Here is everything you need to know about Disney Cruise Line. From ships, to ports, to what’s available on each ship, to our 6-step planning process, and so much more, we’re here to help make planning a Disney Cruise easy and fun.
If you’re a fan of the top-notch service that you’ll find at the Disney Parks, but you’re looking for a vacation experience that is a little bit more relaxed (while still being family-friendly and packed with fun!), a Disney Cruise might be just the thing.
How Does Cruising Compare To Visiting The Parks?
The differences are pretty obvious when it comes to booking a Disney Cruise versus visiting a Disney Park.
But, when it comes to similarities, you can enjoy top-notch dining, meet Disney characters, watch talented performers on stage, and get that overall magical Disney experience just like at the parks, but instead at sea.
That said, you can book Land and Sea packages, meaning you can combine a Disney Cruise and time at Walt Disney World into one vacation.
With Port Canaveral only being an hour drive away from WDW, you may want to consider booking time on a Disney Cruise and then extending your trip by visiting the most magical place on earth.
Transfers can even be arranged to transport you to and from Port Canaveral, WDW, and Orlando International Airport (MCO).
Stay tune for more details on Land and Sea and all the option has to offer.
There are four different Disney Cruise Line ships: Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, Disney Magic, and Disney Wonder. Disney is also currently expanding its fleet with three new ships, including the Disney Wish.
Disney Cruise Line has a range of Ports of Call and Departure Ports, with some including the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Alaska, and Disney’s own private island, Castaway Cay.
How To Book With Disney Cruise Line In 6 Steps
This 6-Step Planning Process was designed to make Disney vacation planning simple for even the first-time traveler.
This process takes the complexity out of vacation planning and breaks it down to its essential elements, so you can relax, knowing you have planned the best Disney Cruise Line vacation for your family.
1. Select Your Travel Dates & Port
Check your schedule
The first step is pretty obvious, but you’ll need to pull out your calendar and check your schedule. Which dates are going to work best for you?
You’ll want to look at work and school schedules, along with sports, after school activities, and holidays. Keep in mind that Disney Cruise Line only travels to certain locations during specific times of the year.
Ships sail from different ports on different days
After you’ve figured out a time you want to visit, you’ll then want to look at the published Disney Cruise Line itineraries. You can then see where each ship sets sail from any given time.
Be sure to take the following into account:
- Departure port
- Length of cruise
- Ports of call
If you have a particular ship or port in mind you will need to be flexible
Certain ships only sail to and from select ports. Plus, not every Disney Cruise ship has the same offerings, especially when it comes to dining, entertainment, and destinations.
You’ll need to be flexible and simply figure out which cruise works best for you, especially when it comes to your schedule, timing, and budget. Speaking of budget, don’t forget to include the following, along with cruise fare, of course:
- Travel to the port: airfare or driving
- Parking at the port if driving
- Hotels before and after your cruise
- Pet sitting or kennels
After this step is complete, you can then go on to planning where you want to stay onboard and the activities you want to try.
2. Choose Your Stateroom
Next, and one of the best parts of booking a Disney Cruise, is choosing your stateroom, aka where you’ll be living during your time on the ship.
There are three main types of accommodations. You can choose from the following:
- Inside Stateroom (3-4 guests)
- Oceanview Stateroom (4-5 guests)
- Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (4-5 guests)
Within these three categories you can also select from a few options, like by adding Deluxe or Deluxe Family for additional square footage or to accommodate additional guest.
Tip: While families of five can book the Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom (with or without a verandah), it’s a tight fit. We recommend booking two staterooms. Adjoining is nice, but to save several hundred dollars, we like to book one outside stateroom with verandah and one inside stateroom right across the hall.
You’ll also need to pick the deck and ship location (forward, midship, or aft). Typically, lower decks are less expensive compared to higher ones. Midship locations are often moderately more costly that forward or aft, but keep in mind that some sailings the cost may be the same.
Tip: If proximity to (or distance from) the Oceaneers Club and Lab is important, they are located on Deck 5 of every ship. To combat motions sickness choose a midship stateroom on a lower deck.
Concierge staterooms are higher in price and include all kinds of offerings. These rooms offer verandahs, extra living space, and dedicated guest services crew members. Concierge guests also have their own lounge, sundeck, and are among the first to access reservations for signature dining, port adventures and cabanas on Castaway Cay.
Disney Cruise Line also offers a number of accessible rooms in most categories, including concierge level. The rooms include wider doorways, bathroom modifications, and other amenities to make cruising accessible to all.
3. Make A Daily Plan
Now that those two steps are out of the way, you can start making a plan for each day. Keep in mind that there are four types of days on a Disney Cruise: embarkation, at sea, in port, and disembarkation.
Here’s a breakdown of the days, which will also help you plan accordingly and ensure that you make the most of each day. Your ship itinerary also plays a factor, but it’s never a bad idea to map out your time so you don’t miss anything major.
This is the most exciting day out of the cruise — the day you check in, board the ship, and set sail!
Make sure you take time to get settled in your stateroom and explore the ship. When the ship leaves port, there’s a Sail Away deck party. Then, it will soon be time for dinner and the famous Broadway-style entertainment onboard.
This specific day can move quickly, so try to not get too overwhelmed.
Tip: If you are eating lunch on board, instead of dining in Cabanas or Beach Blanket Buffet, opt to eat at the lower deck restaurant (depending on your ship – Cariocas, Parrot Cay or Enchanted Garden). The food is just as good, and the pace is far more relaxed.
At Sea Days
Sea days are when you can take a swim, relax by the pool, try a spa treatment, or even enjoy Disney’s adults-only dining at Remy or Palo. Kids might even like spending time in the kids clubs playing games or hanging by themselves.
Port days presents a whole new adventure for you. If you’re looking to book a Port Adventure, we prefer to book directly with Disney Cruise Line because you are guaranteed that if you are delayed on land, the ship will not leave port without you, but if it does, it is up to Disney to help you catch it.
You don’t need to book a Port Adventure, but can simply walk through the area, try local food, or go shopping.
If you’ve visited the port before, you may choose to stay on board to enjoy time on the ship. With many guests departing for Port Adventures and exploration, it will feel like you have the ship to yourself. Pools, restaurants and other areas are considerably less crowded.
Like with any trip, this is the day you say goodbye to your ship and head back to land. Your stateroom host will provide you with information for entry into the port of your final destination. (For closed loop cruises, this will be the same as your departure port.)
- Disembarkation Briefing: A brief, informative program is available on your stateroom television information channel, and runs on a loop. Typically hosted by your Cruise Director, this will answer most of your questions about entry to your final port.
- Settle your onboard account early: If you do not have a credit card on file for onboard charges, you will need to completely settle all stateroom charges prior to leaving the ship. Lines can get quite long the evening prior to disembarkation. Plan to go to Guest Services in the afternoon before disembarking for shorter lines.
Take note that breakfast is served early on disembarkation day. Your time of departure will depend on your evening dining time and your transportation at the port.
You will be provided with detailed instructions for your family the day prior to disembarkation. If you have any additional questions about disembarking, Guest Services is available at all times.
4. Review Your Dining Options (And Make Special Reservations, If Necessary)
There are several dining for Disney Cruise Line guests. Most dining is free (included in the package you purchased), but there are some special options that cost extra and even require a reservation.
You’ll definitely want to become familiar with rotational dining. Each evening you are assigned to one of three main dining rooms. Your servers rotate with you, which means you will have the same serving team each night.
Your first dining task is to choose your dinner time. There are two options: Main Dining and Late Dining. Main Dining is the earlier option which is usually served at 5:45 p.m. local time and Late Dining is served at 8 p.m.
Families traveling with younger children often opt for the earlier seating. Families with older or no children typically like eating later, since there is no need to stop late afternoon activities to prepare for dinner.
Now, you don’t have to book Disney Cruise Line’s signature, adults-only dinging at Palo (on all ships) or Remy (on the Disney Dream & Disney Fantasy), but we recommend it. Brunch and dinner are served each day.
There is an additional per person charge for dining at Remy and Palo, and dress code standards apply. Reservations are highly recommended, especially when sailing during peak travel seasons. You can make your dining reservations for Remy or Palo once your cruise has been paid in full and (if it’s your first cruise) you are at 75 days prior to sailing.
3 Dining Tips
- Make sure you communicate food allergies when booking and discuss them with your server the first night of your cruise.
- The quick service counters are not open 24/7, but room service is. A tip is customary for the Crew Member delivering your tray.
- The atrium dining room (Triton’s, Lumiere’s, Royal Court or Royal Palace depending on ship) is open for lunch each day. and is perfect for those who want an almost-adults-only location without any extra fees. Children are welcome, but you can request a private table away from young diners.
5. Plan Daily Activities
Just like with a WDW vacation, do not overbook and try to squeeze every activity and offering available into your cruise. You want to make sure you have time to relax.
When it comes to activities, there are two categories: those you reserve prior to sailing and activities which cannot be planned until you board.
Activities Reserved Prior to Departure
The following you can book 75 days prior to departure (sooner if you are Castaway Club Members):
- Port Adventures
- Spa Treatments
- Signature Dining
- Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointment
Important: The final payment on your cruise must be made before reserving activities, and many of these activities are not included in your cruise fare. An additional fee is required and will be charged to your on board account (often abbreviated OBO). Cancellation policies are in effect. Read the activity description completely.
When it comes to Princess Gatherings (meet several princesses at one party), which are offered on select voyages and included in the cost of your cruise, you still have to reserve your place.
You can book advance reservations via the My Cruise Activities area of your Disney Cruise Line account. If reservations are not available online, check with the Port Adventures desk upon boarding to see if the Princess Gathering is offered during your cruise and to reserve your spot.
Tip: If bad weather or rough seas cause a cancelation to an event or Port Adventure booked with Disney Cruise Line, your onboard account will not be charged.
Activities Planned On Board
You do not need to make advance reservations for activities like deck parties, ship tours, wine tastings, movies, shows, and more. Your Personal Navigator is a daily schedule of every activity scheduled on board every day. The Navigator is delivered to your stateroom each night and contains the next day’s schedule, most of which are included in your cruise fare. If an additional fee is required for an activity, it will be stated.
6. Add Extra Magic
If you want to add a little bit more magic to your cruise, here are some extra magical moments you can try while onboard.
Thought not officially affiliated with Disney Cruise Line, Fish Extenders is a tradition only found on Disney Cruise Line. It is a gift exchange organized by guests well in advance of your sailing.
To join a Fish Extender group you need to find the cruising group for your sailing. Facebook and DISBoards are two places to look.
The concept is simple. Guests agree to give small gifts to those in their dedicated Fish Extender group. The gifts are delivered to a Fish Extender which hangs outside your stateroom. Fish Extenders have pockets or pouches where the gifts can be placed.
Whether your cruise takes you to the Caribbean or any other sea, every cruise with Disney Cruise Line features a Pirate Night deck party. Look for special menus, activities, deck parties and even fireworks (when allowed by maritime law). Costumes, though not required, are recommended for pirates of all ages.
Royal Court Royal Tea
On the Disney Fantasy, you might want to try the Royal Court Royal Tea Party. Little ones get to spend time with princesses and receive gifts unique to the experience. The Royal Court Royal Tea requires advance registration and does cost an additional fee.
These are just a few extra magical moments to consider, along with renting a cabana on Castaway Cay, meeting characters, and taking any tours that are provided.
Speaking of tours, here’s a tip: Try The Art of the Theme Show tour, which is offered at least once on each cruise. Your guide leads you around the ship, pointing out details, decor, and sharing story behind every decorating and theming decision made on the ship. This tour is for adults only and does not go into any “backstage” areas.
Feeling Overwhelmed? Consider A Travel Agent
There’s a lot that goes into planning a Disney Cruise, especially if you’re a first-timer. If you want help, you can always consider using a travel agent, but be sure to choose one with lots of Disney Cruise Line experience. We recommend using Small World Vacations.