Once upon a time in the royal land of Florida, a family of 11 (6 adults and 5 children) set sail for a four night carriage ride on the enchanted Disney Dream to the magical land of the Bahamas (that carriage is actually a ship btw). For four nights the family was wined and dined and treated like royalty.
They met princesses, they frolicked in the turquoise waters of the Bahamas, the walls came to life, and Mickey ice-creams a plenty were eaten. But all good fairy tales must have an ending, the clock struck SUNDAY, and the magic spell was broken. The family found themselves once again back to their Normal life.
Is A Disney Cruise Worth It?
Since returning, the same question has been asked over, and over, and over again… “Is a Disney Cruise worth it?” What about if you are traveling with little kids, will they get anything out of it? Is a Disney Cruise BETTER than going to Disney World?
It is no secret that the cost of a Disney Cruise can be pricey, and that is why so many people want to know if you truly get what you pay for on a Disney Cruise.
Let’s dive deep (wave hayyy to Ariel) and climb the Disney Cruise question tower (Haayyy Rapunzel!) and really determine if YOU should dig deep into your pocket and head out on a proverbial magical carriage ride AKA a Disney Cruise.
What Is Included In a Disney Cruise
Before you can decide if a Disney Cruise is worth it, it’s important to look at what is included in the Disney Cruise line price! It is also important to determine how many people will be traveling with you, and the age of all those in your party before you decide to jump ship.
The Disney cruise cost is expensive, however, almost everything is included in that price. If you were to travel to Disney World, purchasing a hotel + meal plan + park tickets can well exceed the cost of a Disney Cruise.
Disney Cruise lines is no different from other cruises in the fact that your food, room, and plentiful entertainment is INCLUDED in your price. Having all those things included, and not having to plan out meals, transportation to and from the Disney parks etc. is a huge bonus in my opinion and makes it totally worth it.
Plus all of your entertainment is centralized. What would happen if you were headed to the Disney Parks with your entire family, and your 1 year old got tired and had an epic meltdown? You are now stuck at the happiest place on earth dealing with the unhappiest kid on earth until everyone is ready to hop on a tram or in the car and head back to your hotel. On a Disney Cruise, if your child needs a break, all you have to do is hop on an elevator and you can relax in your room.
This can’t, isn’t, and will never be a direct comparison of a Disney Cruise vs. going to Disney World, because its like comparing cake to tacos. Both are amazing choices, but they are different, with the commonality that they are both delicious foods. Since its the most common thing I am asked about though, I will draw a few comparison where I see fit.
Food On Disney Cruise
The cost of your Disney cruise includes 100% of your food. WAIT, go back and read that. ALL YOUR FOOD IS COVERED. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, brunch, linner, late night cravings, ROOM service, late night pizza, buffets, sit down white cloth dinner surf and turf meals… ALL INCLUDED!
My understanding is that Disney World offers meal packages that can be added to your plan but the cost is HIGH and the express dining is just that, express! This website breaks down the different meal plan options at Disney World. When comparing the two dining options, a Disney Cruise is the way to go as far inclusivity is concerned.
Dining Options on A Disney Cruise
On the Disney Cruise you have a few different options. You can go to buffets for any of your main meals, or you can sit down for table service for those same meals. If you don’t feel like leaving your room you can even order room service at no additional cost.
Dinner service on the Disney Dream was offered in one of their three main dining rooms. Each dining room was completely unique and offered a menu based on the ambiance. I loved that we had the same waiter every night, as they got to know our family’s drink orders. When we would sit down, they would come quickly to drop off the kid’s drinks while the adults perused the menu.
Disney offers several options on the kids menu! I loved that they had options like grilled chicken breast and steamed veggies or you could get pizza or macaroni.
Have a picky eater? No problem, tell Disney what your kiddo does like, and with a snap of their fingers they will bring them out something delicious.
Have a child still noshing on purees? they have that covered, just ask your waiter if they can get you something whipped up and it will be brought right to you. The wait staff provided some of the best service I have ever experienced. I also loved how accommodating and understanding they were of our young children.
Soda Is Included On A Disney Cruise
Unlike other cruise ships, the cost of pop/soda is included at no additional charge. Many cruise ships only offer tea/lemonade/water at no additional cost, and you are required to purchase a soda package separately and retrieve your pop at the bar. Disney Cruise ship has several pop kiosks throughout the ship, so if pop is your thing, have as much as your heart desires.
In comparison, per this article, a soda at Disney World costs about $4.50.
Disney Cruises And Food Allergies
My family comes loaded with allergies, and I was extremely apprehensive about going on a cruise and not being able to read labels and packaging. I honestly thought the entire time I was on the cruise I would be limited to fruits and steamed veggies, but Disney went ABOVE and BEYOND with our food allergies.
Our head waiter was with us the entire cruise. He knew mine and my children’s allergies, and double/triple checked every time to make sure our food was prepared safely.
Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island, which we visited twice on this cruise, and our head waiter took our “allergy orders” the night before. We were told where to pick up our meals on the island, and VIOLA our mustard free, gluten free, egg free, nut free DELICIOUS, safe meals were ready to go. They also had so many amazing staff members who were happy to double check with the chefs about any last minute questions we had.
My daughter who is allergic to eggs even got to enjoy SAFE delicious egg free Mickey waffles and I got to try out some gluten free waffles.
If you are a family who has allergies, Disney Cruises are TOTALLY worth it.
Tip: Call Disney before boarding and alert them to your allergy needs and they will give you lots of helpful information.
Disney’s Alcohol Package
In my opinion, Disney has one of the BEST policies as far as bringing your own alcohol aboard the ship. Each adult 21 years and older can bring either a six pack of beer or two bottles of wine that can be opened during your cruise.
Since I have very specific food allergies, I’m limited to the alchohol that I can drink. So I grabbed a six pack of gluten-free beer (via Instacart) the night before and had it delivered to our hotel. Also, make sure to check out The Best Family Travel tips and check out tip #5, as we also were able to grab some other necessities.
In my opinion, based on the food packages/alcohol policy/allergy friendly options alone, the DISNEY CRUISE IS WORTH IT!
The Cabin On The Disney Dream
If you have ever been on a cruise ship, you will know that the rooms are small there is just no way around it. I will say that Disney’s cabins were much bigger than your standard cruise ship room.
Even though we had a “deluxe” balcony room, the cabin was TIGHT. Since our son needed a pack and play (which is included), that took up all the room in the “family room.”
We let Disney know ahead of time that we needed bunk rails for our older daughter, and they set them up each evening. (they also do total room service each day while you are out on the islands or roaming about the ship). The other option here is for the couch to turn into a small bed (but we couldn’t use the bed, since the pack and play was in the way).
The room setup can be challenging (and small) if you have two children or more who go to bed or wake up at different times in the morning.
Full Size Bath On Disney Cruise
Disney offers a separate toilet room AND bathroom. Plus, the bathroom includes a tub which is amazing for giving baths to your kiddos when needed. I have been on a few other cruise lines, and I can say that Disney’s bathrooms are MUCH bigger, which is such a nice feature. Disney gets huge bonus points for the way they maximize that space. .
Other Room Features:
- Disney provided a Diaper Genie in the room
- Each evening during turn down service, they make fun Disney related animals, characters out of the blankets
- The rooms were extremely clean
- The doors are magnetic so many people buy custom magnets with their families name to put on the outside of the doors
Get The Connecting Room
One of the best parts and honestly a saving grace when traveling with small children, was that our room was connected to our Mother-in-Laws room so we could open the adjoining door to allow for a little more space.
Not all cruise lines have the conjoining room option, and if you are traveling with others this is a MUST feature! It also came in handy when our son needed to take a nap, we were able to keep him in our room, and catch a movie in the conjoining room.
Balconies On Disney Cruise
Having a balcony on the cruise gave us some extra room to stretch our legs. There were three other “families” on this trip, and we were able to open up all of our balconies, essentially creating one HUGE balcony we could all sit out on and converse. When the kids went to bed we could sit outside and enjoy some adult conversations and beverages. I made sure to bring our video monitors so we could hear the kids inside.
At the end of the day, a cruise has so much going on that you may not find yourself in your room all that much. Since our children were much younger, that also meant early bedtimes, so again the balcony was a nice way to stay up later and enjoy some adult time, while not having to go to bed at 7pm.
TLDR- Is The Disney Cruise Room worth it? The rooms are very small (spoiler: even the deluxe rooms). I would say the rooms would be EXTREMELY TIGHT for a family of five (but totally doable). If you are planning on going on a cruise and spending time in your room only, then I would say the Disney Cruise is not worth it (really it wouldn’t be worth it on any cruise for that matter). Disney by far has the BEST rooms I have ever cruised in, but its important to know that the space is small.
The Extras You Get On A Disney Cruise
My favorite part about cruising is that you wake up each morning in a different country, or frolic amongst Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. This alone is so worth it to me, as you get to explore a new place and you never have to pack and re-pack!
Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island and it absolutely breathtaking! Many of the carribean cruises stop here at least once. The island is extremely clean and offers tons of fun things to do.
Book an excursion, or post up beach side and enjoy the day on Disney’s beach chairs. The water on the island is crystal clear, and the perfect shade of turquoise.
Other things offered on the island:
- Food (all included)
- Unlimited ice-cream (included)
- Character meet and greats on the island
- Large water slides in the water
- Snorkeling (extra cost)
- Excursions on the Island (extra cost)
- Private Cabanas (extra cost)
- Kids Clubs offered (included)
- Tram that will bring you back and forth from the ship
- Small little souvenir shops (extra cost)
- Safety of a private island (didn’t need to go through customs)
The Island also offers a splash pad area. If you have tiny swimmers who can’t swim independently or who are intimidated to get into the ocean. You can easily head over to the splash pad and let them do their own thing! After the cruise was over my daughter talked about how the splash pad was one of her favorite parts of the whole cruise.
Disney’s Kid’s Club
Disney offers an amazing kid’s club (aged 3-12), a nursery ages 6 mo-3 years old, and even a teen’s club complete with its own private teen only pool. The kid’s clubs are open 9am all the way until midnight.
They had a Toy Story room the kids could climb on, arts and crafts, video games, cooking classes, dance parties, games, a Star Wars room, etc. I overheard one kid crying when his parents picked him up, because he did not want to leave.
Disney assigns your child a wristband, and they can easily scan all of your child’s information right to it (including allergies, concerns etc). I was extremely impressed to how secure the kid’s club was!
IF your child needs you (or if Disney needs you) they have wave phones (basically small cell phones) and they will call and contact you right away with a text message or call letting you know you are needed.
Since my daughter was only 3 at the time of sailing, I did find that there was a huge age difference from 3-12 year olds, and it was somewhat intimidating. So if your child is on the younger end of the spectrum, they may not want to spend much time in there.
The kids club is a great time for parents to check out the adult’s only pools, take in a movie or show, or even head to the adults only night clubs and evening activities.
It gets HOT out on the open sea, and Disney has two amazing pools that potty trained kids could jump into! They offer life vests aboard the ship so you don’t have to worry about bringing puddle jumpers.
Your child must be FULLY potty trained to use the pools onboard the Disney Cruise Ships. No diapers are allowed in the pool and they are very strict about this. I love that my three year old could touch the bottom of the pool, and it was the perfect size for her.
Splash Pad Aboard The Disney Dream
Since my one year old was not potty trained, we couldn’t bring him in the pool. Although he was super jealous of the bigger kids in the pool, we found our way to Nemo’s reef which was a fun splash pad full of amazing water play and even a small slide. My older daughter even loved spending time in there! Having a splash pad on board really sets Disney apart from other ships and makes the experience totally worth it!
Disney is the only cruise line in the world that is allowed to light fireworks off at sea. They do this late one evening (around 10pm), but we let our 3 year old stay up (it was her first fireworks show ever) and in my opinion it was one of the biggest perks of cruising with Disney!
Disney Movies + Theaters
Disney also offers a movie theater which shows movies around the clock. During our cruise they played Toy Story 4 before it had even been released in theaters. There is a popcorn stand (which is free) and also candy and soda.
They also play Disney movies all day long on the pool deck. Plus, you will find Disney movies and shows a plenty, playing all day long on your cabin TV.
On Board Entertainment on Disney Cruise
The cruise offers two theatrical performance each evening (one to accommodate each dining). Beauty and The Beast was the main show on the cruise, full of singing, dancing, and theatrical entertainment the whole family loved.
Other Activities On Disney Cruise:
- Wake up With Disney Junior programs
- Mini Golf
- Full service spa
- Coffee Bar
- Adult Only Bar
- Wine tastings
- Beer Tastings
- Adult only restaurants (extra charge)
- Adults only pool area and poolside bar
- Whiskey Tastings
Disney Character Meet and Greets On Board
Aboard our Disney Cruise we got to meet: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisey, Goofy, Chip & Dale, Cinderella, Rupunzel, Belle, Tiana, Elsa, and Anna, and Captain Hook. We knew exactly where they would be and when they would be there. We also had a few bump ins with different characters.
My understanding is that at the theme parks although the characters are out and about, it is hit or miss if you will see them, and also to meet Mickey and Minnie can take over an hour.
On the cruise, we were never in line for more than 15 minutes, and there was always some sort of something going on for the kids to stay occupied while we were waiting to see the characters. If you forgot your phone it wasn’t an issue because there were always professional photographers around to snap your pictures.
Best Age For Disney Cruise?
I will say that in my opinion the best time to cruise would be when your children are no longer napping. We did struggle a bit, with having to take our youngest back to the room and getting him to sleep on board. Our children also wake up at different times, so with our oldest going without a nap, and waking up on our youngest’s schedule, we had some melt down moments and toddler tantrums.
Many people have asked if a Teenager would get anything out of it, and I say YES! I was actually very envious of the teen club aboard. They had a private pool, tons of activities, they could pop in and out of Disney Shows and clubs. Even if your older child is no longer enamoured by Mickey and crew, I think that they would still get a ton out of a cruise.
So…Is A Disney Cruise Worth It?!
To recap what’s included: amazing service, spectacular Disney shows, ALL food included, attention to allergies, the fireworks, the character meet and greats, and the fact that your hotel room goes floating with you from country to country, makes it well worth the cost.
I’ve never met anyone who has ever said that they have hated a Disney Cruise. In fact, most people I have spoke with regarding a Disney Cruise have said that they will ONLY take Disney Cruises moving forward (myself included).
If rides aren’t your thing, you’ve already done the parks a gajillion times, you’re not wanting to park hop, you need a beach vacation and are looking for more of a relaxing Disney vacation, then a Disney Cruise is a great option that the whole family will love, and well worth the cost.