When families are considering a cruise, I am often asked, “Is a Disney Cruise worth it?” Or, I am asked which is the best cruise for kids.
Now, we have cruised other cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruise lines, and all have their pros and cons, quite honestly. But when it comes to those other cruise lines, here's the thing – they aren't Disney!
We have been on many Disney cruises, including when our son was an infant. We have done a short Disney cruise on the Disney Wonder and a longer cruise on the Disney Dream, and both have been worth it.
From the kids club to the thematic rotational dining to the world-class entertainment to the Disney-themed decor and access to the Disney characters, Disney Cruise Line is so much fun and a top-notch family vacation. Even small children can have a great time on this vacation.
If you love Disney and are looking for the ultimate Disney vacation for your family, and if you want something different from the typical Walt Disney World trip, then a Disney Cruise vacation may be just what your family is looking for.
Here is everything you need to know about Disney Cruises, plus some Disney Cruise tips to help you decide if a Disney Cruise is worth it for your next vacation. Whether you choose the Disney Dream, Disney Wonder, or one of the other Disney cruise ships, here's all you need to know to decide if a Disney Cruise Line is worth it for your next family vacation.
Spoiler alert: It's so unique that these Disney Cruise Line vacations are definitely worth it. And, the happiness of my kids makes it worth every penny! Read on to find out why.
This post may contain affiliate links which means I receive a small commission at no cost to you should you make a purchase using this link. See my disclosures. Cover photo credit: Photo credit: © Dacasdo | Megapixl.com
Why Consider A Disney Cruise
I am going to put it in one word: Disney. When it comes to fanatical attention to detail, top-notch service, and family-friendliness, no one does it like a Disney vacation.
But you may be trying to decide, is a Disney Cruise Line vacation worth it? After all, a Disney cruise can be a more expensive family vacation and more expensive than other cruise lines. And, you are not getting the full Disney theme park experience.
But, whether it's Disney or other cruise lines, most of these cruises are all-inclusive. So, you will pay a bit more for that experience.
That said, a Disney Cruise offers a completely different type of vacation than the Disney theme parks and other cruises. And, what stands Disney cruise line part is that they immerse you in the Disney experience.
Here's why you should look into if a Disney Cruise is worth it for your family.
About Disney Cruise Line
When trying to decide, is a Disney Cruise Line vacation worth it, you probably want to know a little about this exclusive cruise line. So, now it's time for a little Disney Cruise 101. When you sail with Disney, you're in for a unique and unforgettable adventure.
The Disney Cruise Line debuted with the Cruise ship Disney Magic back in 1998. It was a raving success from the start, and now there are five ships – Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Fantasy, and Disney Dream. The Disney Wish is the newest cruise ship.
Each ship comes with the latest in comfort and technology. You'll find plenty of things to do from kids clubs, Cast Member onboard activities, nightclubs to shops to state-of-the-art recreational facilities, to outstanding onboard shopping for that special Disney souvenir.
On a Disney Cruise, you sail to exotic places with unforgettable shore excursions (including Cast Away Cay, Disney's island, and my favorite shore excursion) and experience new things for an unforgettable vacation. And, you can choose between a short Disney cruise or a longer cruise.
There are many departure ports all around the world, with one of the most popular ones being in Port Canaveral, Florida.
Disney Cruise Line Lengths and Destinations
Disney Cruise lines offer a variety a range of lengths for you to choose for your next cruise vacation. There are options for short Disney cruises of a minimum three-night cruise or four-night cruise (often on the Disney Wonder) to longer cruises as many as 14 nights or more.
And the destinations really run the gamut. In fact, my parents took a 14-Day Panama Canal cruise, with many ports of call, that fulfilled a lifelong dream of theirs. So you really can enjoy a Disney Cruise to a variety of destinations.
If you are wondering how much is a Disney Cruise, that all depends on the length and destinations of the cruise. It also depends on the type of cabin you choose.
A note about Disney Cruise Destinations
Our last Disney Cruise was a 7 night Caribbean cruise that had stops in the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Bahamas, and Cozumel in Mexico. And there were a couple of days at sea. There was a range of shore excursions that ranged from a simple beach and shopping day to scuba diving in one of the incredible Cozumel dive sites.
Yes, other cruise lines also stop at similar or the same destinations. But the difference on the Disney Cruise Line is – it's Disney.
While the destinations and shore excursions were excellent, it is the whole Disney Cruise experience, from embarkation to debarkation, that makes the vacation memorable. In other words, it is the JOURNEY, as much as the DESTINATIONS. Even on a short cruise on the Disney Wonder!
With Disney Cruise Line, you can sail to a range of places including the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, the Panama Canal, Hawaii, Transatlantic, and more. It really is a great way to see the world, with incredible shore excursions along the way. And, you may be able to enjoy an upgraded shore excursion curated by Adventures By Disney.
A note about Short Disney Cruises
Some people wonder, “Is a short Disney cruise worth it?” And, we have done those too – both the three-day and four-day short Disney cruises.
The answer: YES, even with the short Disney cruises, you can enjoy quite a lot of Disney magic!
Because, when it comes to cruising, the ship ITSELF is part of the destination. Especially on a Disney Cruise. When we have sailed the Disney Wonder for a short cruise, it feels like a long get away, even at three or four days.
We have sailed other cruise lines for a short cruise as well. And as I said before, the major difference is Disney.
From the thematic dining to the shows to the pools and activities to the Disney characters and even a one-day stop at Castaway Cay, you will still get to enjoy all of these even on a short Disney cruise. In my opinion, ANY Disney Cruise is worth it – it's that special!
We have done Disney short cruises a few times on the Disney Wonder and they are like any weekend getaway, only this one is at sea! When you ask ” are short Disney cruises worth it” I would say yes, a short Disney cruise IS WORTH IT, especially if you love Disney.
All Disney ships offer similar amenities (though some differ slightly) but with a Disney-themed kids club and that added pixie dust other cruises don't have, you can rest assured it is one of the best family vacations out there. Especially for small children.
Is a Disney Cruise Worth It?
In a word, YES! But are you wondering what Disney Cruises are like?
In a couple of words, they're magical.
Disney Cast Members go out of their way to create the best vacation experience for the whole family. And, it differs from other mainstream cruise lines in that it is all Disney-themed, in every nook and cranny. But that doesn't mean adults can't enjoy it.
Whether you travel solo or take advantage of the kids club, there are adult-only areas too, including an adult-only restaurant. Plus, Disney cruises make wonderful multigenerational family vacations, as our family experienced celebrating my dad's 70th birthday!
You'll find so many things to do on a Disney Cruise that it's hard to do it all in one vacation. But remember, the cruise ship IS the destination, even though it may stop for many shore excursions.
Disney fans love the daily activities, pools with water slides, musicals that rival those on Broadway, a movie theater (that plays Disney movies,) and much more. And, then there are the thematic restaurants and rotational dining (which means you move each night to a new thematic restaurant so you don't miss a thing!) Most other cruise lines don't have this.
And, there are the character “meet n greets” and themed events, like Pirates Night or Star Wars Day (you don't find on some of the other cruises). The deck parties are so much fun for families.
Maybe you just want to relax on one of the pool decks of the adults-only pools. Well, there's plenty of time to do that when the children are at the Kids Clubs onboard. And my kids had so much fun in the Kids Clubs, they ASKED to go back!
One of the best parts about Disney Cruises is, depending on your itinerary; you wake up in a different country every day or even Disney's own gorgeous private island, Castaway Cay.
Let's look at the things included with Disney Cruise fares.
What's Included in a Disney Cruise?
Often I am asked what makes a Disney cruise worth it compared to other cruise lines. Here's what's included in the Disney Cruise Line cruise fare:
Tons of Entertainment Options
There are Broadway-style shows and live showings of Disney films like Frozen and Aladdin on the Disney ships. Families can also partake in the many fun activities and games like dance parties and karaoke.
Disney Cruises have a variety of hotel accommodations, from luxurious suites to staterooms designed specifically for families. You can even choose a cozy stateroom retreat.
The rooms are thoughtfully designed with families in mind and like a four-star hotel on a cruise ship. Personally, I think their state rooms are more geared toward families compared to other cruise lines.
Meals and Snacks
Meals and soft drinks are included and available 24-hours a day. Everyone gets complimentary coffee, tea, bottled water, and soft drinks. There are even late-night snacks, and room service is free any time of day or night. You pay extra for alcohol or having bottled water delivered to your room. I recommend bringing a water bottle so you can refill your water or soft drinks at the fountains as needed.
Rotational Themed Dining
One great thing about meals on these cruises is the rotational dining rooms where you're assigned to a different dining room every day. Most other cruise lines do not do this.
There are three main dining rooms so on longer cruises you'll eat at some of them more than once. And the thematic dining is a show unto itself, with changing color, interactive experiences and if you here the pixie dust sound, look around as you never know if a special character might be coming in for a visit! The dining experience is exceptional, just like every other part of the cruise.
Easy Access to Disney Characters and Meet and Greets
You'll find easier access to the characters and the meets and greets onboard. This access is even better than those at Disney Resorts and Parks. The characters are in many places for photo opportunities and autographs.
Everything is Themed
You'll see Disney's legendary storytelling in everything you do, as everything has a theme. You'll find activities onboard are themed, and there are even Days at Sea like Star War Day at Sea and Marvels Day at Sea.
Disney's Famous Customer Service
Disney's known for its legendary customer service. Their amazing service sets them apart. You'll have the same team of servers that travels with you, so they'll get to know you and your family over the duration of the trip.
The legendary customer service is often one of the main reasons I say yes whenever anyone asks me, is a Disney Cruise worth it?
Stop at Castaway Cay
If you're on a Caribbean or Bahamas Cruise, the ship will stop at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island, for one day. Enjoy some beach time, water sports, a BBQ lunch, and other activities including the Kids Clubs on the island. You can even participate in the Castaway Cay 5K which is usually early in the morning once the Disney Cruise Ship arrives in the port. So if you are up for it, you can first run the island before coming spending the day relaxing there.
Awesome Kids' Clubs
The Kids' Club makes Disney Cruise Line an attractive family vacation option. They provide hours of entertainment with themes such as Marvel, Toy Story, Star Wars, Cars, and more. My kids had SO MUCH FUN in the kids club that they kept asking to go back! There is also the It's A Small World nursery for the youngest Mouseketeers on board. The Cast Members take excellent care of the little ones, while you can enjoy a quiet moment on the pool deck.
Kids Splash Areas and Pools
A Disney Cruise is worth it for the kids' splash pads and pools. One nice thing about Disney Cruises is there are splash plads for young kids and pools like Mickey's Pool and Nemo's Reef, and separate adults' only pools. The Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy have the AquaDuck waterslide and the Disney Magic has the AquaDunk waterslide.
Movies at the Movie Theater Onboard
First-run Star Wars, Disney, and Marvel movies are no additional cost. This activity is unique to the Disney Cruise Lines.
Pirate Night is a family favorite offered on select cruises and includes themed-food, fireworks, Disney characters dressed as pirates, and more. It's a favorite feature for many families.
Disney Cruises also feature fun-themed dance parties for the whole family where you can dance with Mickey and other Disney Characters.
While you can play miniature golf is something you can play anywhere if it's a family favorite, the Disney Fantasy ship has a 9-hole mini-golf course called Goofy Golf. There are also sports areas on the cruise ships as well.
So, is a Disney Cruise worth it? Absolutely because you won't find many vacations with all these things included in the price.
What is Not Included in a Disney Cruise?
While Disney Cruises are all-inclusive, there are some things not included but available for an additional charge, such as:
- Premium dining
- Premium Coffee
- Some family activities like Family Bingo
- Wi-Fi – You'll need to purchase an internet package onboard internet access for use outside the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app.
Transportation to the port your cruise leaves from, and your port excursions are extra costs to factor in when planning your vacation. and gratuity is not included.
In-room babysitting is an extra cost, and renting the nursery for babies is an hourly charge.
Disney Cruise Line vs. Other Cruise Lines
If you are going to spend money on a cruise vacation, you want to make sure you cruise smarter. There are so many things that set a Disney Cruise apart from other cruise vacations and make it a great option for families.
First of all, you can't get the Disney experience on any other cruise. Here are some other reasons Disney Cruises are worth considering.
Disney Cruises are Tailored to Families
Many parts of a Disney Cruise Ship are designed with families in mind. Disney cartoons play on the TV all day and night.
The convenience keeps families in mind too. They've thought of everything families need, like the water areas designated for children, and the chefs onboard will even puree food for toddlers.
There's even a teen club called Vibe on the Disney Fantasy and Dream cruise ships.
For families, you can't beat this vacation.
Adult Only Activities
But if you're looking for a Disney adventure without children, there are plenty of adult-only areas like spa treatments, pools, and the gym. There is even an adult-only restaurant and activities for adults in the evening. And, there's even an adult area and kids' club on Castaway Cay!
A Cruise Is a Unique Way to Experience Disney
If you're looking for a different way to get your fix, a cruise lets you experience the wonderful world of Disney in a way no other trip will.
Disney Has Its Own Private Island
Disney's private island Castaway Cay is more Disney magic on land and can only be experienced on a Caribbean or Bahamas Disney Cruise. Not only is this stop beautiful (and you don't need a boat taxi to get to it from the ship), there are plenty of kids activities AND an onsite kids club right at Cast Away Cay! So your kids can keep having fun while you enjoy a nice nap on the beach. Some of the other cruise lines also have their own private island, but Castaway Cay is particularly beautiful.
Disney Cruise Tips
Now that you know what makes a Disney Cruise unique from other family trips, here are some helpful tips to help you get the most out of your vacation.
Book A Pre-cruise Hotel
Because you have to board the ship within a certain window, I always recommend flying in a day early and booking at a pre-cruise hotel just in case there are any flight delays or arrival issues. Disney Cruise Line does offer a bus from the Orlando airport to Port Canaveral, so we often stay right at the Orlando airport and then take the Disney Cruise Line Bus to the port the next morning.
Download the Disney Navigator Disney Cruise Line Navigator App
Download the app to find out everything that’s going on aboard the cruise ship. It's similar to the My Disney Experience app for Walt Disney World and free to use. It provides all the information you need for activities, dining, and more. You can even message other family members no matter where they are on board.
The Disney Cruise is the Main Event
Your Disney Cruise is the destination. While you go to other ports and you'll want to explore some, the Cruise itself is the main event. When you do get off the ship, you are typically only in port for a short while (a few hours).
You can certainly experience the port and possibly an excursion or activity, in some ports you don't see much beyond the port. Of course, this varies by port of call and the cruise you take.
But if you aren't particularly excited about a port of call or don't plan to book an excursion, staying on the cruise ship can be a great time to spend time at the pool or one of the indoor activities. And, on the “days at sea” on your itinerary, these are great times to enjoy the main event – the cruise ship and all of its offerings, especially if you love Disney!
Pack A “Ship Carry On” For Embarkation Day
When you board the Disney Cruise Ships, it may take some time before your luggage arrives to your stateroom. Be sure to pack a “ship carry on” for your embarkation day with a swimsuit (or better yet, wear them under your clothes) so you can hang out by the pool if you like until your bags arrive to your stateroom. Sometimes your suitcases don't arrive until right before dinner, so having a day bag is helpful!
After Embarking, Head Straight To Lunch
Once you embark onto the Disney Cruise Ship, head straight to lunch. The restaurants can get crowded on arrival day, so we like to head straight to lunch so we have time to hang out by the pool before it is time for our “muster drill” (a.k.a. the mandatory safety drill right before the ship leaves port.)
Stay on the Boat at Ports to Enjoy a Less-Crowded Pool
Staying on the ship when others get off at ports is a great way to spend quality time at the pool with fewer people.
Choose the Best Time for Your Family to Dine
You can choose the best dining time for your family ahead, but if you need to change it, you can usually do it once you board the ship. If you have young kids, the earlier dining time is recommended. But if you require flexible dining, don't worry. You can order room service or visit one of the quick service options on board.
Ask Your Steward if You Need Certain Amenities
If you need specific amenities for your cabin like milk, a Diaper Genie, a pack n play or something else, just ask your Steward. Since your serving team stays with you, they get to know your needs and will set things up in advance for each meal.
Take Advantage of the Disney Character Meet and Greets
Be sure to take advantage of character meet and greets where your kids can spend time with some of their favorite characters and get pictures with them and their autographs.
Some characters you may see include:
- Mickey Mouse
- Minnie Mouse
- Donald Duck
- Daisy Duck
- Chip ‘n Dale
- Captain Hook
- Doc McStuffins
- Sofia the First
- Queen Elsa*
- Princess Anna*
Some photo opportunities require tickets like those with Queen Elsa and Princess Anna.
Get to Shows Early to Get the Best Seats
It pays to be a planner on Disney vacations because, like all things Disney, shows can get crowded. Getting to shows early ensures that you get a good seat.
Pay Attention When You Hear the Sound of Pixie Dust
Pay attention when you hear the sound of pixie dust in a restaurant because you can never be sure which one of your favorite characters is stopping in for a visit. It could be Mickey, Goofy, or any of the rest of the gang.
Put Special Requests in Before You Board the Ship
Many families go on Disney Cruises to celebrate a special occasion. If you have any requests like a special dining location, celebration, or putting in an order for a birthday cake, be sure to do so before you leave. You can even have special surprises delivered to your stateroom.
Decorate Your Cabin Door
You've heard the famous saying, “When in Rome….,” Well, when on a Disney Cruise do as the biggest fans do. Many guests bring signs, magnets, and other Disney items to decorate their stateroom door.
Visit the Bibbidi Bobiddi Boutique
Make sure to visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique onboard the ship. This boutique is the enchanted salon where you can make an appointment to transform your child into a sea captain, knight, or princess.
Take Tons of Photos
This vacation certainly isn't an ordinary one, so make sure you take plenty of pictures to document your trip (even when traveling with a baby). Your kids can relive the experience over and over again with photos of the great time you all had.
Is a Disney Cruise Worth the Price?
It depends on your vacation plans and budget, but the Disney Cruise cost is totally worth it if it matches your goals. If you're trying to decide whether you want to take a Disney Cruise or go to a Disney theme park, consider what activities you want to do.
If you have your heart set on a cruise, you may want to look at all your options. But if you want a vacation that immerses the whole family in everything Disney, then there's nothing like a Disney Cruise experience.
Are Disney Cruises overpriced?
It really depends on the experience you're looking for. Some other 7-day cruises are less expensive than a 3-night Disney Cruise. If you're really on a tight budget, then it would save money to go on a short trip to Disney World vs a Disney Cruise, as Disney cruise fare can be expensive.
There are plenty of Disney Cruise options for different budgets, so if you can afford it, the experience makes a Disney-themed cruise worth it.
What’s so special about a Disney Cruise?
When considering is a Disney Cruise worth it – you may want to know what makes them so special. There are so many things that make a Disney Cruise worth it, but here are a few things that make them so special:
- It's Disney. Need I say more?
- Amazing food and amazing service
- Room service 24-hours a day
- Childcare so mom and dads can have private time
- Eating with your favorite Disney characters
- Special events like Star Wars Day on select cruises
- The cleanest rooms ever with Disney touches everywhere
- Themed roatational dining
- Disney magic in every nook and cranny
- Incredible Disney entertainment
- It's Disney.
Is it cheaper to go to Disney World or on a Disney Cruise?
The answer is that it depends. That may not be the answer you want to hear. But it depends on how many days you are staying and whether you're staying on the property or off it at budget-friendly hotels. It may also depend on when you travel or if you use a travel agent who can maximize value for your money.
A budget-friendly hotel at Walt Disney World may still be $350 a night for a family of four. But then you must factor in the cost of tickets at $130 a day, plus souvenirs and meals. And that doesn't include Disney Genie +. With a trip to Disney World, there are many ways to save money, but because it is not all-inclusive, it is hard to give a fixed price on this vacation (much of it is variable.)
However, if you plan on staying in a deluxe hotel at Walt Dinsney World for 7 days, it could easily cost just as much as a 7-night Disney Cruise or more. Just remember, the nicest thing about cruises is they are all-inclusive minus the cost of alcoholic beverages, souvenirs, and other incidentals. So, if you take advantage of all the Disney Cruise has to offer, including many of the onboard activities, I think it is certainly worth the cost.
And, you can also look at other ways to save money. For example, if you are a member of Costco, you may be able to save money on your cruise fare by booking with them or through a travel agent. And if you take the cruise when it is repositioning from one port to another, you can often get a discount on your cruise fare.
Final Thoughts on Is a Disney Cruise Worth It?
Hopefully, this article helped you answer the question, is a Disney Cruise worth it? Whether it is your first time on a Disney cruise or any cruise, there are many factors to consider when deciding whether this type of vacation is right for your family.
Consider what activities you want to do, what your budget is, and how many people are going. You may even want to compare a Disney Cruise with the cost of a trip to Disney World. Check out the Disney Cruise itineraries to learn more.
But if you're looking for the ultimate unique Disney experience, a fun family cruise is worth the cost and in my opinion one of the very best cruises for kids. After all, what else could be better than going on a Cruise with your favorite Disney characters?