10 Common Misconceptions about a Disney Cruise
Are you a Walt Disney World and/or Disneyland addict who has never been on a Disney cruise? That’s not surprising, since there are a lot of misconceptions out there about Disney cruises! Well, I used to be one of those Disneyholics who thought I got all the magic I needed in Orlando or Anaheim. Well I was wrong. Disney cruises have become my family’s favorite form of vacation after we got past some of these misconceptions, and I highly recommend all Disney fans give it a try at least once.
According to statistics, ninety percent of people who take a cruise, go back. There’s a reason for such a high return rate. Because Disney cruises are awesome!! Now, I fully recognize that a cruise may not be the best vacation for every person on the face of the planet, but I don’t want anyone trying to avoid a cruise because of a misconception. So, let me try to debunk some myths right here and now about Disney cruises.
1. It’s Too Expensive – Of course, “too” is relative. What’s “too” much for one person is “not too bad” for someone else. The question should really be whether a Disney cruise is comparable to a similar vacation you might consider elsewhere. If you compare a Disney cruise to a Disney vacation, make sure you’re not comparing apples and oranges. First, remember how much is included on a Disney cruise because it’s really pretty all-inclusive. On a Disney cruise, you don’t have to individually purchase theme park tickets, a room to sleep in, or the Disney Dining Plan. Second, when you’re comparing costs of a Disney cruise to a theme park vacation, make sure you compare the cost of premium theme park tickets, deluxe hotel accommodations, and the Deluxe Dining Plan. So don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying a Disney cruise is cheap. I’m just saying it may not be as relatively expensive as you think. Right now two people can book a week long cruise in a verandah in September on the Disney Fantasy for about $2100. Two people in the least expensive deluxe resort (Disney’s Wilderness Lodge) for a week in September with free dining and 7 day base tickets would be over $3300. See what I mean?
2. I’ll Get Bored? – Bored? Only if you want to. There are so many things to do on a Disney cruise. The ship is full of options like cooking classes, wine tastings, first run movies, animation classes, trivia contests, bingo, and Broadway quality shows (and I haven’t even mentioned the wonderful kids clubs for your kids). Or you can focus on health, fitness, and beauty by using the fitness center, the 1/3 mile running track, or the Spa. Every port is full of options as well. We’ve ridden camels in Tunisia, wandered the streets of Rome, ridden Segways in Malta, snorkeled with sea turtles in St. Thomas, kayaked in Ketchikan and zip lined in Skagway. Does any of that sound boring to you?
3. There Are a Bazillion Kids – Several cruise lines have the reputation of being full of older people, but Disney has the reputation of being all kids all the time. Are there a lot of kids on a Disney cruise? Absolutely (but depending on what time of year you go and your cruise’s itinerary, there could be relatively few). Disney cruises are paradise for kids. But here’s the good news if you want some time to escape the kiddos—adult-only areas! Disney has created several adult-only areas onboard every ship. There are adult-only pools so you can swim without the fear of an errant child’s foot in your face or a giant splash getting your hair wet that you spent so much time on that morning and really didn’t want to have to redo (I speak from personal experience)! The night clubs turn into adult-only spaces at night with adult shows, dance parties, and games. On Disney’s private island–Castaway Cay–the adults even have their own beach and restaurant. Odds are your own kids won’t even miss you because they’ll be too busy enjoying all the activities just for them. And, if you don’t have kids, I can tell you from firsthand experience that my husband and I have cruised sans kiddos with friends (also sans kiddos) and we had a glorious time!
4. The New Ships Are Tons Better than the Classic Ships, but the New Ships Cost More – When Disney announced it was building two new ships, the Dream and the Fantasy, speculation immediately began about what would happen to the classics (the Magic and the Wonder). Would people really want to sail on an “old” ship when these beautiful new ships were the other option? The answer is a resounding yes. The classic ships are still enormously popular. Many people choose their sailing based on the itinerary, not the ship, and I wholeheartedly agree. While I love the Fantasy and the Dream, when the Magic is taking me to Europe, or the Wonder is taking me to Alaska – I’m there without hesitation. The classic ships are still beautiful ships. Some people even prefer the smaller setting. And if you’ve been living under a Disney rock and haven’t heard, the Magic is about to enter dry-dock for several weeks to undergo an extensive update. The Wonder won’t be too far behind I’m sure. As a general rule, cost does not directly correlate to ship; it correlates to itinerary and time of year. So, don’t make any assumptions about the cost or the quality of the ships!
5. It’s Over Disneyfied – Maybe you’re someone who enjoys Disney but don’t really want characters in your face all the time. Hey, that’s okay! I won’t judge! Well, don’t worry. Disney characters are certainly on the ships and available to find when you want, but it’s not like they’re tucking you in your bed at night. The theming onboard is tasteful and even subtle. The ships feel luxurious, not garish (looking at you Pop Century even though I love you) in any way. Disney is there to be sure, but it’s “classic,” not over the top.
6. I’ll Get Seasick – I certainly can’t promise you won’t get seasick, but maybe I can reassure you. Being on a giant cruise ship is nothing like being on a small boat. I’ve been very, very ill on a ferry in Alaska and have never felt like that on a Disney ship. I get motion sickness on the Mad Tea Party, on Star Tours, and even riding in a car at times, but I’ve never been physically ill on a ship. Being prone to motion sickness is fairly common and not in any way a definite indicator that you will be one of the rare people who can’t handle the normal motion of a ship. There are times when a ship can get into extreme seas, but those times are not the norm and are avoided as much as possible. If you’re worried, I do recommend preventative measures. There are a lot of good sea-sickness medicines out there. Try a non-drowsy version (preferably before you cruise and always in consultation with your doctor).
7. I Have to Get Dressed Up and I Don’t Like Getting Dressed Up – First, the only places onboard with a dress code are the dining rooms. Second, it’s really more of a pirate-type code. As Barbossa would say, “The code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.” Aside from the adult-only restaurant options which do have strict rules for dress, Disney has never been known for enforcing the dress codes in the dining rooms. Most nights are cruise casual which means no shorts, tank tops or swimsuits in the dining rooms. And while the official Disney Cruise Line website doesn’t confirm it yet, recent reports are that Disney ships are going even more casual and taking shorts off that list of no’s. There are formal and semi-formal nights on the longer cruises, so if you don’t want to eat in the dining rooms on dress up nights, let me assure you that you will not go hungry. There are plenty of other options for dinner. Food is abundant.
8. I’ll Gain a Lot of Weight – Speaking of abundant food, many people are concerned about gaining weight on a cruise—and the opportunities are definitely there because dining is one of the highlights of a cruise. Unless you are an uber-foodie, you will probably find the meals among the nicest you’ve ever had when you factor in the service. It’s like eating at the best restaurants at Disney World or Disneyland for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of your cruise. My husband has been known to diet before a cruise so he will be at “eating weight” once he gets onboard (insert rant about how much easier it is for men to lose weight here). You do not, however, have to gain weight on the cruise. The fitness center onboard is state of the art (so I’m told anyway – can’t say I’ve actually verified that myself) and deck 4 is a continuous loop for running if you’d rather be outside. There are also lighter options on the menus and fruit and salads abound in the dining areas. So can you gain weight? Absolutely! Do you have to? Nope.
9. I’ll Have to Follow a Certain Schedule – The only schedule you can’t ignore is getting on the ship on time (and the lifeboat drill, you HAVE to go to that as well on embarkation day). You don’t want to miss the ship when it leaves the home port or any additional ports. Other than that, you can do as you please! If you don’t want to go to dinner at a certain time, don’t! Order room service or go up to the top deck and get some pizza! Or a panini! Oh yeah, or a salad! If you don’t want to go to bed early and want to stay up in the clubs dancing the night away, do it! If you don’t want to get off at Castaway Cay (although that’s just crazy talk), don’t! Sleep in and enjoy having the ship practically to yourself. Your schedule truly is your own. It’s your vacation and you need to do what makes you happy. If you’re starting to feel rushed or stressed about missing something – you’re doing it wrong.
10. The Rooms are Tiny – Unless you have splurged on the Roy O. Disney Suite, the rooms are not giant and spacious by any means. But many people are afraid of a room where the door hits the bed when you open it and a claustrophobic attack is threatening every time you’re in it. That’s not the case with Disney Cruise Line. Disney’s standard staterooms are, dare I say it, quite spacious compared to many other cruise lines. Disney pioneered larger staterooms with families in mind. Almost every room has a bath and a half design so two people can get ready at the same time. There’s a curtain worth its weight in gold that divides the main bed from the living area which your stateroom host will magically transform into bunk beds while you are away at dinner. Storage is fairly abundant in the rooms with a decent sized closet, many shelves, drawers, and even trunks in most rooms. Once you’ve unpacked, you may be surprised at how much space you have!
So what’s keeping you from trying one? Any myths you may be worried about?
37 thoughts on “10 Common Misconceptions about a Disney Cruise”
I was amazed at how adult-friendly the cruise line is. I took a three-day cruise on the Dream in April with my mom, and we barely saw kids at all outside of dinner. We stayed in the adult pool, and went to the adult-only beach on Castaway Cay. It was awesome! The crew members are so strict about keeping the adult areas kid-free that even I was asked to leave a couple of times, and I was there celebrating my 22nd birthday!
I agree, Julie! We have thoroughly enjoyed our adult only cruises!
Just to back up your #9, I ate pretty much what I wanted on our week long Fantasy cruise, but I also committed to using the stairs instead of the elevator. Our room was on deck 7 forward, so we did a bit of walking over the course of the week. When I got home I’d only gained 1/4 of a pound. Now if I could only loose the weight I WANTED to lose before we went.
I’m right there with you, Mary Ann. I don’t tend to gain while onboard because of the stairs. I do gain when I get home and can’t stop eating like a hobbit. 🙂
DW and I took an empty-nest cruise with another couple on the Fantasy last year and it was an amazing week. There were obviously a lot of children on board, but it didn’t feel overrun with kids. The adults-only area on the ship was fabulous and our 2nd seating for dinner had much fewer children, too. I wouldn’t hesitate to book another adults-only cruise on DCL in the future.
Thanks, Brian! And that’s a good tip about second dining having fewer kids.
This is a great article, because a lot of people have hesitations about cruising in general, but I’m going to argue with #1. If you have to travel outside of the school year calendar, a Disney cruise is just too expensive – especially relative to the rest of the market. My husband and I looked into cruising this past summer. For the weeks we were looking into, the same category room, for similar itineraries on a Disney ship was literally TWICE the cost of a Royal Caribbean ship. I know that Disney jacks up their Orlando resort prices during school vacations too, but at least on land, you can cut costs other ways no matter what time of year you are traveling. Until my husband and I retire from teaching, a Disney Cruise is out of the question.
You make a good point. A Disney cruise is 50% to 100% more expensive than other mainstream cruise lines (Princess, RCCL, Celebrity). You are getting more on Disney (bigger staterooms with split bathrooms, better quality/larger kids’ programming, family activities, a more unique dining experience, character time, free sodas, better entertainment, etc.) but it’s still hard to stomach. We cruise a lot, but have only been on Disney 3 times for this reason.
However with the advent of the Fantasy and the Dream, Disney has encountered something they hadn’t before: ships that do not sell out right away. If you’re a little flexible, you can take advantage of their ‘last minute’ guarantee rates. You will pay a much lower price for a certain type of cabin, but won’t have that cabin assigned until just before you sail. If you can live with that, it’s a good way to go. Last year we booked a June 7-day Fantasy cruise (It literally left the day after our kids finished school.) on a guarantee 61 days out, and had a fabulous cruise for a reasonable price. Even though we were close to sail date, we were able to get airfare on Southwest for a reasonable price as well. It’s certainly something to look into if you’re really keen to take a Disney cruise, but confined to school holidays.
I do understand that, Betsy! Disney charges a premium in the summer and on holidays. I’d still maintain that you’ll pay a similar cost at WDW if you want a comparable vacation. But you’re right, there are other options at WDW.
Helen’s absolutely right about last minute specials. With four ships, specials are more frequent and for the first time ever we’re even seeing some summer discounts. If you can be flexible, the deals are there!
As a solo traveler, I’m more shy to take a cruise than go to a Disney park. I’d love to hear a solo’s perspective on a Disney cruise!
Hey V, Have no fear of cruising solo! It’s as much fun as going to the parks solo! You can take advantage of the classes, spa appointments or even just relax on the top deck and watch movies on big screen. Dining is super fun because you’re seated with other people and your server is always friendly and informative. Definitely make a reservation for Palo or Remy’s and the excursions are usually small groups, so you can get to know other cruisers if you want. The only downside is that the price of the stateroom is the same whether you have 1 person staying in it or 2, so that price can be a bit daunting – but the experience is nothing but fabulous. If you’re a true Disneyphile – plan your solo trip around a group even like WDW Radio meet up cruises!
Oh neat! Thanks for the advice! Maybe I’ll get brave and book a cruise next year! 🙂
Lisa had great advice. I’d like to emphasize that it’s a great way to meet other people. Dinner is perfect for that.
#5 is SO true! It’s no secret that I am a total Disney fan, but my hubs could really take it or leave it…but he LOVES and recommends the DCL to everyone! He proposed on a 3-night cruise and we honeymooned on a 7-night. We cannot wait to take another Disney Cruise!
My in-laws are similar! They don’t love Disney, but they love Disney cruises.
I really enjoyed the first DCL trip we took in May, but other than 2, 6, and 9, I found all these “myths” to actually be quite accurate (7 maybe not so much, but you may definitely feel some social pressure to dress up).
And even on 9 if you want to eat in the dining room and want to attend the nightly show, you do kind of feel like a large part of your evening is scripted.
We’ll have to agree to disagree on those, Jospeh. I definitely don’t find them accurate. Everyone’s experience is different, but I’ve done it enough times that I feel pretty confident about my perceptions.
As for number 9, your evening is scripted only if you want it to be. You can eat somewhere else, you don’t have to see the show, tons of options if you don’t want to follow the schedule! 🙂
For item 1- you really cannot compare a cruise to a deluxe resort. We cruised on the Wonder in deluxe inside stateroom. Rooms were small and needed some refurbishment. The pools were super crowded and small. We have stayed at AKL and there really is no comparison. A better comparison would be to value resort with deluxe dining plan. And don’t forget that excursions can be very expensive so this would offset the cost of park tickets. The real value of the disney cruise for us was all the supervised kid’s activities. Hubby and I finally had some alone time and the kids had a blast.
Quote: A better comparison would be to value resort with deluxe dining plan.
That’s a great observation. I’m going to quote you, Nicki.
A value resort with the deluxe dining plan! Interesting comparison. An inside room on a classic ship (that hasn’t been redone yet) is closer to a value resort, but I still find the rooms soooo much better than Pop Century or another value resort. But I love Animal Kingdom Lodge and if I could transplant that room onto a cruise ship I certainly would.
We generally do excursions on our own to save money. They can definitely add up, but you don’t have to leave the ship at all if you don’t want!
I think most people are going to spend for excursions, and it is my understanding that some things (certain restaurants, etc) are an extra expense. I don’t think you were trying to be deliberately misleading, but those costs have to be considered.
I also find it odd that despite the many times a ride with a high ht requirement has opened to people saying “Walt wanted everybody to enjoy things together”, I’ve never seen this comment about the cruise lines, even though their entire business model seems to be based on separating families. I’m only able to base this on every single article I’ve read or TV show I’ve watched since I’ve never been onboard, but, still, curiouser and curiouser.
While some people certainly spend a lot of money on excursions, in no way do you have to. We have been on multiple cruises without spending a dime on excursions. And the adult restaurants, while I love them, are not only completely optional, many times they’re not even an option because Disney doesn’t have the capacity at the adult only restaurants to serve more than a relatively small fraction of the guests.
I know the kids clubs are so well done and promoted so heavily that it’s easy to get the impression that the ship is one giant floating daycare. We had the same concerns on our first cruise but the reality was very different. The cruises quickly became our favorite form of vacation because we had so much quality family time.
This article is spot on! We have been on 2 Disney cruises and you have described them just as we experienced them. They are fantastic all around AND both times I actually lost weight! The food is great and abundant but we were so busy doing things that I think we walked alot more than we realized.
Lost weight?! Even better! 🙂
Update! Because I somehow neglected to put a number 4 in my list the first time, I have added number 4. 🙂
Unfortunately I’ll never go on a cruise. I travel solo & paying a single supplement (almost paying double) I will never be able to afford any cruise. I know they’ll never stop penalizing people because they’re single. I know why they do it. Don’t agree with it. Basically it is a form of discrimination. And no I do NOT want to share a room with a total stranger. I can book a hotel room without paying a penalty for being single.
Pam, I’m single too and the single supplement is crazy expensive, so I sympathize. However, I have to disagree with one of your points. “I can book a hotel room without paying a penalty for being single.” You pay the same price for a hotel room if you have 1 or 2 occupants. So as a single, you DO pay double (per person) for a hotel room just like a cruise. Where you save money on a regular hotel vacation is the food and activities. You don’t pay double for those. On the cruise you essentially do pay double for food and activities, at least all the ones that included in the cruise price. That’s where I really wish they would try to give singles a break.
The single supplement is a bummer. Unfortunately Kathy is right about the single supplement on hotel rooms (unless you’re traveling in Europe where there are single rooms). On a cruise you’re paying for that room and the fact that the cruise line can’t put someone else in that room to buy souvenirs, book excursions, etc.
PERFECTLY written article!! We have been on 11 Disney cruises and have priced out other cruise lines. If you try to book a comparable size stateroom and then add in all the items that are extra on another cruise line the cost the same or more AND it will never compare to the high level of service that you get on DCL!! Sometimes we book for the ship and sometimes we book for the itinerary and that’s one of the things that makes DCL so great.. You can!!
Thanks, Steph! 🙂
I think comparing a Disney Cruise to a Disney Resort vacation is not as pertinent as comparing it to other Cruise Lines. I looked at a 4-night Bahamas cruise sailing in Sept 14 from Canaveral. For me, my wife and daughter in an ocean view stateroom, the Disney cruise is $2000. A Sept sailing from Canaveral on Royal Carribean is half that….IMO, Disney Cruises are overpriced.
That’s a valid point, John. There are times you can find prices close to that of other cruise lines, but often Disney is more. There is a quality difference between Disney and a lot of other cruise lines. I think it’s worth it. Check out this link:
And here’s a quote from Disney’s own website:
Disney Cruise Line was recognized as the No. 1 Mega-Ship Cruise Line in Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards for Families 2013, making it the fifth consecutive year to be ranked in the top spot.
I’m debating Disney Cruise among many trip options for a MUCH needed vacation coming up soon. I’m a 26 year old man, newly single, and don’t think I’ll be getting any friends to come with me, which doesn’t bother me too much, but I wonder if I’d have fun. I mean I love Disney, but I don’t want to stick out as a single guy, or worse yet, people thinking I’m trolling after kids cause it’s Disney.
Thoughts on how you think I would enjoy it?
I can’t speak to cruising or being a dude, but I (female) will say that I’ve done MANY solo trips to Disney World and Disneyland without feeling like I stick out or look creepy. Everyone is really focused on their own family and having fun, not staring at single people. The only time I’ve felt weird about solo trips is dining in sit down restaurants (not that it stops me!).
As a single dude, I’d be fearful of cruising on Disney. I can see some paranoid parents banding together and throwing me overboard. Plus, Disney is an evil corporation that uses child labor in Third World countries. I had good experiences cruising solo on Carnival: making friends, having great conversations, and finding women to dance with. So I plan to stick with them. Best of all, there’s zero risk of me getting thrown overboard, despite the sizable number of kids on the ship.