Frequently Asked Questions About Disney Cruise Line Photos

Whenever you visit a Disney theme park, you can expect to find photographers available to take your picture at key spots during your vacation. The same is true when you travel on Disney Cruise Line. Here’s what you need to know about Disney Cruise Line photo packages and options.


Does photography on the Disney Cruise Line ships work the same as PhotoPass or Memory Maker at Walt Disney World?

While there are some similarities, there are many differences as well. The first thing to note is that the shipboard photography and the parks photography are run by different vendors. The pricing structure is completely different. There’s no such thing as an all-in-one photo package for guests doing Land & Sea vacations. If you’re traveling to WDW and on DCL, you’ll have to purchase photos from each half of your vacation separately.

Who is the vendor for my cruise pictures?

Disney partners with for on board photography services. If you have issues after your cruise has ended (your CD didn’t work or you want to make a post-cruise purchase, for example), are the folks you’ll need to contact.

Do I have to have my photo taken while on a Disney Cruise?

The only photo you absolutely must haven taken when sailing on a Disney cruise is your pre-boarding identification picture. This is the photo that cast members will see when you scan your stateroom key when reboarding the ship in port. Other than that, no photo is mandatory. If you hate being photographed, or are 100% certain that you will never buy a photo, then feel free to wave off the photographers.

That being said, there may be some situations where it’s simply easier to smile and say cheese rather than go into a lengthy explanation about why you think your hair looks frightening when exposed to salt water.

Shutters hours vary daily.
Shutters hours vary daily.

Is there a charge for photos on the ship?

Just like in the parks, there’s no charge for them to take your photo. There are charges if you want to keep your photo. More info on that in a bit.

Are there character photo opportunities on the ships?

Of course there are! (It’s Disney, what did you expect.) Character meet & greet photo opportunities are listed in your daily Personal Navigator, on the downloadable Navigator app, and on video screens around the ship’s lobby.

The character photo process is essentially the same on the ships as it is in the Disney theme parks. Guests form a queue to meet the character. When it’s your turn, you approach the character, pose, and the photographer takes your picture. The photographer will scan your Key To The World card (your stateroom key) to link your photo to your stateroom account.

Do all character photo opportunities work that way?

The vast majority do, but there are a few twists you’ll want to be aware of.

Many sailings offer a character meal, typically breakfast, at which there will be a photographer. Also keep a lookout for possible “ticketed” character greetings. During 2014, Disney Cruise Line began offering timed tickets for meeting select characters. Primarily these were for the uber-popular Frozen gals, Anna & Elsa, but some other characters were tested as well. The tickets were free, but they were only available for a few hours on sail away day. During my most recent DCL voyage, there were nearly a dozen random opportunities to meet Mickey Mouse, but if you wanted to meet Anna & Elsa you absolutely had to obtain a ticket on the first day or you were out of luck. If there are any characters you absolutely must meet, be sure to check your Day-1 Navigator to make sure you’re not missing a ticket opportunity.

Photo viewing area on the Dream.
Photo viewing area on the Dream.

Are there photographers available at other locations?

Yes. You’ll begin encountering photographers even before you board. Expect to find photographers in the embarkation port terminal. They’ll be stationed in front of DCL logoed backdrops. You will also likely find a character photo opportunity as you board. As soon as you’ve checked in and have your Key To The World card in hand, you can begin having your vacation documented.

On many cruise nights, you’ll find at least a few stations for “Professional Portrait Photography.” These are either staged photos opportunities in a dramatic setting (the lobby atrium stairs) or staged photo opportunities with a Sears-Portrait-Studio-style fabric backdrop. Backdrops range from inoffensive and nondescript solid colors, to in-your-face (literally) photos of the ships.

Photographers will visit also every restaurant on the ship on select nights. This usually includes formal night and pirate night (if there is one), plus additional nights on longer sailings. They’ll stop by each table and will take as many shots as you want. Feel free to ask for group and individual pictures.

Is there anyone besides a character that I can take a photo with?

On most sailings, there will be an opportunity to have your photo taken with the ship’s captain. Check your Navigator for times. I’ve done this, but I’m not really sure why. The whole captain-as-celebrity thing just makes me feel nostalgic for watching Gavin MacLeod as the Love Boat’s Captain Stubing when I was in Middle School. (Seriously, how old am I?)

On some longer sailings, such as ocean crossings, there may be a minor celebrity guest on the sailing who will be available for photos.


Are there any places off the ship where I’ll find ship photographers?

Weather permitting, there will be at least a few photographers available when the DCL ships dock at Castaway Cay. On rare occasion, you may find a DCL photographer stationed outside the ship in another port. For example, during a Mediterranean voyage, I encountered DCL photographers on shore when disembarking at Villefranche and Civitavecchia.

Photos are taken during meals? Won’t we get lots of gross half eaten food in the shots?

The photographers are quite good at capturing faces without getting a lot of visual noise in the shot. They’ll often tell you to move some glasses to reduce clutter in the frame.

Most of the DCL photos also come with a non-removable border which can cover many of the distractions at the table.

I really can’t get the photo without the cheesy DCL border?

After you buy a download, you could try to crop out some of the Disneyfication of your picture, but there’s no way to buy a virgin copy.

Folders holding photo prints.
Folders holding photo prints.

Will the ship photographers take pictures with my camera?

Often, but not always. During the character greeting photo ops, there is typically an assistant available who will be happy to use your camera to take a few shots. In my personal experience, they often don’t take much care to compose the shot well. They’ll get the job done, but it may not be pretty.

The photographers doing Professional Portrait Photography are usually on their own and are less amenable to using your equipment instead of theirs.

Are all photographers equally good?

Most sailings will have fewer than a dozen main photographers on board. You tend to see them over and over again, at character greetings, at meals, at portrait sessions, etc. After a while you can get a sense of their personalities and how they work.

The photographers are generally all competent. With the character photos, you’re not really going to have a choice about photographers; you get what you get. And your photo with Mickey is going to turn out just fine no matter who takes it.

With the Professional Portrait Photography, you can somewhat pick and choose which photograph to go with. Hang out in the lobby atrium for a while and you can see how each photographer interacts with different guests. Some are great with little kids, some are better staging large groups, etc. As with any visual medium, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The good news is that it’s incredibly easy to view the work of the different photographers on board and make your own assessment of their work.

Several simultaneous character photo shoots.
Several simultaneous character photo shoots.

How do I do that?

Each ship has a photo store called Shutters. Any photos taken during your Disney cruise will be available to view at Shutters just a few hours after they are taken.

There are two ways to see your pictures at Shutters. You can scan your Key to the World card at any of several video terminals to see a slideshow of all the photos taken to date. Additionally, each stateroom will be assigned a specific physical folder which will be stored in a library-like bookcase. Photos are printed daily and stored in the folder. You’re welcome to look at these physical prints or the on-screen version.

By looking at the previously taken photos, you can make an assessment about the skill of particular photographers. During my voyage to Alaska on the Wonder this summer, my 18 year old daughter decided that photographer Justin had a good eye and insisted that we pose for him whenever possible. Or maybe it was just that he was cute and charming. In any case, we ended up getting or picture taken by Justin at least a dozen times. 😉

Do they take photos throughout the voyage?

They’ll stop taking pictures early on the last full day of your cruise. Until then, you’ll have many opportunities for photos throughout your trip.

Setting up for some "Professional Portrait Photography"
Setting up for some “Professional Portrait Photography”

I don’t want to waste time during my vacation. Can I pre-order my cruise photos?

Yes. You can do this by following this link and selecting your cruise date. However, I wouldn’t recommend that you do this. Unlike pre-ordering WDW park photos, there is no financial incentive to prepurchase your pictures. Ordering them on board takes less than a minute. And there’s always a chance that you’ll find that don’t want photos at all. For example, if you were to become ill and spend much of your trip in your cabin, you might not have any photos you want to keep, but with preordering you’ve already paid. It’s really just easier to wait until you’re on the ship.

Do the on board photographers have any cool technology tricks?

Well, in addition to scanning your Key to the World card to link photos to your account, the photographers may also use facial recognition software. For example, during the Tracy Arm glacier viewing day of that Alaskan cruise, all the photographers were out on the deck taking photos of guests with the mountains and glacier in the background. At no point were we asked for our Key card on this day, yet all our pictures were successfully placed in our stateroom folder. It’s pretty nifty, and slightly creepy.

Mid-2014 photo pricing for a 7-night cruise.
Mid-2014 photo pricing for a 7-night cruise.

I want to buy some photos. What’s it going to cost me.

There are a number of price points.

If you just want a print or two, you can buy these individually. 8 x 10 prints cost $20.95. 6 x 8 prints cost $14.95. A package of 10 prints (either size) or 10 digital downloads costs $149.95. Twenty prints or downloads is $249.95.

If you want all your photos, you can get them on digitally on a CD for $349.95 for a 7-night cruise. To get all your prints to go along with the CD, add another $100. Cruises of fewer than 7-nights are priced slightly less for the CD. Long Transatlantic or Panama Canal crossings are priced slightly higher.

The digital offers are only available per stateroom.

Please be aware that prices change somewhat frequently. There are also sometimes different prices for different size photo print packages. The rates here are what I encountered in mid-2014.

I’m traveling with a large group booked in several staterooms, does this mean I have to pay multiple times for a CD?

Well, theoretically yes. You can sometimes work around this by having just the keys from one stateroom scanned when you have photos taken. This might take a bit of planning and coordination to accomplish, but it can obviously be a big money saver.

There may also be unadvertised specials for things like family reunions. For example, you may find that a second stateroom’s unlimited CD is 50% off if you’ve got multiple families traveling together. Speak to a desk agent at Shutters about possible price breaks.

I have teens and they’re staying in a second stateroom. Will I really have to pay twice for our family photos?

No. (Whew!) Children under age 21 staying in a separate stateroom can be included in their parents’ package. To make this happen, speak to a desk agent at Shutters while on board.

DCL borders come affixed to nearly every photo. You can't remove them.
DCL borders come affixed to nearly every photo. You can’t remove them.

This all seems pretty pricey. Is it worth it?

Ah, the “is it worth it” question. This is always so hard to answer.

If you’re on a 12-night voyage for a family reunion and have a thousand photos taken, then getting the CD package is probably worth it. If you’re a honeymooning couple who never leaves their cabin on a 3-night cruise, then it may not be. You’ve really got to do the math and evaluate what makes sense for your unique situation and budget.

Is there a limit to the number of photos that can be included on a CD?

There is no limit to the number of pictures you can get in the one package. If you’re with a group on a long cruise, you really may have thousands of pictures.

If you think you’re going to end up buying the CD, then it makes sense to put your face in front of the DCL cameras as often as possible. On trips where we’re getting the photo package, my family makes a game of seeing how many different photo opportunities we can take advantage of in a single day.

I want one of the smaller packages, but I’m having trouble deciding which photos to select. Help!

No worries, you have some time to decide.

When you buy the 10 or 20 print download package, you’re actually given a CD with software and heavily watermarked versions of all your photos. When you get home you can view at the previews at length and then decide which are the 10 or 20 you like best. The software will allow you just “unlock” the number that you’ve paid for.

I’m booked on back to back cruises. Do I have to pay for two separate photo packages?

If you’re sailing back to back voyages and purchase an unlimited CD for the first trip, there are often discounts of up to 50% for the purchase of an unlimited CD for the second trip. Speak to an agent at Shutters about your options.

You may also purchase stock photos of the ship and of characters.
You may also purchase stock photos of the ship and of characters.

I’m having my wedding on the ship. Are these photos included in an unlimited CD package?

Different price structures apply for special events such as weddings and quinceneras, as well as for groups of 20 or more people. Again, speak to your event planner or an agent at Shutters.

Are there any other photo products to buy?

Photo books are $149.95.

Shutters will also often sell individual prints of the ship or of the characters in voyage-specific costumes. Expect to pay about $20 each for these. Shutter may also sell CDs of Disney stock photography of the ship, characters, or key sights at the ports.

I didn’t buy photos on the ship, but now I’m having non-buyers remorse. Is there any way to get access to my pictures after I’m home?

Try contacting There’s no guarantee that they can get you your cruise pictures. (Really!) But I have heard anecdotal evidence that some folks have had luck with this up to about a month after sailing.

What rights do I have to my photos?

There’s a whole lot of legal mumbo jumbo that goes along with your photo purchase.

The short version is that you have the rights to the pictures for personal use, but you’re not supposed to sell them. Making holiday cards to send to your pals is fine. Blowing up a photo of the ship and selling it at your holiday festival is probably not OK. But I’m not a lawyer, so if you have questions, you should consult with an expert about the fine print.

How do I take possession of my pictures?

If you’re just buying an individual print or two, you can take the print from your on board folder and pay for it at the Shutters desk.

If you’re getting a CD or photo book, you have to pick this up yourself at Shutters on the morning that your cruise ends. Signs will be posted about Shutters’ hours that morning (typically 7:00-9:00am), but they often will open much earlier than that. If you have an early flight home or are planning to do Express Walk-Off, then you should plan to be at Shutters well before the posted opening time.

What have your experiences been with shipboard photography? Do you have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments below.

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

3 thoughts on “Frequently Asked Questions About Disney Cruise Line Photos

  • November 5, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Since the photo service is contracted through, does that mean the employees working in Shutters (and perhaps the photographers?) are employees and does not work directly for Disney?

  • November 7, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    I’m not sure the info on pre-purchase discount is correct. I have seen reports of a discount if you purchase before the cruise versus on board, and the website you reference itself claims a 15% pre-purchase discount. Also, it appears that if you pre-purchase, you may cancel anytime while on board for a refund, so there is no harm in pre-purchasing. You may want to check this out and update the article if this is true.

    • November 18, 2014 at 1:52 am

      You’re right, I was just looking to prepurchase right now for our upcoming cruise and the price is $296 for 7 nights and the price list posted here is $350 so that’s a nice savings.


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