I get asked all the time how the four Disney Cruise Line ships differ. And I especially get this question from guests who have sailed on one of the two newer ships (Disney Dream or Disney Fantasy) and are contemplating sailing on one of the classic ships (Disney Magic or Disney Wonder). “What are the differences?” “Will I like the Magic and Wonder as much as I liked the new ships?”
To be sure, there are many things about the four ships which are the same, like the level of service Disney Cruise Line is known for, those amazing Disney stylistic touches, and the excellent officers and crew. But, make no mistake, there are differences. I’ll break them down for you here!
1. Size and Capacity– The most obvious difference between the ships is the physical size, and thus the number of passengers each can carry. The Magic and Wonder were originally 83,000 gross tonnage when constructed, but the Magic, after its 2013 reimagination when it added a little bit more weight and then length to balance that weight, is now approximately 84,000 GT. The Dream and Fantasy, however, are longer, wider, and heavier, weighing in at just under 130,000 GT. The physical size difference is most apparent to me in the lobby. The lobbies of the Dream and Fantasy feel practically cavernous if you’re used to the Magic or Wonder. The Dream and Fantasy have 14 passenger decks while the Magic and Wonder only have 11. The Magic and Wonder have a passenger capacity of around 2,400, while the Dream and Fantasy hold more than 50% more passengers at 4,100 (with a similar increase in the crew size).
2. Crowds – More passengers mean bigger crowds. But with the added space do you really feel it? Sometimes. The terminal in Port Canaveral will feel more crowded when the Dream and Fantasy are in port vs. when the Magic and Wonder are there. Castaway Cay should also feel a little more crowded with more people there, but in truth I’ve never felt a big difference while on that little strip of paradise. I’ve found lines can definitely be longer on the new ships, but the good news is you don’t have to line up that often. The waterslides will have lines, the counter service restaurants, and some (non-ticketed) character meets, but other than that, there aren’t too many lines. Even the buffets are set up in food stations on the Dream and Fantasy (and now the Magic) so you don’t have to wait in line. Most of the time, the added passengers won’t make a significant difference either way in your cruise experience.
3. Staterooms – The basic layout, size, and feel of most staterooms is very similar on all four ships. The Wonder was the last hold out on the main-bed-that-can-be-split-into-two but they are all being replaced now, so all the beds and bedding will be the same in the standard staterooms. There will be some differences in specific categories, however. The biggest difference for inside rooms is the addition of virtual portholes in all inside rooms on the Dream and Fantasy. All four ships have a category 7A Navigators Verandah. On the Magic and Wonder it means the verandah is basically enclosed with a cut out open air porthole. On the Dream and Fantasy the Navigator Verandahs are undersized or partly obstructed verandahs. There are category 6 staterooms on all ships, but on the Dream and Fantasy it means there is a very short white metal wall on the bottom of the verandah railing. On the Magic and Wonder the white wall covers the entire railing. Category 4 staterooms sleep up to 5 people on all four ships, but the Dream and Fantasy added a new (less expensive) category that sleeps 5 people a category 8 Deluxe Family Oceanview. Family staterooms on the Dream and Fantasy usually have round tubs and rain shower heads. The Dream and Fantasy added staterooms on the aft and forward of the ship which is a pretty neat view. Some have huge verandahs as well and are well worth checking out! The staterooms on the Dream and Fantasy also have TV’s with On Demand which is a great addition.
4. Slides and Pools– The newer ships upped the game on water activities. The Dream and Fantasy both have the first water coaster at sea – the AquaDuck. All three pools were redesigned and the hot tubs hang out over the edge of the pool deck with clear windows in the floor to see the water (far) below. The Fantasy added a water play/splash area called the AquaLab as well as two other small splash pools. Satellite Falls is one of them and is for adults only. It’s located forward on deck 13. The other is for families and is called the Funnel Paddle. It’s located forward on deck 12. When the Magic was reimagined, they redid the children’s pool and slide, and added a splash zone there too. They also added the AquaDunk, a super fun three story body slide. The Dream, Fantasy, and now Magic also upgraded the baby/toddler splash areas.
5. Youth Clubs – The children’s clubs were significantly upgraded on the Dream and Fantasy. The teen club, Vibe, is amazing and has its own outdoor deck with hot tubs and sun chairs. Seriously, I’d hang out there if they’d let me. Vibe on the classic ships doesn’t have all of the extras the new Vibes do, it’s much more just a cool space to go and hang out with friends. The Edge (for tweens) is great on all the ships in my opinion, although it’s in a neat location in one of the funnels on the newer ships. The Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab on the new ships and the reimagined Magic are pretty cool to say the least with high tech electronic dance floors, tons of play space and dress up areas, and theming to the nines. The Magic has a great new Marvel-themed area in the Oceaneer Club. The Wonder is the only ship that hasn’t updated their youth areas yet, but the clubs were so well done to begin with that I can’t imagine very many children would be disappointed in them.
6. Restaurants – While the servers and food quality is pretty much the same across the four ships, there are some differences in the restaurants. One notable addition to the new ships is a second adult-only restaurant option called Remy. Remy is an excellent French restaurant with topnotch cuisine and service (and dinner without a wine pairing costs a cool $75 per person). The new ships also did away with the traditional buffet line and created a buffet area full of convenient food stations named Cabanas. The Magic redid their buffet and is now set up the same way. The Wonder still has a traditional buffet named Beach Blanket Buffet. The Pool Deck on all four ships has similar offerings (although the restaurants have different names) of hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, salads, paninis, fruit, wraps, ice cream (can’t forget that!) and the like. The main dining rooms also have different names and theming but similar food. The one dining room with the biggest difference would be Animator’s Palate on the Dream and Fantasy. The theming is amazing and the screens set up all over the restaurant bring a couple of different experiences. On both the Dream and Fantasy, an interactive Crush (everyone’s favorite sea turtle) visits the tables during dinner. On the Fantasy there is also an incredible animation experience called Animation Magic one night of the cruise. I wasn’t expecting much the first time I saw it, but by the end I was giggling like a school girl. It’s so popular the Magic also added it after its reimagination. Animator’s Palate on the Wonder is a great experience as well with the walls, screens, and even the servers clothes changing from black and white to color as you dine, but perhaps it’s due for an update.
7. Nightclubs – While two of the nightclubs are repeated on two ships, (Skyline on the Dream and Fantasy is truly amazing, and O’Gills on the Magic and Fantasy is always fun) even those are different enough that you should try each of them. All the nightclubs and lounges are unique and well done. There are a few treasures and I’m sure you’ll quickly find a favorite, but suffice it to say that none of the ships are lacking for great nightclubs.
8. Activities – The four ships all offer several activities and we don’t ever find ourselves bored on any of them, but the Dream and Fantasy do bring a few new things to the table. The interactive artwork and Midship Detective Agency are great additions. The Dream and Fantasy also have golf simulators (which do cost extra although there’s usually no charge the first afternoon) and mini golf. The Dream and Fantasy also added more stores! All the better to take your money from you. The Magic did add space to its existing stores as well. The spa onboard all four ships is great, but the new ships and the reimagined Magic are a little bit nicer in my opinion. Shutters, the onboard photography shop, on the Magic has been updated to the better set up on the Dream and Fantasy. The Walt Disney Theater has the same feel on all four ships but is much larger on the new ships with a balcony to accommodate even more guests. There are different shows on different ships, but all four have excellent shows.
9. Concierge – If you happen to be sailing concierge, there are some differences between the four ships. I covered most of them in a previous blog post on sailing concierge, but the most obvious difference would be the addition of a Concierge Lounge and Sun Deck on the Dream and Fantasy. The Concierge Lounge is a great space and you may miss it on the classic ships if you sail concierge on one of the new ships first. The suites are also very different on the Dream and Fantasy. The one bedroom suites on the Dream and Fantasy have a very open layout as opposed to the Magic and Wonder which feel more like two rooms joined together. The Magic and Wonder do have two bedroom suites whereas the newer ships do not. On the newer ships if you want to sleep more than 5 in concierge, you have to either go right to a Royal Suite or get two concierge rooms. The Magic and Wonder also do not have the category V concierge options which are very similar to the category 4 – Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms with Verandah.
10. Itineraries – The final (huge) difference between the four ships is the itineraries. The four ships do not, and cannot, visit the same ports all the time. The Dream and Fantasy are sticking with their usual itineraries out of Port Canaveral for the foreseeable future, with the Dream visiting the Bahamas on 3, 4 and 5 night itineraries and the Fantasy sailing 7 night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. The Magic does sometimes take over Western Caribbean itineraries from the Fantasy and it has the added benefit of being able to fit into the port at Key West when it sails to the Caribbean. Until it completes its expansion, the Wonder is the only ship that will still fit through the Panama Canal, so it will continue to sail any West coast itineraries, including Alaska. That means the Magic is the go-to ship for Europe itineraries in the summer.
So is one ship better than the other? Should you avoid any of the ships? My answer is a very firm no. All four ships are different. If you’ve been on all four, you probably have a favorite. Some people prefer one of the smaller, more-intimate classic ships, others prefer the new amenities the Dream and Fantasy bring to the table. I too have a favorite ship, but I wouldn’t hesitate to sail on a single one of them if it’s going where I want to go! After 17 cruises, many different itineraries and a few times on each ship, I’ve never been disappointed!