Guests traveling on the Disney Cruise Line ships have long relied on the Personal Navigator, a daily printed guide to information about the timing of onboard activities such as movies, shows, character greetings, and youth activities. In late 2013, DCL introduced the Personal Navigator in app form. It took a while for the app to be fully functional on all four of Disney’s ships, and there’s some information that still works better in a print format, which is still available, but the app now has enough functionality and unique features that you can almost get away with using it exclusively. Here’s what you need to know …
How can I get the Disney Navigator App?
It’s available via free download from the iTunes App Store or from Google Play for Android.
OK, I got the download, but it doesn’t look like there’s much to it.
You’re right. With one exception, there’s not much that happens with the Navigator App while you’re on dry land. The real functionality of the app only happens while you’re on board a Disney ship. The one cool thing the app can do on land is work as a countdown clock for your sail date. You can use the countdown clock to amp up the excitement as your trip gets closer, or to remind you that you really do have to start packing.
How do I make the app give me more information?
Once you’re onboard your cruise, log on to the ship’s WiFi system. Then launch the app. It will detect which ship you’re on and provide the unique schedule for your voyage.
Wait — log on to the WiFi? Aren’t there big charges for that? I don’t want to have to pay to get the daily schedule.
No worries. If you’re just using the Navigator app, you won’t incur any fees to access the WiFi. There are instructions on the app, but here are the basic steps to follow to use the app without paying WiFi fees.
- Go into Settings and Turn Airplane mode ON.
- In Settings, Turn WiFi ON.
- Select DCL-GUEST WiFi.
- Launch the Navigator App.
Remember to keep your device on Airplane Mode and you’ll be fine.
OK, I’ve got the App fired up. Now what can it do?
There are six main categories of App function: Dining Information (including menus), Deck Plans (maps of the ship), Hours of the various ship services (shops, gym, etc.), Activity Schedules, Debarkation Information (what you need to do at the end of your vacation), and my favorite feature Onboard Chat.
What’s so great about the Onboard Chat function?
Onboard chat is basically allows you to text other passengers on the ship, for free. Previously guests had been able to do a version of this on the Wave Phones provided in the DCL cabins. But the App functionality is far superior. Here’s why:
- It uses a device, your phone or tablet, that you’re already familiar with.
- You’ll likely have your phone with you for use as a camera anyway. There’s no need to remember to bring a different piece of electronics like the Wave Phone.
- You can chat with every phone owner in your party, even if they’re not together. My husband, my three teen daughters, and I each have our own cell phone. There are only two Wave Phones per room. This meant that with the Wave Phones someone was likely to be out of reach. With the app, we all have communication access. On a recent trip, I went to the show while one daughter was at the pool and the other was at the Vibe teen club. I could easily let each of them know where I was, no one was forced to be out of the loop because we had a limited number of communication devices.
- You can easily share your chat information and interact with other guests, if you want to. I met a friend on the ship for brunch. When she was running late, I could easily get the message because we had exchanged chat access.
- Parents can configure children’s access to the chat function to meet their own specifications, allowing the level of access that’s comfortable for each family.
The Onboard Chat feature of the Navigator App basically makes it as easy and intuitive to communicate with family and friends on the ship as it is to communicate with them back at home.
What can you tell me about the App’s dining information?
The App will show you the complete menus for every restaurant on the ship, usually several days in advance. Of course you can always wait until they hand you the menu at the restaurant to see what your food option are, but there may be some instances when knowing the menu in advance, or knowing what’s being served in a different restaurant, can be very helpful.
- If the evening menu is particularly appealing (or unappealing), you can adjust your eating for the rest of the day accordingly.
- If you have a particularly picky child in your party, you can plan in advance whether to dine at Cabanas, try room service, or have the child eat in the kids’ club.
- If you see a favorite dish on the main dining room menu for a night that you have a reservation at Palo, you can try to modify your Palo reservation for a different evening.
- If you see something particularly appealing on the menu of a different dining room, you can ask to have it brought to you at your meal. (Yes, you can order anything served at any of the three main dining rooms, not just the one you’re assigned to.)
What’s different about seeing the activity schedule on the App versus seeing it on the printed Navigator?
The main difference is that the App includes some descriptive information about the activity that there is simply not enough room for in the print version. For example, with the Cartoon Physics activity, the printed Navigator just listed “Cartoon Physics Class,” but the app included a description of the class and a listing of alternative times for the same activity at other points in the sailing. I found this particularly helpful with the kids’ club activities, which tend to be labeled with inscrutable names on the print Navigator.
Another big bonus of the App is that clicking on an activity’s location will bring you to a deck plan showing the location on a map of the ship. If you don’t know where “La Piazza” or “D Lounge” is, the map will show you.
Yet another nice feature of the App is that you can set it to alert you to upcoming events. If you want a reminder that Bingo is at 4:00 pm, you can set the App to send you a text or vibrate 15 minutes before the start time.
Anything else I should know about?
The App can be updated in real time, so if there are changes to the activity schedule, you’ll see those changes reflected in the electronic schedule quite quickly. The Navigator is sometimes reissued, but printing and distribution of the changes on paper takes quite a bit longer.
When would I want to use the paper Navigator instead of the App?
Well, of course some guests don’t have cell phones and some guests will want to leave their phones firmly tucked inside their suitcase while on vacation.
There may be guests who prefer the display of the paper format. With the grid, it may be somewhat easier to visualize which activity times pose potential conflict areas.
The print Navigator also gives guests an overview cover page with some information that’s surprisingly absent from the app, including the day’s weather forecast, shopping highlights, and some trivia about the ship, although I suspect these items will eventually appear in a future app update.
Have you used the Navigator App? What were the pros and cons you found when using the App? Do you prefer using the paper version? Do you use both versions? Let us know in the comments below.