Disney Cruise Line

10 Ways Disney Cruise Line Can Confuse You

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Disney Cruise Line has confusing vocabulary at times!  For example, they have some terms that sound similar to one another, but they actually mean very different things.  They also have some terms that don’t quite mean what you probably think they do.  And finally, there are other terms that just don’t make much sense at all to a first timer.  So, here are 10 of those confusing DCL terms – with explanations!

1. GTY vs IGT, OGT, VGT – These abbreviations are probably the most misused terms DCL has ever created. They sound alike and are so often confused that I previously dedicated an entire blog post to explaining them! I won’t go into that long of an explanation here, so let’s get down to brass tacks.  These terms are NOT the same thing.  When booking a cruise, if a particular category is almost full, you cannot pick a stateroom number.  You can book a GTY room in that category, however, and it means you are guaranteed a room in that category or higher (GTY is kinda a shortened version of “guarantee”—maybe?  right?).  There are no discounts involved and all normal change and cancellation rules apply.  Disney is just reserving the right to choose your room for you.  Something TOTALLY different are IGT, OGT, and VGT rates.  When a cruise is getting close to sailing and is not as full as Disney would like it to be, they release these discounted, non-changeable, non-refundable rates.  If you book an IGT rate (IGT is kinda a shortened version of “inside guarantee”), you are guaranteed an Inside room or higher; an OGT (“oceanview guarantee”) means Oceanview room or higher; and VGT (“verandah guarantee”) means a Verandah room or higher.  See?  Totally different.

2. Port Arrival Time vs Boarding Time – The second most confused terms to guests seem to be the difference between Port Arrival Time and boarding time. After you have completed the online check-in process, you will be asked to pick a Port Arrival Time. Port Arrival Times are in 15-minute segments and usually begin at 10:30 am.  You are NOT picking a boarding time.  You are telling Disney what time you expect to arrive at the port.  Disney is trying to keep everyone from arriving at once and overloading the terminal.  They want to spread out arrivals.  Once you have arrived and checked in, you will receive a boarding number.  Your boarding number will determine your boarding time.  Disney will start calling boarding numbers as soon as the ship is ready, usually around 11:30 am.  They will start at boarding number 1 and work their way up to 40, and then proceed to open boarding, meaning anyone can board.  To confuse matters a little, your chosen Port Arrival Time does affect your boarding time.  The earlier Port Arrival Time you pick, the lower boarding number you will receive.  Just keep in mind that picking a 10:30 am Port Arrival Time will not get you on the ship at 10:30, and picking a 2:00 pm Port Arrival Time does not mean you won’t be allowed on the ship until 2:00 if you arrive early.  (As a note, Platinum Castaway Club members and those sailing in concierge don’t pick a port arrival time and are generally allowed to board as soon as boarding begins.)

3. Deluxe vs Standard Staterooms – Roughly ninety percent of Disney’s stateroom names start with the word “Deluxe”. Marketing genius right there. There are Deluxe Verandah staterooms, Deluxe Oceanview staterooms, and Deluxe Inside staterooms.  But there are also Standard Inside staterooms!  So what exactly is the difference between the Deluxe and Standard Inside staterooms?  It’s simple: The Standard Inside stateroom is a little bit smaller, but the biggest difference is no split bathroom.  Almost every bathroom in every stateroom is split on Disney Cruise Line, meaning there is one bathroom with a sink and toilet, and one with a sink and bathtub/shower.  In the Standard Inside stateroom, the sink, toilet, and bathtub/shower are all in the same bathroom.  While I am not one of them, there are some guests who actually prefer this setup.  FYI, the Standard Inside staterooms are category 11A, 11B, and 11C.

4. Family vs Not Family Staterooms – Another stateroom distinction is the word Family. A Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom (found on the Dream and Fantasy), or a Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (found on all four ships–and could these names BE any longer?) means it is a slightly larger stateroom and sleep 4-5, with a pull down murphy bed in most, instead of the normal staterooms that sleep 3-4. Most also have a round tub instead of a standard tub.  The one exception is the 4E Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah.  4Es do not have the bigger rooms, but they do have much bigger verandahs than normal.

5. Navigator vs Regular Verandah – The term Navigator’s Verandah on the Magic and Wonder describes a very specific type of verandah. On the Magic and Wonder it’s a mostly enclosed verandah with a circular hole cut out about waist high for viewing purposes. On the Dream and Fantasy it’s just a slightly obstructed verandah, and the obstructions vary widely!  Which leads us to number 6…

6. Unobstructed vs Obstructed View – Would you ever want an obstructed view? Not if you take the word obstructed as literally as it sounds. Now if Disney says a view is obstructed, you can count on it being obstructed.  But what you need to pay attention to here is the level of obstruction.  All obstructions are not created equal, my friends.  Do your research and you can pay a lot less for a room with a minimal obstruction than the person next to you did for pretty much the same view.

7. Oceanview vs Oceanview with Verandah – I fully recognize I may be the only person who thinks this is confusing, but I have never understood why Disney feels the need to put the word Oceanview in their verandah descriptions. All verandahs on Disney are oceanview. All verandahs on other cruise lines are not oceanview, like Boardwalk view rooms on some Royal Caribbean ships, but Disney does not have interior-facing verandahs—and Disney started calling its verandah rooms oceanview long before there were ships on other cruise lines that had verandahs with non-ocean views.  It just seems unnecessary to me.  Am I right?

8. Concierge vs Non-Concierge Staterooms – If you are wondering what the differences are between a concierge stateroom and a regular stateroom, this is another topic I wrote a whole blog post on. Some differences in the room will be immediately obvious, like the one or two bedrooms or the Royal Suites vs anything else. The category V staterooms (Concierge Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah), however, are very very similar to category 4 staterooms (Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah).  With the exception of 4Es which are discussed above, category 4 rooms are basically the same size and layout as a category V, the most noticeable difference being the upgraded linens.  The real difference here will be in the concierge-level service you will receive both when booking and after boarding.  There’s a big price difference for concierge, and while I can’t always pay the prices they are asking and am perfectly happy in whatever category will get me onboard, concierge is absolutely worth it to me when I can swing it.

9. Buffet vs À la Carte – While most of us understand the difference between a buffet and à la carte (table service), you may be confused by when and where they both happen on a Disney cruise. These days, the main dining rooms are almost always à la carte. There used to be a buffet option in a main dining room for the embarkation lunch and some breakfasts, but embarkation lunches in the main dining rooms are always à la carte now, and their buffet breakfast options seems to be going away as well.  For most meals, Cabanas will be your buffet option.  Not always though!  For breakfast and lunch, Cabanas will always be a buffet, but on most nights, Cabanas turns into an à la carte restaurant!  It’s a nice casual option when you don’t feel like going to your assigned restaurant, or just want to eat at a different time than you were assigned.  The menu will be a selection of options from the menus in the main dining rooms.  If you are a buffet lover, the absolute best buffet onboard will be at Palo Brunch which is probably my favorite meal onboard.  The buffet is overflowing with fresh bread, pastries, seafood, cheeses, desserts, and more.  There are even some excellent à la carte items you can order to supplement the buffet.  My recommendations are not to miss the sticky buns from the buffet, or the Chicken Parmesan from the menu.

10. Server vs Assistant Server vs Head Server – So many servers! They do have three different roles though, and three different gratuity levels. Your serving team will be in whichever main dining room restaurant you are assigned to each night, waiting just for you!  Or so they will make it seem.  You may also perhaps encounter them working various other venues like Cabanas during the day.  While they all work together and will help each other out whenever they can, here are their basic roles.  The Server will be the front man/woman of your dining team.  He or she will be in charge of your food, including taking orders and making sure you are happy with your food quality.  The Assistant Server works for the Server and will be in charge of your drinks.  The Head Server is in charge of a large group of Servers and Assistant Servers, so they won’t be around as much.  You should expect to see them once every night or two.  They are going to check in with you to see how your dining team is doing, if there is anything they can do better, and just check your overall happiness level with the main dining rooms.  FYI, we find we see the head servers a lot more if we have someone in our party with food allergies.

Bonus – Cabanas vs Cabanas – One of these is a buffet restaurant onboard the ship, and the other is a little private slice of paradise on Castaway Cay (picture a private bungalow on Disney’s gorgeous private island).  While both of these can bring you great joy, one is free, one is almost the opposite of free.  #ButTotallyWorthIt

Did I leave any terms out that confuse you?  Let me know in the comments!

Tammy Whiting is the owner of Storybook Destinations. Did you know Storybook Destinations offers a complimentary subscription to TouringPlans with qualified Disney and Universal bookings? Click here for a no-obligation quote on your next vacation!

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Tammy Whiting

Tammy has been a lover of all things Disney for most of her life. There’s nowhere on this Earth she’d rather be than on a Disney cruise with her family. She’s a Space Force wife and proud mom of two wonderful children and one beautiful daughter-in-law . She fulfilled a lifelong dream in 2008 and became a travel agent specializing in Disney vacations. She now owns her own travel agency - Storybook Destinations. You can reach Tammy at Tammy@StorybookDestinations.com.

4 thoughts on “10 Ways Disney Cruise Line Can Confuse You

  • To add to the port arrival section, also note that the time you pick is the time that you are actually at the counter checking in. After security and waiting in the check in line. So actually arrive about half an hour early if you want to be served at your port arrival time (no penalty if you are late – just a better chance of a later embarkation time.

  • Does coming in on the Disney Express from a resort at Disney World change the Port Arrival Time and Boarding Time? I assumed we would be told what time they are picking us up, so how will I know what to chose? Thanks!

    • Disney changes how this works from time to time, but currently you do still pick a Port Arrival Time if you are on a transfer from WDW. Which is rather silly because as you said they tell you what time you will be picked up, and you have no control over what time you will arrive! So unless you have a message on the Port Arrival Time screen telling you that you don’t need to pick a time, pick the earliest time you can. Then no matter what time you arrive you will get an earlier boarding number.


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