The Complete Guide to Booking Disney Cruises

Disney Cruise Line is a premier cruise operator, offering quality family experiences at sea. While it’s a relatively small player in the cruise world, it continues to grow.

Since first launching in 1998, it has grown to a have a fleet of five ships, with three more to set sail in the coming years.

In this guide, we’ll go over you’ll need to know about booking a Disney cruise, including the different vessels, room types, and onboard experiences, as well as considerations for dining and booking.

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The Disney Cruise Experience

While the main clientele for Disney cruises is families with kids, Disney cruises offer experiences for every member of the family, regardless of age. Most are Disney themed, and include supervised kid-friendly activities and clubs and family-friendly Broadway-calibre shows, as well as clubs, bars, and fine dining just for adults.

It may not have all the bells and whistles of other larger cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, but Disney is known to offer better food and service, which is also reflected in their higher fares.

If your family loves Disney, superheroes, or princesses, then this certainly is an experience you’ll want to try… at least once.

Stateroom Types

Generally speaking, there are four types of staterooms on Disney cruise ships: Inside, Oceanview, Verandah, and Concierge. As you move through that list, the fare for the cruise increases.

Other than some of the Inside cabins, Disney ships generally have larger staterooms than most cruise lines, which of course serves families better.  

The price difference between an Inside and an Oceanview stateroom is relatively minor, while the costs for Verandah and Concierge staterooms are more substantial.

All staterooms are arranged to have a seating area and one queen bed. Depending on the maximum passengers allowed in the room, there may also be some variable combination of a single convertible sofa, a Murphy bed, and an upper-berth pull-down bed.

With the exception of standard Inside staterooms, most rooms have a privacy curtain that can separate the sleeping area from the living room area, or the parents from the kids when it comes time to sleep.  

Each stateroom has a full bathroom with a tub and shower. With the exception of standard Inside staterooms, bathrooms are split into two smaller rooms, each with a sink, but one with a tub and shower, and the other with a toilet.

This arrangement is very family friendly, and helps to minimize the wait time for using the bathroom. 

Inside staterooms are 169–214 square feet, can accommodate 3-4 guests, and have no window to the outside world. The Disney Dream and Fantasy ships have Magical Portholes that offer a virtual real-time view of outside the ship, and occasional Disney characters that will pop up in the portholes.

Inside stateroom with Magical Porthole

Families generally don’t spend too much time inside the room, especially with the line up of activities on a Disney cruise. So, as long as you don’t have an issue with claustrophobia or mind the lack of natural sunlight, this is the cheapest way to sail with Disney. 

Oceanview staterooms can be a little larger, up to 241 square feet, and can accommodate 4–5 guests depending on the ship. The rooms on the Magic-series ships only accommodate up to four.

Oceanview stateroom

These cabins have windows with outside views, which also lets natural sunlight into your room. 

Verandah staterooms are up to 304 square feet and offer more space because of the addition of a balcony. These rooms can accommodate 4–5 guests. 

Verandah stateroom

Concierge staterooms vary in size from 306–1,781 square feet and can accommodate 5–7 guests, depending on the ship. The concept is similar to that of executive- or club-level rooms in a hotel, which come with access to a concierge lounge and more attentive service.

Concierge stateroom

With Disney cruises, booking a Concierge stateroom comes with many additional perks beyond lounge access. Before the cruise even begins, you’re given priority in booking onboard activities, excursions, and cabanas for Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, 120 days before sailing.

On the day of embarkation, you have priority boarding and access to a concierge lounge at the port terminal.

Once on the ship, you’ll enjoy the following benefits: 

  • Exclusive concierge hosts to help you throughout the cruise
  • Lounge access with complimentary food offerings and alcoholic drinks
  • Priority debarkation at ports of call and on debarkation day
  • Priority seating at evening performances and free popcorn for the movies and shows

All these benefits come with a hefty price tag, though, so you’ll have to decide if these benefits are truly worth the extra coin.

Food & Drink

There are many dining outlets onboard Disney cruise ships, with everything from sit-down meals to buffet lunches, and even grab-and-go options. All of these are included in your cruise fare. 

When you book your cruise, you can select your preferred evening dining time. If you’re travelling as a group, bookings can be linked, and your tables will be arranged close together.

Seating arrangements stay the same throughout the cruise. If you don’t fill up an entire table, Disney will seat families with families, and adults without children alongside other adults without children, as is possible.

Dining on Disney cruises is an experience in itself. Unlike other cruise lines, which assign you to one main dining room restaurant for your dinner for the entirety of your cruise, each Disney ship has three different main dining options that you rotate through. To keep things consistent, your servers rotate along with you each night, too.

The dining experiences vary depending on the ship, and are mostly inspired by different Disney movies and themes. Some are interactive, like Animator’s Plate, in which guests can make drawings that are brought to life on the TV screens before them, others feature live music, like in Tiana’s Place, and others have theatrical performances like in Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure.

Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure on Disney Wish

Cabanas is the cruise line’s buffet restaurant. Prior to the pandemic, it was open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but post-pandemic, the dinner option no longer exists.

The Disney Wish has replaced Cabanas with Marceline Market, which offers a quick-service experience during the day and table service at dinner. 

Marceline Market

At least one main dining room restaurant is also open for table service during breakfast and lunch. Room service, with a more limited menu, is also available 24/7. 

There are also several grab-and-go options on each ship, typically featuring sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, pizza, salads, fruit, and soft-serve ice cream until late into the evening. The Disney Wish steps it up a notch, offering the fleet’s first barbecue and Mexican quick-service options.

Every ship also has a confectionery store that offers candy, desserts, and ice cream creations. 

Premium dining experiences are also available for an additional fee. Every ship has at least one premium restaurant, which offers a prix-fixe menu ranging from $45–125 (USD) per person.

It may seem a hefty fee to pay, especially when the food at the regular restaurants is already included; however, if you enjoy fine dining and attentive service, the splurge is worth it. Remy (on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasty) and Enchanté (on Disney Wish) even have menus created by Michelin-starred chef Arnaud Lallement. 

Palo Italian restaurant on Disney Magic, Wonder, Dream, and Fantasy

As for drinks, there are beverage stations in Cabanas, as well as one located outside on the pool deck which offers water, soft drinks, milk, tea, and coffee.

Disney doesn’t offer any all-you-can-drink packages that include alcohol, but they do offer packages with bottled water. Unlike on other cruise lines, though, you’re allowed to bring your own wine and beer onboard, but there is a limit and other restrictions on consumption

Guests aged 21 and older may bring up to two bottles on unopened bottles of wine or Champagne, or six 12-ounce beers at the beginning of the voyage and at each port of call. You’ll be charged a corkage fee of $26 (USD) to enjoy your alcohol in one of the dining venues.

Onboard Amenities

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the activities and programs offered on a Disney cruise, but serves as a general guide of the types of amenities you can expect to find on any of the ships.

Every ship has several pools and hot tubs, at least one waterslide or water ride, and a splash zone for guests to enjoy during the cruise. There are also adult-only pool areas on each ship.

The exact set-up of the water areas varies depending on the ship, although there are many similarities.

For example, the Magic has the AquaDunk, a thrilling waterslide with a steep drop, while the Dream and Fantasy have the AquaDuck, a water coaster that encircles the entire deck. On the Wish is the AquaMouse, an improved version of the AquaDuck. 
 
Aquadunk on the Disney Magic

All ships are equipped with Sports Decks. The four older ships feature an open-air activity centre that features a basketball or volleyball court, a miniature golf course, sport simulators, ping-pong tables, foosball tables, and more.

The Disney Wish has Hero Zone, an indoor, climate-controlled sports area where guests can play sports in an air-conditioned setting.

On the lower decks, you can also find shuffleboards.

Kids clubs are a big highlight of the Disney cruising experience. Every ship has almost an entire deck dedicated to kids clubs, which offer supervised activities for kids aged six months to 17 years.

There are different spaces for kids of different ages. Other than the nursery, all other kids clubs are free of charge, and are open from around 9am until around midnight every day.

It’s A Small World Nursery offers childcare for children aged six months to three years for a fee. The fee is $9 (USD) per hour for one child, and $8 (USD) per hour for any additional children from the same family.

Reservations are encouraged, as space is limited.

It’s a Small World Nursery

Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are geared for children aged 3–12. The main difference between the two is the themed spaces and the activities they offer.

The areas are connected, so children are free to explore either club and join the activities they enjoy. Activities include science labs, arts and crafts, dance parties, games, character meet-and-greets, video games, and more.

Each ship offers its own unique spaces. For example, the Disney Wonder includes Oaken’s Trading Post from Frozen and Marvel’s Superhero Academy, while Disney Fantasy has a Star Wars Command Post and Doctor Strange space. 

Oceaneer Club

All kids registered in the Oceaneer clubs receive a Magic Band that has to be worn at all times. A fee is charged for the band, but will refunded upon returning the band at the end of the cruise.

The band allows children to tap in and out of the club. Kids eight and up can be permitted to have self check-in and out privileges. 

Edge is a space for tweens aged 11–14. There are organized activities like scavenger hunts and dance parties, but also free time to play video games, listen to music, and just chill.

Vibe is designed for teens aged 14–17. There is typically a dance floor, large screen TV, gaming stations, music stations, seating areas, and more. 

Vibe

A big feature of Disney cruises is meet-and-greets with various Disney characters, including princesses, Marvel characters, and Star War characters, depending on the sailing. Some can be pre-booked, while others you may simply run into while wandering the ship. 

Every night, there are stage shows performed in the Walt Disney Theatre. Each ship has its own Broadway-quality production, such as Beauty and the Beast, Frozen: A Musical Spectacular, Tangled: The Musical, or Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular.

On Disney Wish, there are two brand-new shows: The Little Mermaid and Disney Seas the Adventure.

Guests can also enjoy Disney movies on the pool deck or in a movie theatre onboard, including new releases. On theme days, like Pirate Night, there is often a show or dance party followed by fireworks. 

You can watch movies on the pool deck on Disney cruises

Unlike other cruise lines, Disney cruises do not have an onboard casino. Rather, they have several bars, lounges, and dance clubs exclusively for adults.

There are adult-only pool and deck areas, as well as a fitness centre and the Senses Spa & Salon.

If your child also needs some pampering during the cruise, consider visiting the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a paid salon experience for kids to transform them into princes and princesses. 

This list of activities doesn’t end here. There are also scrapbooking activities, silent dance parties, bingo games, whiskey tastings, and much, much more. 

Needless to say, you likely won’t run out of entertainment options onboard a Disney cruise.

Disney Cruise Ships

Disney Magic and Disney Wonder were Disney’s first two ships to join the fleet in 1998 and 1999, respectively, as part of the Magic class. They each have a capacity of just over 2,700 passengers and a total of 875 staterooms.

Disney Magic

These smaller ships allow for a more intimate feel, and tend to have itineraries that are more port-intensive and have fewer days at sea.  

Disney Wonder

Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy joined the fleet in 2011 and 2012, respectively, as part of the Dream class. Built larger than their predecessors, they have a capacity of 4,000 passengers and a total of 1,250 staterooms.

Disney Dream
Disney Fantasy

These two ships mainly sail in the Bahamas and the Caribbean. 

Disney Wish is the newest vessel, which joined the fleet in 2022 as the first Triton-class ship. It has a capacity of 4,000 passengers and a total of 1,254 staterooms.

Disney Wish

Currently it’s only sailing short three- or four- day itineraries to the Bahamas and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

All the ships share many similarities in their amenities and attractions, but each has unique features, as detailed above.

Destinations and Itineraries

Disney Cruise Line sails to a variety of destinations in North America, Europe, and Oceania. Itineraries range from 2–15 nights, which encompasses a mixture of port days and at-sea days.

While the entire list of Disney cruise itineraries is vast, you’ll have to start or end a cruise from one of the following home ports:

  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Brisbane, Australia
  • Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Dover, England
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Galveston, Texas
  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • Miami, Florida
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • New York, New York
  • Port Canaveral, Florida
  • San Diego, California
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Southampton, England
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Vancouver, Canada

The exact itinerary of your cruise varies greatly, depending on the length of your cruise and your port of departure. Some cruises depart from and return to the same port, while others cross a large body of water in one direction.

Examples of destinations served by Disney cruises are as follows:

  • North American destinations include Alaska, the Pacific Coast, Eastern Canada, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, and Mexico.
  • European destinations include the British Isles, the Baltics, the Mediterranean, and the Norwegian Fjords.
  • Oceania cruises visit Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, American Samoa, New Caledonia, and/or Hawaii.

As of 2023, Disney does not sail to South America or Asia. 

For certain destinations or at select times of the year, Disney will have themed sailings. Examples include Marvel Day at Sea, Pixar Day at Sea, Star Wars Day at Sea, Halloween on the High Seas, and Very Merrytime Christmas sailings. 

Caribbean and Bahamian sailings often include a stop at Disney’s own private island, Castaway Cay, which is a 1,000-acre island with white sand beaches, water play areas, a supervised kids club, and adults-only area. On the island, you can rent bikes, snorkelling gear, and water sport equipment, or even go on an excursion.

Castaway Cay

Booking a Disney Cruise

Disney cruises are more expensive than the average cruise, so be prepared to pay a bit of a premium for the experience. You can choose to book your cruise online directly with Disney, or through any number of travel agents.

Keep in mind that Disney will sometimes offer special promotions for Canadian residents, with up to 30% off select sailings.

There are often special promotions for Disney+ subscribers, so be sure to check out the landing page if you have a subscription.

If you’re a Disney Vacation Club member, you can swap your vacation week for a cruise instead. There are blackout dates to be aware of, so be sure to check out if your desired cruise is available to be booked during your ideal dates.

A few authorized Disney sales reps offer extra onboard credits, which requires some searching around to find. If you book through Costco Travel, they’ll often throw in a gift card worth several hundred dollars. 

To help ease the pain of the cost, you can maximize your earn by paying for your cruise with Disney gift cards bought at grocery stores using a credit card with a 5x or 6x multiplier, such as the American Express Cobalt Card or the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card. Just remember you’ll lose out on any travel insurance you’d normally have by charging the cruise to a credit card. 

Alternatively, you can always offset the cost of a cruise with a credit card with fixed-value travel rewards program, through which you redeem your points for a statement credit or book through a travel portal. Examples of these include HSBC Rewards, Scene+, TD Rewards, National Bank À la carte Rewards, BMO Rewards, and CIBC Aventura

Loyalty Program: The Castaway Club

Disney has its own cruise loyalty program known as The Castaway Club. It’s a pretty simple program, and you earn credits for every cruise you take, regardless of the duration of the cruise.

Currently, there are three tiers to the program, with a fourth being added on May 1, 2023:

  • Silver, earned after just one sailing
  • Gold, earned after five sailings
  • Platinum, earned after 10 sailings
  • Pearl, earned after 25 sailings (new tier to be added on May 1, 2023)

Perks include a members-only direct phone line, discounts on future voyages, priority check-in, Welcome Back Aboard gifts, advance access to cruise bookings, and advance restaurant and activity reservations. 

This isn’t necessarily the strongest loyalty program out there, but if you’re going to go on multiple Disney cruises, you may as well enjoy some incremental perks.

Conclusion

Disney has a great reputation when it comes to fun family vacations, and its cruise line experience is no different. A Disney cruise gives guests a chance to sail around the world on a magical ship with plenty of Disney-themed activities and entertainment to choose from, all while experiencing the hospitality and quality that Disney is known for.

The only downside to booking a Disney cruise is the cost, but there are some deals to be found if you’re diligent. Of course, you can also utilize credit cards to maximize your earn and offset the total cost with points.

Despite being pricey, you’ll certainly get what you pay for with Disney cruises, and you’ll be left with plenty of memories to look back on for years to come.