By guest contributor Stephen Kiskamp
Last month when my wife and I reboarded the Disney Magic cruise ship for the second leg of our back-to-back cruises and entered our stateroom, we not only saw that our luggage had been properly moved from our previous room, but were surprised to see something that we hadn't seen before: On the desk next to the TV were two brand new Philips G955 handsets, a base charger, and an instruction pamphlet.
According to the accompanying instruction pamphlet, "Wave phones are a great way for families to stay in touch with one another while onboard the ship and ashore at Disney's Castaway Cay."
These Wave phones are also a great way for separated groups of travelers to keep in touch on board, or for teenagers to call their new best friends. You will also be able to call staterooms, shipboard services, or have them call your Wave phone.
My first thought was, "Oh, cool! New toys!" My second thought, after noticing that the base unit plugged into one of the two outlets on the desk covered both outlets, was that I lost access to an the second outlet. Luckily, there are two additional outlets behind the flat-panel TV (one being used by the TV), that could accommodate the charger. A quick move of the phone charger to behind the TV not only freed up the outlet, but desk space as well.
The two Wave phones are provided for free use to each cabin, with additional phones available for a rental fee of $3.50 per day per phone. Losing, damaging, or failing to return your Wave phone will cause a severe penalty: a charge of $250 per phone.
The phone names and numbers are set up logically based on the cabin number plus a unit number. So if you are in cabin 2574, your phones are numbers 25741 and 25742. Calling between a Wave phone and an onboard hard line phone is done by simply adding "41" before the number (for example, 412574 to call the cabin from the Wave phone, or 4125741 to call the Wave phone from the cabin).
Besides basic voice calls, the instruction pamphlet advertised many more features on the phone, even though not all of them are actually available:
- Sending and receiving text messages between Wave phones – works quite well. If you are accustomed to a smartphone with a full QWERTY keyboard, however, you will have to remember how to do keypad texting.
- Turning "Cadence Mode" on or off – you can change this setting under Menu > Settings.
- Automatically updating the time and date settings when switching on the handset – this works without problem.
- Central directory – each phone comes programmed with many useful numbers in its contact list, such as Fire, medical (both emergency and non-emergency), and Guest Services. Parents will also appreciate the convenience of having the numbers for Oceaneers Club and Lab, as well as the Character Hot Line right at their fingertips. Pre-programmed contacts are: Character Hot Line, Fire, Guest Services, Host/Hostess, Maintenance, Medical Emergency, Medical Non-Emergecy, Oceaneer Club, Oceaneer Lab, Room Service, Security, Stateroom Request, and Vista Spa. You cannot change these numbers.
Features that were locked to us included:
- Configuring audio and display settings – locked out when you go to Menu > Settings, all audio and display settings are locked out to the user. Changing ringtones, wallpaper, and themes are not allowed, though Disney has told you they are.
- Assigning daily and recurrent alarms – locked out when you go to Menu > Accessories. This is a shame, because setting reminder alarms for dinner, excursions, movies, or just plain waking up would be a nice touch.
- Using the calculator and stopwatch – locked out when you go to Menu > Accessories. I have no idea why, because there is nothing you could do within these functions to alter the phone.
As a side note, I was unaware that "Ship's Time" is apparently at the discretion of the ship's captain. On the first leg of our back-to-back cruises, the normal Western Caribbean itinerary kept the Eastern time zone (GMT -5 hours) designation throughout the cruise, even though Cozumel was on Central time (GMT -6 hours). On the second leg, the special Christmas 11-night Southern Caribbean itinerary switched to Atlantic time (GMT -4 hours) on the second night. According to one cruise cast member, this actually causes some issues with Bahamian law regarding the number of hours worked in a day. The phone didn't care; it changed time automatically.
The pamphlet includes instructions for such things as how to turn on/off your phone, how to make calls (both from Wave-to-Wave, and Wave to stateroom), how to send and receive text messages, as well as how to set up a speed-dial key. You can configure up to nine numbers can be selected for speed-dial, and only numbers in the contacts list can be set to a speed-dial key. It would have been nice if Disney had pre-programmed the two phone in the room with each other's number in the contact list so that you can assign them to a speed-dial button.
Although the pamphlet had instructions for how to leave and retrieve voicemail, when we tested this, our Wave phone just rang and rang, and never rolled our call to voicemail. Thinking that it had to be set up first on the handset, we tried the option to listen to voicemail, but we just got a busy signal; voicemail appears to be locked out to the user.
In exploring the menus, I discovered that Disney has left open the option for changing the displayed language of the phone. You get choices of English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Turkish, Polish, two kinds of Greek, two kinds of Russian (I think), and Norwegian.
One final "feature" of the Wave phone is the fact that you cannot turn off the backlit screen. This will either continually annoy you, or provide you with a convenient nightlight for those pitch-black interior staterooms. Either way, it will drain the battery faster than you would normally expect, so with two phones and one charger, rotation charging is a must.
The Wave phones go a long way to keeping families in contact with each other. We used the phones when one of us was on deck for sailaway from a port, and we needed to find each other. There are some locations where coverage is spotty, but we could usually remedy this by moving slightly to improve the signal. Many of our uses involved calling to and from our stateroom on Deck 2 to wherever the other person was. Sound quality is very good, and about what you expect from a basic cell phone.
Our first practical test of sending a text message was a bit troublesome. After composing my message and entering the recipient's number, I had to resend it three times before the system would accept it. Fortunately the text was received instantaneously, but it was a good reminder to make sure the message actually gets sent if you are sending important information.
All in all, Disney's new Wave phone should be an extremely useful tool for helping families to stay in touch during their cruise. However, while basic communication is valuable, with so many options locked out, full functionality of the advertised features would be nicer.