell us in the comments.