Wait, how much does a Disney cruise cost? That is the question many people ask and then have sticker shock when they see the average cost of a Disney Cruise. 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. So, is a Disney cruise worth it? YES
The Real Answer: How Much is a Disney Cruise?
If you are considering taking a Disney cruise, you’re probably wondering, “How much does a Disney Cruise cost”? You’ll probably also wonder what’s included and whether it’s worth the money. I’ve been on five Disney cruises, so clearly, I think that a Disney Cruise is worth the money; however, you may look at other cruise lines when planning for your vacation. Yes, Disney Cruise Line is almost always more expensive than its competitors, and without really knowing about the experience, it can be hard to justify. I’m here to try to explain why I believe a Disney Cruise is worth it.
The price of a Disney cruise depends on many factors: time of year, itinerary, length of time, and availability of staterooms. Here are some current average prices for a Disney Cruise from their website:
The Average cost of a Disney Cruise: Early 2021 Sailings
- 3-4 Night Cruises from Port Canaveral, Miami, San Diego, Galveston, and New Orleans – Starting at $1,600 per person
- 5 Night Cruises from Port Canaveral, Miami, San Diego, Galveston, and New Orleans – Starting at $2,400 per person
- 7 Night Cruises from Port Canaveral, Miami, San Diego, Galveston, and New Orleans -Starting at $3,200 per person
My recommendation to get the average cost of your Disney cruise at the best price is to book right when the itineraries are released. In February, they release the Summer Itineraries for the following year. In May/June, they release the Fall Itineraries for the following year. In September/October, they release the Winter Itineraries. If you miss the release date, sometimes prices for a Disney cruise go down if you book 1-2 months before the sailing date. This only occurs when there are staterooms that are empty. If this happens, you can get a lower rate by getting an IGT, OGT, or VGT. This means that you can book an Inside (Ocean or Verandah) Guaranteed Rate. Here you will not choose your room, but it will be assigned based on the category you selected. This can often bring the average price of a Disney cruise down significantly.
While the prices for a Disney cruise may shock you, Disney Cruise Line does give you more for your money and makes you feel pampered more than Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norweigan, Holland America, or Princess Cruises. Disney Cruise Line has won numerous honors and awards from travel professionals and hospitality industry groups. Here are some of them:
- Voted #1 for Families
- Named Best Cruise Line
- Best Private Island
- Voted Best in the Caribbean
Disney cruises provide world-class hospitality for families, adults, kids, and tweens/teens. Believe me when I say that there is something special for each type of person. From youth clubs to teen-only areas to adult-only pools and lounges, DCL has something made for you to enjoy onboard. The fun actually starts when you check-in online and can choose your Port Adventures, spa treatments, beverage seminars, character meet/greets and special breakfasts. Here is a list of some of the things included in the average price of a Disney Cruise:
- Broadway-style signature shows on each ship
- Character entertainment, deck parties, and meet and greets
- Spacious staterooms – many of which are designed for families with extra space and storage, and split baths to allow more people to get ready at the same time.
- Disney’s Private Island: Castaway Cay
- First-run movies and recent Disney movies at their Buena Vista Theatre
- A variety of dining options: Enjoy upscale restaurants with rotational dining, buffets, poolside snacks and 24-hour room service.
- Themed Youth Clubs for every age, staffed by specially trained Disney counselors.
- Nightclubs and lounges: Discover adults-only areas that include a variety of bars and pubs.
- Pools, splash areas, and water slides
Disney’s signature service and attention to detail are two major reasons guests continue to sail on DCL. It is why I continue to book Disney cruises and pay more over the competition. Below are ten reasons why I feel a Disney Cruise is worth it.
Is a Disney Cruise Worth it? Yes – Here’s why
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, yet it not over the top or in your face. The Disney decor is done tastefully and sleek. 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 onboard 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 Disney Cruise Line Navigator App, 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 group ones. Most ships will have a special Princess Meet and Greet where 6-8 Disney Princesses gather and greet guests individually in the lobby or a designated area. They also have a Frozen Meet and Greet too where you can talk and take pictures with Anna and Elsa on certain sailings. There are even Character Breakfasts on select sailings with the classic gang or Disney Junior characters which are all included in your price. Be sure to reserve a free ticket on the DCL Navigator App beforehand or at the latest on the first day of your cruise as they are limited.
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, classic, upscale, yet casual (meaning they aren’t stuffy). You feel as if you are on a luxury liner, yet are free to be yourself and enjoy it. In 2022, the newest ship, Disney Wish will be setting sail. It will be slightly larger than the Dream and the Fantasy.
No matter which ship you choose, all four 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. The two larger ships, the Dream and Fantasy do offer a little more in terms of entertainment just because they have more space for more activities. Click on each ship’s link below to glance at the different dining options, shows, themed spaces, and entertainment offered.
Compare Disney Cruise Ships:
If you would like to compare Disney cruise ships below is a list of the four ships, their itineraries, deck plans, entertainment, dining offerings, and more:
4. Dining Experiences
Another fantastic part of the Disney Cruise experience is dining. Disney calls their dining service – rotational dining. Each ship has three main dining rooms that rotate nightly depending on the length of your cruise (your wait staff rotates with you). 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 second seating (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 dinner service 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. In order to find out all of the day’s activities or upcoming activities, open your DCL Navigator App and find the Personal Navigator. You can “heart” what you are interested in and the app will notify you 15 minutes before so you don’t miss the show or activity. Disney Cruise Line used to print out a paper version of the Personal Navigator, and housekeeping would leave it on your bed at night. Now, it is online; however, you can request a paper copy at the concierge or sometimes they have them on display in the lobby after dinner.
One unique aspect of the Disney Cruise Line is that there are no casinos onboard. This is either a great thing for you or not. I personally love that there is no casino, as it gives more room for other fun activities, but I know there are people who love to cruise because of the casino component.
While the prices for a Disney cruise 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.
The deck parties and fireworks at sea are also fun activities for families. Kids will love singing and dancing with cast members and characters at the Sailing Away Party and the Farewell Party. On the Caribbean and Bahamas cruises, there is a beautiful Fireworks at Sea show with themed music and a great little story; however, it is usually at 9PM, and when our kids were toddlers they couldn’t stay awake.
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. Tip – If you are not feeling well or do not want to leave your stateroom, you can watch any of the live shows from your stateroom TV.
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 offer more amenities included in your sailing – like 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 or purchase pirate accessories 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.
Room service is also free of charge. You can order a simple breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner, and even dessert to your room at any time of the day. There are a few secret menu items: warm milk and cookies and a Mickey ice cream bar.
Another hidden perk that is available to guests is to bring a plain light-colored pillowcase or a small 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. *Note – someone mentioned to me that they tried this on a recent sailing and the concierge said it wasn’t available.
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! Other cruise lines usually have unlimited drink packages available for purchase, but do not let you bring any onboard at the start of your cruise. Now, if you want to bring your wine to dinner, they will charge you a corkage fee.
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. Palo serves Northern Italian cuisine, while Remy serves French cuisine (and is even more upscale). They each offer brunch, dinner, and sometimes dessert only experiences. Be sure to use your DCL Navigator App to book reservations to Palo and Remy if you want them as times fill up very quickly. If you cannot get them in advance before check-in, on Embarkation Day, go to the spot where they change dining reservations (ask a crew member) and they will usually have space.
Senses Spa is another very nice, secluded adults-only area. They offer a variety of full-service spa treatments that can be reserved ahead of time or during your cruise on the DCL Navigator App or even in person. While the spa treatments and massages are not cheap, there is one item that is much cheaper – The Rainforest Room. While each ship is slightly different, the Rainforest Room includes aromatherapy rain showers, warm ceramic loungers, steam rooms, saunas, jacuzzis, and scrubs. A day pass costs $30 and they have multi-day passes and couples packages at a discount.
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. Here is a list with descriptions of all the adult bars, nightclubs, and lounges on the ships. 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 shows 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. Note – you can also chat with family members on the DCL Navigator App for free.
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 doors too or even a small whiteboard to leave messages on for family members.
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!
There are cabanas for rent for families or adults on their different beaches, as well as many shore excursions available for purchase (kayaking, snorkeling, water bikes, and more. You should book your shore excursion in advance on your DCL Navigator App. Check out all there is to do on Castaway Cay.
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 (Serenity Bay). 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,
Disney also offers runners a chance to run a 5K on the morning they arrive on the island. This is something that many guests take advantage of. There are also plans to expand a new private island – Lighthouse Point.
No really, how much does a Disney Cruise cost?
Now, if after all this, you are considering taking a Disney Cruise and want 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 answer the question “is a Disney cruise worth it?” Also note that gratuities are always extra and not included on any Disney sailing.
Prices for a Disney Cruise
If you are looking to compare the prices for a Disney cruise with Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Celebrity, or NCL, I would suggest looking at their newer ships (the last 5 years). Even then it’s like comparing apples to bananas. They are not the same! When I compare Disney cruise ships to other cruise ships, it is not just the price. I take into account the type of people that are going to be on the ship, the dining experiences, the kids’ clubs, the service, the entertainment, and the story that Disney provides for your vacation.
When I priced out a similar week on DCL, Royal Caribbean, and NCL with very similar itineraries, I found that Disney was about $400 more per person. Please note that this was just a sample. It can be much more or even slightly less depending on the sailing and the rate when you purchase. While yes, the average cost of a Disney cruise means more money, it is about taking a luxury vacation and choosing to spend more on the quality, not doing Disney on a budget.
Combining a Disney Cruise and a WDW Vacation
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. You could even visit Disney World and not spend money on theme park admission and simply enjoy all of the things to do in Disney World besides the parks.
While this definitely adds more to your initial cruise 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 double the Disney fun. If you do plan on adding a Disney World vacation, check out my useful Disney packing list to help you save money on similar items at the parks and take a look at these ways to maximize your time at Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom with FastPass tips.
Booking a Disney Cruise
While you can certainly book a Disney Cruise on your own, I do not recommend that! Each cruise I have been on has been organized by a travel agent. Travel agents can help you find the right room, right rate, take care of all the details, and give you insight about the ship. Most importantly though, working with a travel agent usually guarantees that you will receive a “little gift” of an onboard credit.
Now that I have become a Disney Authorized Planner, I can help you plan your Disney Cruise or even your trip to Disney World or Disneyland. As you can see, I have been on all of the ships and can answer any question you may have plus give you some onboard credit with Vacationeer’s Disney Cruise promo. Email me, and I can help you get started.
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