The 3 types of Disney Cruise Line ships, explained
Disney may be a giant in the vacation business, thanks to its many theme park and resort complexes around the world. But in the world of cruising, it’s a relatively small player.
Disney’s 24-year-old cruising arm, Disney Cruise Line, only operates five vessels — a small fraction of the number you’ll find in the fleets of cruising’s best-known brands. The world’s two biggest cruise lines, Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line, by comparison, have 26 and 23 ships in their fleets, respectively. MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line have 19 and 18 ships, respectively.
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If you’re thinking about going on a Disney cruise, it’s relatively easy to get a handle on your ship options — much easier than it is at a line like Royal Caribbean.
At first blush, you only have to figure out the differences among five different ships. But, in fact, it’s even easier than that because the five vessels can be bunched into just three groups. If you know one member of the group, you know them all.
Each of these groups — known as “classes” in cruise industry lingo — is made up of ships that were constructed around the same time to the same basic design.
An introduction to Disney Cruise Line ships
As noted above, Disney Cruise Line is a relatively small player in the cruise world — even smaller than it might at first appear.
Not only does Disney have far fewer ships than the big cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian that dominate the cruise business, but Disney’s ships also aren’t as big as the biggest ships operated by those brands, and they don’t carry as many passengers.
That makes Disney Cruise Line an even smaller brand, relative to the big lines, on a passenger capacity basis.
For instance, cruise giant Royal Caribbean has about five times more ships than Disney. But on a passenger capacity basis, based on double occupancy, Royal Caribbean is about 10 times larger than Disney Cruise Line.
That said, Disney’s cruising division is getting bigger, fast. After going a decade without adding a new vessel, Disney Cruise Line is in the midst of building three more ships. The first of the new vessels, Disney Wish, just began sailing this summer, and two sister ships are due to begin operating in 2024 and 2025, respectively. The new ships, which collectively are known as the Triton class, are nearly doubling the line’s size when measured by passenger capacity.
The Triton class is one of the three classes of ships in the Disney Cruise Line fleet. Disney’s two oldest vessels, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, make up its Magic class. Disney’s two next two vessels, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, make up its Dream class.
Related: 17 tips for sailing on Disney Cruise Line
Ships in class: Disney Wish (2022); Unnamed (coming 2024); Unnamed (coming 2025).
Size: 144,000 tons.
The Triton class is the shiny new thing at Disney Cruise Line, with the first vessel in the series (Disney Wish) having just arrived in July. At 140,000 tons, Disney Wish is only a tad bigger than Disney’s last two new ships, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. But it has a whole new array of Disney wow on board, from a Star Wars-themed “hyperspace lounge” that offers a “window” view of passing starships to Marvel- and “Frozen”-themed restaurants.
First looks: Disney Wish's new 'Frozen' dinner show | Disney Wish's new Marvel-themed restaurant
In addition, cabins on the ship include seven ocean-view rooms located over the bridge, a first for Disney Cruise Line. The rooms have extended living areas with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bow and out across the ocean. If that isn’t enough, there also are four Royal Suites with a Sleeping Beauty theme, two of which feature a two-story floor plan.
Designed with families in mind (as is the Disney way), Disney Wish's cabins are built with lots of extra berths for kids. While its 1,254 rooms can hold 2,508 passengers at double occupancy (the way most cruise lines measure passenger capacity), it can sail with as many as 4,000 passengers when every pull-down bunk and pull-out sofa in cabins is filled.
The top deck of Disney Wish also is particularly family-friendly, with such attractions as a new-for-the-line high-tech water ride called the AquaMouse. Other notable new features on Disney Wish are a reimagined Oceaneers Club (the area for kids ages 3 to 12 on Disney ships) where children can enter via a slide. The Oceaneers Club also offers a Marvel Super Hero Academy where kids can design (and virtually fly) in their own super suit.
TPG has posted an extensive array of first-look reviews and guides of Disney Wish in the wake of its unveiling, including:
- Exclusive first look: Peek inside the new Disney Wish
- 7 things about Disney Wish that surprised us
- 9 things you'll only find on Disney Wish
- Yes, there's a $5,000 drink on Disney Wish — but it's more than a drink
- Why Disney Wish isn't just for kids
Disney Wish is just the first of three new Triton-class ships that Disney Cruise Line will roll out by the end of 2025. The ship currently is sailing a year-round series of three- and four-night cruises to the Bahamas out of Port Canaveral (near Orlando, Florida).
Ships in class: Disney Fantasy (2012); Disney Dream (2011).
Size: 129,690 tons.
Disney's Dream-class ships — Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy — are not all that much smaller than Disney Wish, and they also feature several over-the-top attractions, such as the 765-foot-long AquaDuck water coaster that encircles the main pool deck of the vessels.
Designed as a ride that parents can do with their little kids (read: fun, but not too scary), the AquaDuck is a two-person raft ride through a transparent acrylic tube raised up above the pool deck on stilts. If you’re an engineering type, you’ll be amazed as much by its construction as the experience.
Both Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy also are home to a kiddie waterslide, a deck-top kiddie play area and several pools. The ships' insides are loaded with huge children’s play areas, family entertainment and even an adults-only zone packed with bars and clubs.
The children’s areas include such Disney movie-themed pizzazz as a Marvel Super Hero Academy area and a “Star Wars” command post.
The two Dream-class ships also are known for windowless inside cabins that still have an ocean view, thanks to “magical portholes” that offer a real-time glimpse of the outside. These portholes actually are screens built into the walls of the cabin to give the illusion of a porthole view.
If the above idea sounds a little hokey, it is. But the illusion is surprisingly real. The addition of the screens really changes the feel of the rooms. Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy were the first two cruise ships in the world to offer such virtual windows in normally windowless inside cabins — an idea since copied by Royal Caribbean.
Related: 11 ways to save money on a Disney cruise
For many years, Disney based both Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream in Port Canaveral, the line’s main Florida port. But with the arrival of Disney Wish, the line has moved Disney Dream to Miami for most of the year. Disney Dream is operating short sailings out of Miami to the Bahamas and Caribbean, while Disney Fantasy is devoted to longer Caribbean sailings.
Both Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy — like all Disney ships — cater heavily to families when it comes to cabin configurations. In many cabins on the ships, you’ll find extra pull-down bunks and pull-out sofas that will allow for four or even five people to stay in a single cabin.
All the extra bunks can make for some confusion when comparing the passenger capacity of the ships to vessels at other lines. Both Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy are designed to hold 2,500 passengers, based on double occupancy — that is, with two people per cabin. But with every pull-down bunk and pull-out sofa filled, the total occupancy of the ship jumps to 4,000.
In another major nod to families, most cabins on the Dream-class ships (and on the Triton-class and Magic-class ships, too) have two bathrooms — one with a sink and a toilet, and one with a sink and a shower or tub. This is something you rarely see in the cruise world, and it’s designed to make it easier for families sharing a room to get ready in the morning.
Ships in class: Disney Wonder (1999); Disney Magic (1998).
Size: 84,000 tons.
While more than a decade older than the Dream-class ships and more than two decades older than Disney Wish, Disney’s two Magic-class vessels still feel up to date, thanks to major makeovers in recent years.
An overhaul of Disney Magic brought such cutting-edge features as the AquaDunk, a 37-foot-tall body slide that careens over the side of the vessel. Disney Magic also got a new outdoor kiddie fun zone called AquaLab. An overhaul of Disney Wonder brought a new French Quarter Lounge with New Orleans-inspired live entertainment and drinks.
Both Disney Magic and Disney Wonder have multiple pool areas and indoor children’s zones that cover almost an entire deck, plus multiple indoor restaurants (in Disney tradition, passengers — and their waiters — rotate each night among three main restaurants) and lounges. They also have large showrooms for nightly Disney-themed shows.
Still, overall, the Magic-class ships have a more intimate feel than the Triton-class or Dream-class ships, in no small part due to their smaller size. The difference in size is quite noticeable. At around 84,000 tons, the Magic-class ships are about 42% smaller than Disney Wish and 35% smaller than the Dream-class ships.
Because they offer fewer and smaller attractions and venues than the newer Triton-class and Dream-class ships, Disney Cruise Line typically uses Disney Magic and Disney Wonder for its more destination-intensive itineraries — trips where you’re going to spend much of your time off the ship and onboard amenities are less important.
Disney Magic, for instance, is the ship that Disney sends to Europe every summer for itineraries that are all about exploring cities such as Barcelona and Rome (reached via the port of Civitavecchia, Italy). Disney Wonder is the ship Disney sends to Alaska each summer; it's also recently been assigned to spend much of its time sailing out of San Diego to Mexico.
Both Disney Magic and Disney Wonder hold 1,754 passengers at double occupancy. With every pull-down bunk and pull-out sofa filled, the capacity for both ships jumps to 2,713.
Like the Triton-class and Dream-class ships, the Magic-class ships boast lots of cabins with split bathrooms — a boon for families.
The Disney Cruise Line fleet is relatively small and easy to understand. For now, there are just three classes of vessels with a total of five ships. If you’re looking to experience the most advanced, modern, amenity-filled ships in the Disney fleet, you’ll want to look at the Triton-class or Dream-class vessels. But the Magic-class vessels are wonderful ships, too. Among their pluses: They offer more intimacy than the other ships and a broader range of itineraries.
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