The ultimate guide to Disney Cruise Line ships and itineraries
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After decades of success making families smile and laugh at its theme parks, in the 1990s, Disney decided to try its hands in the world of cruising. Officially launching in 1998, Disney didn’t just copy another cruise line’s model for success, it created its own brand of cruising. Disney went so far in charting its own path as to get special approval from the U.S. Coast Guard for the lifeboats to be yellow instead of regulation orange, to tie into the colors of Mickey himself — black, red, white and yellow.
Now, Disney Cruise Line has four ships sailing in those signature colors, along with three more on order. Those four ships take families on sailings to the Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, Europe, Bermuda, Bahamas, and even through the Panama Canal.
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Disney Cruise Line is just — special — especially if you have kids who are in the age ranges that are all-in on Disney characters, princesses, Star Wars, Marvel, etc. But Disney’s not a one-trick cruise line that’s only good for one age group. It actually divides its kid club areas by four different ages and has several adults-only areas of the ship.
Disney’s attention to detail transfers to its voyages on the sea. And some who think long lines and theme park strategy when they hear the term “Disney” might be surprised at just how laid-back and relaxing a Disney Cruise can be.
Related: Which cruise brand is right for you?
What TPG loves about Disney Cruise Line
- Broadway-caliber shows and first-run movies
- High-quality Disney character interactions and childcare
- Innovative rotational dining
What we could do without
- Disney Cruises comes with a price — a high price.
- The onboard Wi-Fi is not an industry leader, to say the least. And it’s very expensive.
Disney Cruise Line fleet
While it may be a household name, Disney Cruise Line is actually a very small line. It has just four ships actively in the fleet, compared to 26 over at Royal Caribbean.
Out of the four, there are two ‘smaller’ ships, and two larger ones.
The largest two ships in Disney’s fleet are the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy at 1,115 feet in length and 14 decks high. These two ships have a passenger capacity of 4,000 people spread out across 1,250 staterooms. The overwhelming majority of cabins on these ships have an ocean-view or veranda with only 12% being interior staterooms (though even those have a magical porthole that displays a live feed from outside).
The Dream is a workhorse of short three- and four-night sailings from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas, home to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. The Fantasy also normally calls Port Canaveral home but does various longer Caribbean sailings.
The smaller two ships in the Disney Cruise Line line-up are the Disney Wonder and original ship in the fleet, the Disney Magic. These two ships are 964 long, 11 decks high and each have the capacity for 2,713 passengers across 875 staterooms. On these two smaller ships, 70% of passenger cabins have ocean views or verandas.
Disney’s Wonder and Magic get around a bit more than the larger two ships. Depending on the time of year, you might find the Wonder sailing out of places such as Galveston, New Orleans, California or Alaska. The Magic can be found in Miami, New York, Canada and Europe.
The first of Disney’s next three Triton class ships, Disney Wish, was to be delivered in 2021 and take its first passenger sailing in 2022. It will accommodate 4,000 passengers in 1,250 staterooms and suites, just like the Dream and Fantasy though measure in just a touch larger.
We know that the main atrium will give a nod to Beauty and the Beast and that Rapunzel will grace the stern, but we don’t know if the coronavirus disruptions will also delay this ship’s entrance to the fleet, or if the impact may even delay the next two ships as well.
Destinations and itineraries
In a normal year, Disney Cruise Line has around 280 departures scheduled that range from three- to 14-night sailings.
The Disney Dream has, by far, the highest number of annual sailings at 104 three- and four-night sailings, all from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas. These sailings all go to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, and some also make a stop in Nassau.
Some lucky Disney cruises actually do what’s called a “double-dip,” and make two stops at this private island where you can step ashore but still not step out of the Disney bubble.
Pro tip: If you go to Castaway Cay, be sure and rent a bike to get a little exercise and a nice self-guided tour of the island.
The Disney Fantasy does some shorter sailing from Port Canaveral, but she also does many longer sailings to different parts of the Caribbean. The Eastern Caribbean sailings go to ports such as the Virgin Islands, Antigua, Puerto Rico and St. Maarten.
The Western Caribbean sailings visit ports such as Grand Cayman, Mexico and Jamaica.
The Southern Caribbean sailings head to ports such St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Antigua and the Virgin Islands.
The Disney Wonder starts the year sailing from Galveston and then New Orleans to ports around Mexico and the Caribbean, before heading through the Panama Canal to California. (And yes, you can absolutely book the passage to take that journey on the Wonder!)
The ship then spends the spring sailing from San Diego to Mexico before moving to Vancouver to do summer Alaska sailings from May through September. From there, she heads back to San Diego to spend some time in the early fall before taking the long Panama Canal voyage back to Galveston to end the year doing four to six-night sailings.
Disney Magic has a really fun schedule that spends the first part of the year sailing from Miami around the Caribbean before crossing the Atlantic in May to begin various European sailings.
This includes sailings across Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. You’ll find ports in Iceland, Norway, Rome, Greece, Finland, Russia, Itlay, Spain, England, France and more. In September, this ship sails back to New York to do sailings from NYC a month or so, until the ship finishes the last two months of the year doing Caribbean sailings from the warm waters of Miami.
Who sails Disney Cruise Line
Let’s start with the obvious — families love Disney Cruise Line.
The ultimate sweet-spot for taking a Disney cruise starts when a child is at least 3-years-old and potty trained (the criteria that gets them into the included kids clubs) and lasts until they outgrow their love of Disney characters (which, remember, Disney includes the Star Wars and Marvel brands and offers themed cruises with those characters, too).
There’s the very real fact that a Disney cruise costs more than a similar cruise on a line such as Royal Caribbean, so it’s easiest to justify the price increase when your kids love Disney the most.
So, yes, the stereotype that Disney Cruise Line is full of families is 100% correct.
You’ll see tons of families with kids in those preschool, elementary and middle school years. But you’ll also families with little babies (minimum age is 6 months on most sailings, 1 year on Panama Canal and transatlantic sailings), tweens, teens, college-aged kids and even grandparents who have made a Disney cruise an enjoyable multigeneration travel tradition.
You’ll also see Disney cruisers who love Disney regardless of age and are proud to wear their Mickey ears while hearing the first seven notes of the “When You Wish Upon a Star” melody blown from the massive horns.
So, just like you don’t need kids to have a great time at Disney World or Disneyland, there are also very active adult-only sections on the Disney Cruise Line ships.
Cabins and suites
At a basic level, there are approximately five main types of cabins across the Disney fleet. You’re not going to find the two-story family suite with a slide the way you may on a new Royal Caribbean ship, but you’ll find other consistent touches.
In its simplified version, the types of cabins on a Disney Cruise include:
- Concierge Family Oceanview Stateroom
- Concierge Suites
These cabins start at 169 square feet for a standard inside cabin and go up to a 1,781 square foot Royal Suite.
Unless you are really OK with the smallest space on the ship, or have a budget for the largest, the sweet spot for price and comfort on Disney Cruise Line vessels is probably the cabins that are around 204 square feet and usually come with a queen bed, single sleeper sofa and upper-berth pull-down bed and a split bath — which is essentially a bath-and-a-half.
You’ll find this set-up in the Deluxe Inside Staterooms, Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms and the Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms with Verandah.
The Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms and Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah add about 40 more square feet to the equation.
Pro tip: Ask your stateroom host for cartoon bedding for the kid bed if you think your child will be excited to come back from dinner to one of their Disney favorites.
You can connect many of the staterooms on the ship, which is often a much more economical solution for a family looking for more sleeping space (and bathrooms) than upgrading to a multi-bedroom suite. Roughly speaking, a family of four will pay about 50% more for two cabins as they will for all staying in one cabin.
Related: Best cruise cabins for families
If you are going all-out on a particular trip, or are simply working with a larger budget, Disney Concierge suites really are special.
The smallest available room with this service is the Concierge Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah, which isn’t all that different from the Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah other than the included concierge service. From there, you can go up to the one- or two-bedroom suites. Be prepared for sticker shock though as these suites will almost certainly be near or over five-figures on most sailings.
While pricey, Disney concierge service eliminates almost all of the potential pain points of a Disney cruise (not that there are tons of pain points to begin with).
Disney concierge service gets you access to the Disney Concierge Lounge, which has a light food offering multiple times per day … and a fully stocked fridge with sodas, juices and bottles of water.
In the evenings, you’ll find included beer, wine and spirits in the lounge — which you can also take with you to-go as you head to enjoy the view from the deck or at dinner.
The concierge lounge also has its own private deck and a Disney character has been known to make a private appearance there during the cruise (don’t worry, you’ll get a head’s up). And that’s all amazing, but it’s not even really the best part of being on concierge-level.
You also have your own check-in area and are among the very first to board the ship, which can mean hours of extra time to enjoy the waterslides to yourself. At the end of the cruise, you can have a private elevator that takes you down to be some of the first off the ship — which should protect you from a very long line to say goodbye.
You’ll also be able to submit your request for meal reservations at Palo or Remy, cabanas on Castaway Cay, spa treatments, character meet-and-greets or whatever else you wish before other guests. These can be made for you starting at 120 days before your sailing, which is before all other guests except those with the highest elite status tier in the Castaway Cay Club.
Those on their first Disney cruise don’t get to make those reservations until 75-days out if they aren’t in concierge-level, and the reality is the hottest items are often all booked up by then, especially on shorter cruises when there’s just less time to do everything.
Pro tip: Regardless of your cabin, bring magnetic Mickey or nautical-themed decor to decorate the entrance to your cabin as most of the staterooms doors are magnetic and it’s a fun tradition on a Disney cruise!
Those in concierge-level in one-bedroom suites and higher can also order room service from the restaurants to their stateroom, which means you can have a hot breakfast on your veranda if you wish instead of just the regular continental options.
If you are on the fence about concierge, it’s most valuable when you are on a shorter cruise, have some specific popular must-have items on your reservation wish-list or you just want someone else to take care of everything.
Restaurants and dining
You will not go hungry on a Disney cruise. And while we’re sure that onboard dining will undergo some changes when cruising returns, we’d bet that the basics surrounding how Disney approaches dining remain the same.
On each Disney ship, there are three main dining rooms that serve as dinner restaurants that participate in rotational dining. Each ship has its own line-up, though the concept remains the same on each. Each night, your table and server team will move from one restaurant to the next as a team. This way, the servers get to know that you always want to start with a glass of red wine, or your kids’ food needs to come ASAP so you can take them to the kid club as soon as they finish, or (in my case) your daughter wants a side of BBQ sauce with — everything.
There’s an early and a late seating with your showtime serving opposite your dining time. Each ship has its own line-up of restaurants, though there are some consistent themes. For example, the Disney Dream has Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden (inspired by gardens of Versailles) and Royal Palace (Disney-princess inspired).
The smaller Disney Wonder also has Animator’s Palate (all four ships have this one), but uniquely has Tiana’s Place (southern cooking and live jazz music) and Triton’s (described as upscale, fine dining).
At these restaurants, you can order pretty much whatever you want on the menu at no extra charge, with a few exceptions (for example, alcohol and specialty drinks are extra).
Outside of the three included themed restaurants, there are lots of other dining options — some included, some not.
Room service is free, though the menu is somewhat limited if you aren’t staying in the concierge level. Still, it’s free room service.
Pro tip: Fill the breakfast card out the night before and hang it on your stateroom so you can get breakfast exactly when you want it the next morning.
And you haven’t lived until your kids learn how to order free Mickey bars to the stateroom … every night (just be sure and add a tip).
Buffet and grab-and-go
Your Disney Cruise will also include not only a Cabana’s buffet (though naturally how this functions will likely change going forward), but also some grab-and-go quick-service restaurants that serve everything from salads, chili, pizza and much, much more.
These dining options don’t cost extra and are available to you in addition to or instead of your rotational dining.
You’ll also find included ice cream somewhere along the deck!
And then there are the options that do cost extra.
Palo and Remy
At the top of the extra list are the restaurants Palo and Remy — the larger Disney ships have both of these restaurants while the smaller ones only have Palo.
Remy is a fancy adults-only French restaurant that costs $125 additional per person for dinner, more if you would like to include drinks. This is the type of place where men need jackets and women are expected to wear dresses, pantsuits or a skirt and blouse.
Palo is also fancy, though a notch less fancy than Remy. You’ll see jackets and dresses in Palo, but you can also get by with nice jeans if you want. This adults-only restaurant serves Northern Italian fare and costs $40 extra per person for dinner, or $99 extra per person with a wine pairing.
I can say with 100% certainty if you enjoy a nice meal, this is worth $40 extra once during your cruise. From the breadbasket to the dessert, it’s all amazing. You’ll gain five pounds, but you won’t regret a bite.
These reservations are hard to get, so you’ll want to make them the second you are eligible and keep checking back for cancellations if you miss out the first time.
Coffee shops and snack shops
What’s interesting about a Disney Cruise is that the snacks and pastries you’ll see in the coffee shop or kiosk are included, but the specialty coffee will cost a little extra.
Drink prices are roughly similar to Starbucks, if not a notch lower. Be sure and ask for the Cafe Fanatic card if you’re a regular as your sixth drink will be free.
In addition to the included ice cream, your ship may have some shops with ice cream that costs extra. This can get confusing to kids, so I want to warn you a bit ahead of time. On the Dream, you’ll find Vanellope’s that is stuffed with candies, gelato and ice cream — all for an extra charge.
There’s a juice bar on the Dream and Fantasy, but know that it also costs extra.
The exact bars on your Disney ship will vary, but expect things like a wine and Champagne bar, a pub, laid-back lounge or a bar with live entertainment.
These bars are a lot of fun and are not to be missed if you like live music or a nice drink at the end of the day.
Some of the drink-tasting classes can be a good value if you’re a fan of the drink on offer and are interested in learning a little bit while you sip.
Food on Castaway Cay
If your Disney Cruise takes you to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, you’re in luck as there’s plenty of food to eat there, too.
Like while onboard, some of the food on Castaway is included, while alcohol, specialty drinks, etc. are not. The Cookies and Cookies Too lunch shacks on the island are both included, so load up on hot dogs, BBQ, hamburgers, fries and all the fixings. There are also some vegetarian options available.
The food options here are somewhat basic, but still make for a fun and included meal while on land.
But that delicious frozen concoction sold at the hut with the charming looking Olaf snowman? Yeah, that’s gonna cost a little extra.
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Entertainment and activities
A very valid reason to want to sail with Disney is the onboard fun that awaits — especially for those who love Disney characters and stories.
Theaters and shows
There are two theaters on each Disney cruise ship, the massive Walt Disney Theater where you’ll enjoy Broadway-caliber evening shows such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Frozen,” “Tangled,” “Disney Dreams,” the “Golden Mickeys” and more. If you want a good seat, plan to get here a little early since it is first-come, first-served.
But there’s also the Buena Vista Theater where you can watch first-run Disney films. These will be the same films still showing in theaters. If you happen to be at sea when a new Disney movie premiers on land, you’ll also get that same first look at sea!
Pirate night is a staple on most Disney cruises. On that themed night, expect everyone to be dressed in their pirate-y best for the evening. Your dinner that evening will also have a pirate theme, followed by a fun show up on deck, complete with fireworks.
Pro tip: This can be a long day, so try to work in a nap that afternoon so you don’t miss out on the nighttime fun!
Other interior attractions and activities
Meeting Disney characters is a really fun part of a Disney cruise. Who knows how this will work when cruising returns, but historically you made a reservation in advance to meet the popular princesses or “Frozen” gang.
Other characters, like Captain Minnie and friends, did not require an advance reservation. You would just get in line to say hi to the characters and have a picture made. While some character appearances are a surprise, most times and locations are shared in advance on your daily cruise itinerary.
There is an onboard fitness center, so you can work off some of those treats and drinks.
The Senses Spa & Salon is a full-service spa with everything from massages to pedicures and hair care.
Pro tip: The showers in this part of the ship are full-sized in case you are getting a bit claustrophobic of the shower in your stateroom.
You’ll want to make appointments in advance, though last-minute appointments are sometimes available if you are feeling spontaneous.
If you like getting away to relax, look at purchasing access to the Rainforest Room, for heated stone loungers, aromatherapy showers and jacuzzi (on the Dream and Fantasy). You can buy a one-day or full cruise pass to this area of the spa.
While the Senses Spa is for adults 18 and up, teens looking for a treatment can check out the Chill Spa.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
A fun offering for the little cruisers looking to be transformed to a princess or pirate at sea is the onboard Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique that does themed kid makeovers and sells costumes. You’ll need an appointment and expect to pay $100 to $200 for most packages, though some can go up to $400 to $500, so check the price tag before committing to a $450 princess signature package.
Disney Cruise Line pioneered waterslides at sea, and the AquaDuck waterslide on the larger Dream and Fantasy that takes riders in single or double tubes 765 feet from Deck 12 up and down, through the Forward Funnel and on a four-deck drop is still pretty epic. This line can get long, so I recommend riding first thing when you board if the port is warm enough or nighttime rides usually have short waits, too.
The Disney Magic has a body waterslide called AquaDunk and the Disney Wonder has its own waterslide in the AquaLab splash area.
Each Disney ship has multiple pools, though if you’ve never been on a cruise, you may be shocked at how small they are. Just like the waterslides, we recommend enjoying these first thing when you board if you want to do it without crowds. Otherwise, crowds may be lower during port days, but there are thousands of people on the ship, and only a few small pools, so … if you see a good opportunity to enjoy — take it.
Just to give a flavor of how crowded pools or hot tubs could get in pre-corona days, here’s a sampling on the Dream.
Each ship has a pool and hot tub area just for adults 18 and up. It can also get busy, but typically less busy than the family area.
Depending on your ship, there may be an in-pool bar area.
This is also a nice place to just grab a chair and relax.
Your little one has to be potty-trained to get in the onboard pools. The option for those still in swim diapers are some splash areas, such as Nemo’s or Dory’s Reef.
If you want to be a bit more active, there are sports decks available to play basketball, foosball, miniature golf and more.
You may even have some sports simulator options beyond your traditional in-person fun.
Call me crazy, but this might be my favorite part of the Disney cruise — included kid programs that kids actually want to attend. Because if the kids are happy for a few hours, the parents can actually relax, too.
Oceaneers Club and Lab for children ages 3–12
All four Disney ships have amazing spaces for kids in that 3- to 12-year-old range in the Oceaneers Club and Lab. Here you’re going to find things like video games, an indoor slide, fun programs with the staff, surprise character visits and so much more. Your kids do need to be potty trained to visit this club, so use that as motivation for a kid approaching 3 years old before your next cruise!
Your kids don’t need an appointment to pop in here, they can come anytime from open to close — and it stays open pretty late.
There will be open hours on the first day and select times on other dates that parents can stay with kids and play, but most of the time it is kids-only.
Your kids will check-in and out by scanning a special MagicBand that also tracks where they are exactly within the kid clubs.
Once your child turns 8, you have the option of giving them self check-out privileges. We did not feel comfortable with that quite at 8, but it is a choice and you’ll get a notification on your Wave phone when your child checks in or out of the kids club.
While kids up to 12 are welcome in the main, large Oceaneers club, they may start hoping to move up to the tween club by the time they are 10-years-old.
Edge tween club for children aged 11–14
When your kid outgrows the fun in the main kid club, don’t worry, Edge is waiting just upstairs. Technically, Edge is for kids 11–14, but you can get your 10 year old in with permission — and once they figure that out, it’s probably all over for the “little kid club.”
Edge is a much smaller space, but tweens have tons of fun here playing video games, having dance parties, doing crafts, playing trivia games, etc. with their newfound cruise friends.
This club does not utilize parent sign-in and out, so you need to trust your kid if they are coming to Edge.
Vibe teen club for children aged 14–17
OK, get ready to be jealous of this one. On the Disney Dream and Fantasy, the teen club has its own set of small pools located at the front of the ship.
Inside, you’ll find a tech-friendly world of loungers, dance parties, smoothies and other teen-approved fun.
“it’s a small world nursery” for children 6 months to 3-years-old
While the three previously mentioned kid clubs are free and do not require reservations, the nursery operates a little differently. You will need to make reservations for this and the fee is $4.50 per half hour for the first child and $4.00 per half hour for each additional child.
What to know before you go
The exact documents you will need will vary by cruise destination. Having a passport is always a good idea, but it’s not technically required on all Disney cruises. Specifically, cruises from Port Canaveral, Miami, Galveston, San Diego, San Juan, New Orleans and New York to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Pacific Coast, Bermuda or Canada can be done with just a state-issued birth certificate and government-issued photo ID.
Passports, when required, must be valid for at least six months. For cruises from international ports, you’ll need a passport. Note that it is important that the name on your reservation be exactly as it is stated on your passport or other official proof of nationality.
Related: Tips for getting a child’s passport
Disney Cruise Line adds an automatic service gratuity of about $13.50 per person, per day to final bills. If you are unhappy with the service you receive, you can adjust this amount (and you can adjust it upward too). To give an idea of what it adds up to be, a four-person family on a four-night cruise would have $216 in recommended tips that would go to your team of dining room servers and stateroom hosts who made your room look like magic while you were out enjoying the ship or port.
Also, an 18% gratuity is added at the onboard spa, and a 15% gratuity is automatically added to bar, beverage, wine and deck service tabs. You can always add additional gratuity to any of your services or servers.
While room service is free, there’s a bill to sign, so it’s customary to add a few dollars of tip to these orders.
While some gratuity is included at Palo and Remy, you’ll likely want to add additional there if you enjoyed the service. Note that if you stay in concierge-level, it is customary to also tip the concierge lounge staff at the end of your cruise.
Disney Cruise Line’s Wi-Fi is not good or affordable if you really need to do much online. It is powered by Connect@Sea and you pay for various data packages. The smallest packages was about $19 for 100 MB and the largest was 1000 MB for about $89. If you sign-up the first day there’s usually a free 50 MB package and in concierge-level, you can get an extra free 100 MB.
For me, it doesn’t matter how many MB I have, it goes incredibly quickly and can end up costing hundreds if you try to do much at all online. It’s just bad and pricey, so do your best to stay offline while at sea. Use the internet at the ports to stay connected if you can until Disney gets a better system in place.
Carry-on drinks policy
Guests 21 years and older may bring a maximum of two bottles of unopened wine or Champagne (no larger than 750 ml) or six beers (no larger than 12 ounces) on board at the beginning of the voyage and at each port of call. These beverages must be packed in carry-on (not checked) bags or luggage.
Guests wishing to consume wine or Champagne that they have brought on board in one of the dining rooms will be charged a corking fee of $25 per bottle.
Smoking is permitted in very select and designated areas of the deck. It’s forbidden in cabins and on cabin balconies, and those who violate this rule will face a $250 cleaning fee.
For an additional fee, Disney ships offer full-service laundry and dry-cleaning services that will pick up and deliver clean clothes right to your stateroom.
There’s also 24-hour, self-service guest laundry facilities equipped with washers and dryers, along with detergent and complimentary ironing equipment. You pay for the facilities by using your Key to the World card.
All staterooms are equipped with multiple 110V outlets, which are standard in the U.S. and Canada. Staterooms on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy are equipped with a combination of 110V and 220 outlets (European).
Small electrical appliances such as electric shavers, curling irons and flat irons with standard North American plugs will function on board. 110V items should not exceed 1500W and 220V items should not exceed 2000W. A hair dryer is provided in every stateroom for your convenience, but you may bring your own as long as it meets the guidelines above.
The currency on Disney Cruise Line ships, regardless of location, is U.S. dollars. Your onboard “Key to the World” serves as your onboard payment method. Cash, credit cards, etc. are not needed on board (other than if you wanted to tip in cash at some points), as you’ll use your “key” to charge things to your stateroom.
You may want to bring cash for your port visits if you plan to take part in some excursions.
During the time you are on the ship, you will not need cash or a credit card—all incidentals, purchases and services will be charged to your stateroom folio. In port, you may wish to carry cash or a credit card to buy snacks and souvenirs.
For most Disney sailings, the drinking age onboard is 21. However, on roundtrip cruises departing European countries with a lower drinking age, those 18–20 years of age can have alcohol onboard with signed parental consent.
During the day, there’s no specific dress code, and people dress casually. If it’s a sea day in a warm-weather destination, and you’re bound for the top-deck, that means looking like you’re going to the beach — T-shirts, shorts and bathing suits (with a cover-up to go inside) are just fine.
During the evenings, dining attire in the three main dining restaurants is “cruise casual”, meaning no swimwear or tank tops but you don’t have to put on a party dress or anything. That said, many guests do dress up a tiny bit in the evening, but it’s not required unless you are dining in Palo or Remy.
On cruises that are seven nights or longer, there is a “formal night” — though even then it’s only encouraged, not required. But on that night you will see suits, sports coats, cocktail dresses and similar.
Pro tip: Be sure and pack that pirate gear for the pirate night!
Related: What to pack for your first cruise
Disney Cruise loyalty program
Disney Cruise line has a simple loyalty program with three “elite status” levels that you earn based on how many cruises you’ve taken with Disney. A three-night and 10-night cruise both just count as one sailing for these purposes.
Silver Castaway: One completed cruise
Gold Castaway: Five completed cruises
Platinum Castaway: 10 completed cruises
This isn’t the kind of loyalty program where you earn free cruises the way you earn free flights with airline miles. Instead, as you go up in status you earn perks and earlier access to booking cruises and activities on board your cruise — which is key for getting those hard to snag adult dining or Castaway Cay cabana reservations.
Silver members can book new cruise itineraries one day before the general public, can book onboard activities 90 days before sailing, will get a welcome back aboard gift (such as a bag), have access to a Castaway Cay members-only line when boarding and access to a Castaway Cay direct phone number.
Gold members have all of those perks but can book new sailings two days before the general public and can book onboard activities 105 days before sailing. Gold members also can select their preferred port arrival time upon completion of eDocuments, which can mean more time to enjoy the ship that first day.
Gold Castaway Cay members are also invited to a private reception on eight-night and longer voyages where Gold and Platinum Castaway Club members will experience special entertainment. There are also select discounts available to Gold members.
Platinum members have it good. In addition to all the perks at the Gold level, they get priority check-in at the cruise terminal and will be some of the very first to walk on board the ship at their leisure once boarding begins.
They also get a complimentary evening dinner at Palo for themselves and everyone in the stateroom aged 18 and older. Platinum Castaway Cay members can book new cruises three days before the general public and can secure onboard activities 120 days before sailing.
How much does a Disney cruise cost?
Magic ain’t cheap, and Disney cruises are expensive. They aren’t the priciest voyages out there, but they will cost more than family-friendly competitors such as Royal Caribbean by a noticeable margin.
For a family of four, the cheapest Disney cruise currently available in 2021 is about $2,150 for a three-night cruise from Port Canaveral to Nassau and Castaway Cay in an inside stateroom. An oceanview will add about $50 and a veranda will add about $150.
On these shortest cruises, concierge-level staterooms and access start at about $5,000 for a family of four.
Those sort of prices will only be available during the off-season, such as in mid-to late-January. That same cruise during spring break can cost double, so the more date flexibility you have, the better.
A seven-night cruise, such as one going from New Orleans to the Bahamas, or from San Diego to the Mexican Riviera will likely start between $4,000 to $5,000 for a family of four. Expect Alaska and European cruises to start at $5,000 to $6,000 for inside cabins for a week, and go up in price for longer sailings and upgraded staterooms.
You can save 10% on your next Disney Cruise by putting a deposit down while you are at sea on a Disney cruise, which is a very popular way to shave a bit off the price tag. Another way to save on a Disney cruise is to look at a one-way repositioning sailing as those often price a bit lower than other similar cruises. For example, sometimes the cruise line may need to end a cruise in a particular port, such as to or from San Juan, to reposition it to do some sailings from there. You’ll have to get yourself back home from that port, but you may save on the cruise in the process.
How to book
You can certainly book your Disney cruise directly with Disney either over the phone or on their website, but I’d argue you often shouldn’t.
Cruises are easy to enjoy but can be complicated to plan and this is an industry where a travel agent is still a good call. You want someone who can help you pick the right cabin type and location for your group, and will keep track of when you can snag those onboard activities you really want.
With all the recent cruise cancellations, I was so grateful to have a travel agent spending their time dealing with the cruise line, instead of me.
Another reason to consider going through a travel agent is to get onboard credit. Many travel agents will offer an onboard credit based on the amount you spend on your Disney cruise. This is credit you can use toward onboard drinks, spa treatments, booking excursions, or really anything you can charge to a stateroom.
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Generally speaking, the sooner you book a Disney cruise when it goes on sale, the better as prices usually only go one direction — up.
Whether you use a travel agent or not, make sure to maximize your credit card points when paying for the cruise by using a credit card that offers extra points for travel purchases. This could be the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points on travel and dining (excluding the annual $300 travel credit). There’s also the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which brings 2x Ultimate Rewards points on travel (and dining).
The Disney Visa Card can be another good option specifically with the Disney Cruise Line as it gives you access to 0% APR for six months on eligible Disney vacation packages (then a variable APR of 15.99% applies), such as a Disney Cruise. The card also gets you 10% to 20% in savings on some onboard activities and packages while at Castaway Cay.
The information for the Disney Visa card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Whether you are on a three-night trip to Castaway Cay or a big crossing through the Panama Canal, a Disney cruise is special. The classic styling of the ships, the vast number of inclusions, the rotational dining, waterslides, private island, fun kid clubs, Disney characters, high-caliber entertainment and Disney quality just shine through on a Disney cruise.
You’re going to pay more for the privilege of sailing with Captain Mickey and Minnie, but for those with kids in that Disney age range, or for adults who simply know and trust the Disney brand, the Disney Cruise Line’s four ships stand ready to take you to out to sea when the time is right.
More stories to help you plan your next cruise:
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