Wait, how much does a Disney cruise cost? You will likely have sticker shock when you see how much a Disney cruise costs. Disney cruises are usually double or triple the price of traditional family cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, or Norwegian Cruise Line, yet they remain a popular choice for families who love Disney and love to cruise. These magical trips do not come cheap. So why do people book Disney Cruise Line and choose to pay so much more? The answer is simple. You get what you pay for! The Disney cruise experience is unlike the competition. I even think that a Disney Cruise is better than a Disney vacation! While I am always a proponent of saving money, the value you receive for what you spend is worthwhile, and it is one of the few things I splurge on. Here are ten reasons a family trip on
Disney Cruise Tips
1. Disney Everywhere
The theming aboard Disney Cruise Line is spectacular. From the second you are welcomed aboard by the crew, you walk into a huge atrium filled with Disney style. The artwork on each ship is masterfully crafted with Disney memorabilia and design. Even the staircases, elevators, banisters, light fixtures, bathrooms, and carpet all have a Disney element. For someone who loves Disney, your time spent aboard this ship will feel magical.
2. Character Meet and Greets
This is one huge area where Disney Cruise Line excels. They offer character meet and greets every day while on board and during port hours at all times of the day with minimal wait. When you are visiting any one of the Disney Parks, waiting in line is almost guaranteed. There are even Fastpass tickets for guests to meet a number of Disney characters, which end up cutting into your ride time on popular attractions. By checking your Personal Navigator (your daily schedule of activities), guests can see what characters will be in certain areas at what exact time. The longest a guest will wait is about 10-15 minutes. While the cast of characters varies slightly on each ship, most of the characters are the ones you would expect to appear. This is a huge perk that makes a Disney cruise experience special.
Often characters are dressed in themed outfits. For example, on Pirate Night, Mickey and friends wear pirate gear, while on the formal evening, they wear tuxedos and evening gowns. Characters also make appearances on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, in the Bahamas. Here you can find Goofy, Donald and even Stitch wearing board shorts. On Halloween themed cruises, the characters themselves wear “costumes” too. For those on a European sailing, the characters even have that special touch. For example, Goofy dresses like a Venetian gondolier.
Another great part about the character meet and greets are the special event ones. Most ships will have a special Princess Meet and Greet where 6-8 Disney Princesses gather and great guests individually. They also have a Frozen Meet and Greet too where you can talk and take pictures with Anna and Elsa. Be sure to get a free ticket from the concierge for these events on the first day of your cruise.
If you happen to be sailing on a Star Wars, Marvel or Pixar themed cruise, then your character meet and greets will be even more unique. While nothing matches Disney’s characters, other cruise lines have come up with some competition. Carnival has partnered with Dr. Seuss, Royal Caribbean has DreamWorks characters, and Nickelodeon recently ended its partnership with Norwegian Cruise Line. Clearly, if you enjoy characters, a Disney cruise experience is a must do!
Perhaps my favorite part about these meet and greets is the attention to detail that each character takes with the guests. My daughter danced with Peter Pan, had a long conversation with Princess Aurora and sat on Snow White’s lap. The characters on the ship take their time with you and do not rush you off as they do in the Disney Parks. This little touch made my daughter feel extra special, and nothing made her happier than interacting with those characters.
3. Disney Ships
To date, there are four Disney ships. The two smaller ones, with almost 900 staterooms are the Wonder and Magic. Both ships were recently updated since they debuted in 1998-99. The larger ships, with 1,250 staterooms, are the newer class, Dream and Fantasy. I have been on all four Disney ships and can tell you that I have loved each of them for a different reason. They are all modern looking, upscale, yet casual. No matter which ship you choose, they all have their own unique qualities, but they all retain the same Disney charm. The deciding factor may just be the ships’ port of call and itinerary. Click on each ship’s link below to glance at the different dining options, shows, themed spaces, and entertainment offered.
4. Dining Experiences
Another fantastic part of the Disney Cruise experience is the dining. Each ship has three main dining rooms that rotate nightly depending on the length of your cruise. Naturally, the menu is themed to the decor of the restaurant. Lumiere’s serves mostly French cuisine, Tiana’s Place is centered around Southern/Cajun food and the others (Triton’s and Cinderella’s Royal Table) are more classic menus.
For me, the best dining experience can be found at Animator’s Palate. No matter which Disney ship you cruise on, this restaurant is a staple. When you arrive at your assigned seating, the restaurant is filled with empty black and white sketches of popular Disney characters. As the meal progresses, those sketches turn to color. There are also interactive video screens with Crush. The surfer turtle chats with members of your table and tells jokes about underwater life. On longer cruises, the second night at Animator’s Palate cannot be missed. Guests are given a blank page to sketch on and then it gets turned in to your server. Before the evening ends, your sketches are on the walls and brought to life by the magic of Disney animation!
In addition to the three main nightly restaurants, during the day you are free to have breakfast or lunch at one of the dining restaurants mentioned above or at a more casual setting on the upper decks. Cabanas is the main buffet restaurant located in the upper deck by the pools. They serve all 3 meals in a buffet style with plenty of delicious offerings for kids and adults. Kids will also love the small hamburger, hot dog, pizza, and ice cream booths on the same deck area open most of the day. All of these options are a great reason why families pay more to take a Disney cruise.
Disney also offers a program called Dine and Play. It is provided at no additional cost and is offered to families with children during the later 8 pm dinner seating. You simply tell your server ahead of time and they will bring out the main meal for the kids while parents have appetizers. As soon as your kids are done, one of the Youth Club counselors will pick them up and walk them to the Oceaneer’s Club. Parents are now free to have the rest of the meal to themselves. Royal Caribbean has a similar program, but it is only offered the first seating of dinner.
Check out: Ultimate Guide to Disney Cruise Food
5. Youth Clubs
If ever there was an answer to “why take a Disney cruise?”, this is the reason. The youth clubs are phenomenal! They are broken down into three age groups: 6 months – 3 years old at the Small World Nursery, 4-12 years old at the Oceaneer’s Lab and Club, 11-14 years old at Edge, and 14-17 years old at Vibe. While I only have experience with the Oceaneer’s Lab and Club, I know from friends that the others are equally as enjoyable.
The Oceaneer’s Club and Lab are truly a slice of heaven for kids. While each ship is slightly different, the offerings and the care taken by the counselors are spot on. Kids check-in with a magic band and parents must drop off and pick up using a password. You can also stop by to check-in and the counselor up front will check the GPS and tell you what area your child is in. I literally had to drag my kids out of there most of the time because they were having so much fun playing games, tracing characters, building crafts, doing a science experiment, cooking, dancing with a Disney character, playing dress up, or having a late night pajama party. I cannot say enough great things about this play space and the abundance of things to do for kids.
6. Daytime and Nighttime Entertainment
Disney cruises are filled with both daytime and nighttime entertainment for the entire family. From pools to deck parties, and live shows to character experiences, there are a wealth of activities to do while in port or at sea. The Personal Navigator is placed on your bed by the time you return from dinner and there are so many fun things to plan for. One unique aspect about Disney Cruise Line is that there are no casinos onboard.
While a Disney cruise cost can be substantial, Disney offers so much entertainment for the money spent. A great way to take advantage of this is to watch currently playing or recently released Disney movies in the Buena Vista Theater. My family was able to watch Star Wars movies, Marvel movies and Pixar movies that had recently been in theaters and one that was currently out in theaters. It was amazing and free!
During the day my kids enjoyed playing mini-golf (only offered on the largest ships Dream and Fantasy), table tennis, shuffleboard, and basketball. They rode the waterslides, played in the pool and splash areas with their little cousin and watched a movie on the pool deck. My husband and I either played with them or planned a tequila tasting around the time they were checked into the Oceaneer’s Club.
At night, we took pictures with characters, played family trivia games in the D Lounge and watched some spectacular Broadway-style shows like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen or Tangled. There were also amazing sing-alongs from classic Disney movies and so many Disney characters on stage at the Golden Mickeys, Twice Charmed, and Wishes. The only time we did not watch the shows was when there was a magician scheduled as my kids were not interested in that.
7. Attention to Detail and Service
This really boils down to why people pay more to travel on Disney Cruise Line. The question of how much does a Disney cruise cost may not matter to you when you receive such a high level of service. While on the cruise, you are catered to by Disney staff members and your kids have smiles from ear to ear. Guests must understand that if you want impeccable attention to detail and service, you will have to pay up, and many do.
I love the idea of themed sailings, like the Halloween on High Seas and Very MerryTime Sailing. Our family enjoyed the Halloween sailing immensely. The decor was stunning and made you feel as if you were transported to Main Street at a Disney Park. I was able to compare since I had been on other sailings before, that the Halloween cruise is meticulously crafted. There are so many small details that Disney alters to make this cruise feel extra special. Although I have not sailed on one, I hope to enjoy a Marvel, Pixar or Star Wars Day at Sea in the near future.
Another wonderful perk of a Disney cruise is how attentive the waiters are with younger diners. Waiters take extra care to make sure you are happy with your meal and take even better care of your kids. I couldn’t believe it when our waiter cut up my son’s chicken and then poured his ketchup in the shape of Mickey’s ears on his plate. On day two of our cruise, the waiter put my kids’ names on their cups and had their chocolate milk waiting for them. Our waiters often did magic tricks, juggling, card tricks, and just made my kids laugh and feel special. Disney goes the extra mile.
8. Hidden Perks
There are some hidden perks when you take a Disney cruise that you may not know about. Disney is the only cruise line to include soft drinks at no extra charge. While Norwegian, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean all offer soda packages at an additional cost per person. As silly as this may sound to some, soft drinks for a family can add up, and this small perk can be big savings.
Be on the lookout for characters, as they are often out and about on the pool deck for some pictures and dancing. Donald was once in the elevator with us and held our daughter’s hand as we were on our way to dinner. After the last show, characters come out into the crowd and take some pictures on a first come first served basis, so have your camera handy.
Disney Cruises often themed nights and options to dress up. Most Disney Cruises offer a pirate night where guests and characters dress as pirates. You are given a bandana if you’d like to participate, but guests can bring items from home and take some unique pictures on board. Check out other ideas on this Disney packing list. On captain’s night, guests have the option of dressing formally. This is a great opportunity to get some family pictures for free. Ask a cast member to take your picture or get it professionally taken that night for less than the cost of doing it back home.
If you would like a unique free souvenir from your Disney cruise, bring a plain light colored pillowcase or an empty frame with white space and some colored permanent markers. You can give it to the concierge and ask that the characters sign it for you. It will be ready for pickup on the last day of your cruise.
9. Adult Benefits
Another great Disney cruise tip is that every person over 21 can bring in two bottles of wine or champagne or a 6 pack of beer. This is a fantastic adult benefit! Another nice adult perk is that for an additional fee, you can dine at two upscale restaurants, Palo and Remy. If you want a date night, send your kids to the Oceaneer’s Club and pay a little to have a fancy night out for much less than a restaurant on land.
If your kids are in the Oceaneer’s Club or you are traveling with other people that can watch them, there is an adults only pool area. This area is so much quieter than the rest of the ship. In addition to its own bar, there are lounge chairs, a coffee shop, and a hot tub to enjoy the peace for a while.
The bars and lounges on all 4 Disney cruise ships are incredible. Each is themed differently and offer parents a little escape from the hustle and bustle of the cruise. My personal favorite is the Skyline lounge that offers a panoramic view of different cities around the world and pairs them with special drinks from those cities. The pubs are also a great place to hang out and play trivia games. For a small fee, all ships have liquor, beer, and wine tastings and even seminars on mixology that are quite enjoyable and educational.
10. Your Stateroom
A stateroom on a Disney cruise is right about the same size as its’ competitors (maybe a tiny bit bigger). What helps offset the answer to the question, how much does a Disney cruise cost, is that even your room is filled with magical Disney elements (like a secret bunk bed). In addition to the Mickey decor and Disney art, you can watch Disney movies from your television. This was such a huge benefit when we were getting ready for dinner or unwinding at night. You can also watch the show from the previous night, which we ended up doing when our kids were creating Flubber at the Oceaneer’s Lab.
The stateroom also has a great feature that helps families get ready in the mornings and before dinner: a split bathroom. Disney’s cabin design includes a sink and toilet in one and a sink and shower/tub in the other. This small detail was a brilliant plan of efficiency and one that reduces waiting time, and thus reduces fighting. Recently, Carnival began offering a similar cabin design in the Family Harbor Suites.
While I am not a fan of Interior rooms, due to our budget we chose this option twice. I am very happy that we did because of the magical porthole that would animate by surprise. The kids loved seeing Tinkerbell flash through the screen or get a real-life view from the outside during the day. To be honest, unless the Oceanfront rooms are deeply discounted, this is my go-to option.
Another fantastic perk of taking a Disney cruise are the two wave phones that found in your stateroom. My husband and I each carry one and they were so helpful when reaching each other if we split up with the kids during the day. If you are dropping one of your kids off at the Oceaneer’s Club, you must take a phone with you as they will call you to say when one of your children wants to be picked up. These phones also offer the ability to text, which came in quite handy when traveling with other family members and setting a meeting point.
Another interesting fact about your stateroom is that your exterior door is adorned with a fish that shows your room number. This fish will actually help guide you in the right direction. When you get off the elevator, sometimes it can be hard to tell if you’re going forward or aft, but if you look at the direction of the fish, it tells you. The fish can also be used to hang decorations called fish extenders. Since your stateroom door is magnetic, people will often bring magnets to decorate their door too.
Check out: A Complete Guide to Disney Springs for Kids
Bonus – Castaway Cay
Why take a Disney cruise? Because most itineraries will take you to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. This is by far my favorite cruise private island ever! It has character opportunities, a bike path, a delicious BBQ buffet lunch, and crystal clear Bahaman water that has a net around the lagoon to keep larger fish away. There are hammocks to relax in and plenty of umbrellas for shade. It gets better… In the family area, there is a platform with two spectacular slides that drop you into the water. You will need to swim out to it, and lines tend to get quite long, but it is a must-do activity the moment you arrive on Castaway Cay. Our entire family spends a solid hour sliding down and swimming back to the slides. We truly have a blast!
Another great part of Castaway Cay is that Disney is the only cruise line to offer babysitting on its private island. Although Royal Caribbean does have supervised kids program and Princess Cruises does have a playground for kids, none have the offerings Disney Cruise Line has on Castaway Cay. Our kids wanted to be dropped off for a bit, so we left them for an hour at Scuttle Cove and took the tram to the adults only beach. All I can say is, wow! My husband and I had a drink, sat in a lounge chair on the water’s edge, and enjoyed the temporary peace. To this day we are aching to return to this little piece of paradise.
Another perk that helps offset the Disney cruise cost is that they do not charge guests to borrow their jogging strollers,
No really, how much does a Disney Cruise cost?
Now, if you really wanted an answer to “how much does a Disney cruise cost?” then click here to check rates for some upcoming sailings. Otherwise, the purpose of this post was to share the perks of cruising with Disney and also some Disney cruise tips if you were thinking of booking a Disney cruise in the near future. While cruising on a Disney ship is not what I would consider doing Disney on a budget, there are ways to save money while on board. I highly recommend saving up for travel and booking a Disney cruise, because honestly, there is nothing like a Disney cruise experience.
For those of you who want even more of a Disney overload, guests can choose to purchase a land and sea package and add a stay at a WDW resort and theme park admission in addition to your Disney Cruise. While this is only available for sailings out of Port Canaveral, you may want to consider combining a stay before or after your cruise to stay at one of the five Disney value resorts, moderate resorts, or some great off-site choices for the best family resorts in Orlando. While this definitely adds more to your initial budget, it may be worthwhile especially if it is your first time visiting Disney or you just want to go all out and splurge on the Disney fun. Check out these ways to maximize your time at Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom with FastPass tips.
If you are traveling with little ones, there is still plenty for them to do and enjoy. Check out this post on Toddlers Love Disney Cruise to read more about the fun things to do and specific activities geared towards younger kids.
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