We just got back from a tremendous Disney Cruise and had a marvelous time! From the dinners to the shows and all of the details – the only thing we don’t love about a Disney cruise is the price. While expensive, we really do think they are worth the extra cost. Today we won’t be getting into that, but rather we will be talking about how to figure out which Disney cruise is right for you.
When do you want to go?
Depending on your chosen destination, you might have a lot of choices or very few options. Knowing when you can go – or if you are very flexible right up front will be very helpful. Ideally I would recommend two years prior to sailing – or immediately if you are unsure of budget, when and where Disney sails, and so on that you go online and check out the details of their sailings. For example about four years ago we noticed that Disney has lovely Mediterranean itineraries in the summer months and about how much they cost, so that about two years ago I could begin watching for opening day and book immediately and at the best price.
Where do you want to go?
Depending on your schedule and knowledge of Disney cruise line – a great place to begin is to hop on the Disney Cruise website, and check out where they go! Some cruises are very limited – for example there are only two Panama Canal cruises a year, only about two months a year Disney cruises the Mediterranean, Alaska cruises are only in summer – and so on. However cruises to Disney’s private island Castaway Cay and around the Bahamas and Caribbean run all year. Disney cruises range on average from 3-10 days with a few shorter (yes, 2 nights!) and a few longer.
We decided we wanted to try a Mediterranean cruise as a nice way to explore the region while having the comfort of having just one hotel as well as an English speaking crew and all the comforts of a Disney cruise!
Budget and logistical details
Once you know where you want to go and when you’d like to go – it’s time to check out the budget. Note that some itineraries will be a lot more or less expensive than others. For example we had looked at a 10 day cruise and the price was nearly double that of a 7 day cruise two weeks prior. Likewise, the 7 day cruise directly after ours with same itinerary was several hundred dollars more! So be ready to shop around and compare, especially if you are flexible on timing.
Here are a few details you’ll want to consider for your budget in addition to the cruise fare:
- Transportation to/from the cruise (car, airfare, transfers to port, etc)
- Hotel before/after the cruise
- Shore excursions and activities on port days
- Tips for cruise staff
- Souvenirs on board and off
- Extras (spa, drinks/smoothies, etc)
- Tours, other extras before or after the cruise
- Trip insurance
Depending on the cruise and location that you select, the amounts could vary from a few hundred to quite a few thousand beyond the cruise fare. Doing some estimates early on will help make sure that you don’t wind up way beyond your budget from the start.
What if you’re having trouble deciding?
The first thing I would say, is to ask yourself what your hopes and priorities are for this cruise. Do you want to visit somewhere new? Float around with lots of sea days? Run a 5k on Disney’s private island? Your priorities, schedule, and budget will eliminate a lot of cruises from the possibilities for sure. If you still are having trouble deciding, I would pick the most unique one. For example we cruised from Barcelona to Rome on an itinerary that only ran once, and that did not happen exactly with same ports last year! As it turned out, being early in the season was great for weather, the price was lower, and it all worked out.
More things to consider and research:
Which ship do you want to take? Each ship runs in a similar way – there are two seatings for dinner, you rotate to all the restaurants, there will be shows, characters, etc… but each ship has unique details as well. For example, some of the restaurants are different/unique themes and menus. They do not all have the same shows, some are smaller than others. If there is a specific show or restaurant you’re dying to try – you’ll need to book that ship. We did not have a choice (the Magic is the ship that sails Europe), but we were lucky enough that it has a newly remodeled restaurant: Rapunzel’s Royal Table! As Rapunzel fans, this was a huge perk for us.
Is this the vacation, or part of the vacation? Both cruise experiences we’ve had, the cruise was one portion of the trip. Our first cruise to Castaway Cay and back was a 3 night cruise we did prior to our Disney World vacation. This Mediterranean cruise was the second half of our European adventure. In both of our cruises it made sense to combine and maximize vacation time as we had to fly quite a distance to get to the cruise in the first place!
What kind of room should I get? I will write up an entire post about this, but bottom line is that it depends on your budget and preferences. An inside stateroom can be quite a bit less than a veranda room, but if you enjoy your own private outdoor space and ability to enjoy things without company of others – it can be worth every penny. We loved watching fireworks from our room, seeing the coastline float pass, heck on our sea day we even sat out there watching the dolphins play! If these kinds of ‘perks’ to having your own private outdoor space don’t appeal, an inside stateroom is all you need!
Which deck is best? The Disney Cruise Line agent I spoke to on our first cruise recommended 1/2 way between the mid and aft stairs, on a deck that has nothing but staterooms below and above for a quiet, smooth smooth experience. We have done this both cruises and it was absolutely great! Very quiet, not a lot of hall traffic, and very convenient to both Cabanas buffet/the drink station as well as the restaurant locations, pools, etc. Just a few flights up or down for just about everything.
Which dinner seating? Do not listen to anyone who says one is better or worse – they’re both great! Pick the seating that best matches your own eating preference. We do not ever eat late if we can help it, so the earlier seating is what we do. This is usually around 5:30-6pm depending on your exact cruise. The later seating (around 8pm) would work well for you if you’re night owls, or if you simply prefer to eat late. Consider your cruising party, your regular routines at home, and what makes more sense.
Do they do formal nights? What is dress code? Big selling point for us: there are no mandatory formal nights or anything – you can come in shorts and a Tshirt each day if you so desire. We tended to wear dresses (girls) or pants and a collared shirt (the mr) – but you don’t HAVE to dress up which was nice.
Should I do one of the special themed cruises? Around and Halloween there are holiday celebrations that are a bit extra special, and there are also other special features for example “Marvel day at sea” where there are character meets and events beyond the normal. I believe if one of these extras happens to be on a cruise you already want to go on, or if the timing works out well that is great! But I do think a “plain” Disney cruise is just as magic!
What else should I know? Here’s the best part – if you just pick what room, dining time, and what cruise – you can do the rest on board! No, I don’t recommend necessarily letting the planning go quite that much. But the point is you can even add excursions and extras once on board and Disney will do the rest. They’ve got a great onboard app, daily schedules, and more to keep you having fun and on a stress free vacation.
This is just the beginning! I learned so much from our recent Disney cruise and I can not wait to share more with you – so stay tuned.