Set Adrift -- Sailing with
the Disney Cruise Line
Part II in a series

by Deb Wills
ALL EARS® Editor

Feature Article

This article appeared in the August 20, 2002, Issue #152 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

(with excerpts from the "Magical Cruise Guide" by Mickey Morgan)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a series of All Ears® articles on cruising with Disney. If you have cruised with the Disney Cruise Line and would like to share your comments, please write to

The first article in this series (in the 6/25/02 issue of All Ears®) provided a history of the Disney Cruise Line (DCL), discussed the different types of cruises offered by Disney and described how to choose a stateroom.

In this article we will look at weather, getting to the Port, parking at the Port, staying in the area, and most importantly:

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When you go on a Disney cruise, your largest expense is the cost of the stateroom, which is quoted per person, based on double occupancy. The first two people in a stateroom, which are designed to accommodate 3 to 4 people, pay the adult cost regardless of their ages. Any additional persons in the stateroom pay based on age. Persons staying alone in a stateroom will pay a premium price.

Rates for the Disney Wonder Three-Day Cruise range from $439 to $1,749 (suites excluded) per person based on double occupancy.

Rates for the Disney Wonder Four-Day Cruise range from $539 to $1,849 (suites excluded) per person based on double occupancy.

Rates for the Disney Magic Seven-Day Cruises range from $829 to $2,999 (suites excluded) per person based on double occupancy.

WHAT'S INCLUDED: The cost of the stateroom covers your lodging (the stateroom), meals (including room service), pool-side counter service food and on-board entertainment. Everyone, whether they stay in an inside stateroom or a deluxe family stateroom, has the same meals and entertainment options available to them.

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED: Government taxes, fees, alcoholic beverages, 'official' photographs, bottled water, sodas outsides the main dining venues, souvenirs, salons and spas, shore excursions, any purchases off the ship, travel insurance, and transportation to Port Canaveral.

DISCOUNTS: The Disney Cruise Line typically offers three seasonal rate specials: Fall Fantasy (September - December), Sunshine Sailaway (January - March), and sometimes a Springtime Magic (April-May). Generally speaking, when the kids are out of school, the cruise line discounts are limited, at best.

At times, you can find specially priced cruises for Disney Vacation Club members, Annual Passholders and Florida residents.

One discount that is available to everyone is the Early Booking bonus! The closer it gets to the cruise sailing date, the more expensive a stateroom becomes.

CASTAWAY CLUB: If you are a Disney Cruise veteran, you are a member of the Castaway Club. Be sure to make your travel agent aware of this when booking a cruise. Sometimes there are incentives offered (like a stateroom credit) or a special gift in your room. There is also a special line at the Port for Castaway Club members checking in.

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Weather in Central Florida and the Bahamas is generally good all year long. Of course, there are times when the weather is much cooler (December - January), when you might encounter a hurricane ( June - November), or experience high heat and humidity (May - October). In addition to being the warmest months, May through October will also have the most rain. In fact, hardly a day goes by in Central Florida during the summer without a rain shower of some sort.

Mickey's Magical Cruise Guide offers this advice about sailing in bad weather: "Beware of high seas during hurricane season, September through November or other times when there are storms in the Caribbean. During these times, DCL may at their discretion alter the itinerary to avoid bad weather or may skip ports that are difficult to enter. The Magic has berthed in Fort Lauderdale and bused passengers to and from the terminal when the port authorities closed Port Canaveral. Also, while Hurricane Floyd was over the Bahamas, the Disney ships went to Cozumel. Castaway Cay was damaged during the hurricane, so the ships went to Key West instead. No matter what, the ships will cruise, so always count on going on your cruise. You just might end up leaving from or returning to an alternate port and stopping somewhere besides Nassau and Castaway Cay."

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Chances are you booked your cruise many months in advance, perhaps as much as 18 months! So how do you keep the excitement going?

-- First, if you haven't already, order a Disney Cruise Line Video. Call the Disney Cruise Line at 1-800-700-6622 to request a copy of the DCL planning video from a Cast Member or call 1-800-782-8411 to request the video via automated touch-tone system. Call 1-800-437-6188 for a combination Walt Disney World/Disney Cruise Line video.

-- Visit the many DCL Trip Report websites on the Internet. We have links to several at:

-- Create a Disney Countdown. Robert Hopson explains: "When we went to WDW last fall, my wife made a calendar out of posterboard and taped small treats to each day. Our two children were able to take one treat off the calendar each day after dinner during the last month. It really made for quite an event each day after dinner."

-- Finally, consider this tip from Joe Lupia: "When we went on the four day cruise on the Disney Magic in July 2000, we decided to add onto the trip and make it extra magical by including a stopover at WDW. We stayed two nights at the Caribbean Beach, which got us into the spirit and, the best part is, we were able to head right from WDW to Port Canaveral on Monday morning. If you have the money, it's a great way to build up the anticipation for the cruise!"

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There are several ways to reach the DCL Port prior to your sailing. No matter which one you choose, I highly recommend being in the Central Florida/Port Canaveral area the day you sail. Weather, airline delays, missed connections, or car problems are just a few of the difficulties you could encounter the day of your sailing that might cause you to miss the boat. You don't want that to happen!

Some folks choose to spend time at Walt Disney World prior to their cruise. In fact, if you chose the 3 or 4 day itinerary, Disney offers a 7-Day combination land and sea package. If you choose the combination package, I strongly suggest doing the parks before your cruise. I have found that after my cruises (especially after seven days at sea), I just want to get home and relax before starting back to the grind.

Linda Drozdowski says, "My family and I have been on several of the Disney Cruises. We usually stay at one of the Vacation Club resorts and then drive over to the ship. It is an easy drive and takes about a half-hour. After stopping dockside to unload baggage and drop off the family, I pull across the road and park in the gated lot. The lots are patrolled on a regular basis and I feel perfectly at ease leaving my car parked there for the week. The most direct route is the Beeline Expressway and there are tolls, so be prepared."

You can drive, fly or even take the Amtrak Autotrain to Florida. Rich Rotondo notes, "I have parked my SUV twice at Port Canaveral without a hitch. On both occasions my family of four traveled on the autotrain. This allowed us the freedom of our own personal transport, with the added luxury of packing as much as we wanted for the trip."

Other options:

-- Disney Cruise Line Motor Coach is available from the Orlando Airport ($46 r/t) and most Disney resorts. If you are on the Land/Sea Package ($63 r/t) you can make arrangements for you and your luggage to be transported via motor coach to the port. This must be arranged and paid for in advance. At the airport you'll see Disney Cruise Line Cast Members who will assist you. If you are going directly to the port, your luggage will be taken to the next available bus for a ride. The motor coach can also transport you back to the airport, and also to and from most Walt Disney World hotels. As one reader explained: "Taking the Disney Cruise line bus is THE best way to get to the ships. Your cruise vacation starts the moment you board the bus! We are always jealous when we are at the parks or resorts and see one of 'our' buses pass by! We are doing the 7-day Western Caribbean cruise in September and we are staying at Old Key West the night before, boarding our buses to the ship there! That's the best way to get there by any stretch of the imagination!"

-- Tiffany Towncar of Orlando provides a comfortable Lincoln Towncar shuttle to the port. A Tiffany driver will pick you up at the airport ($140 r/t plus gratuity) or at your Disney hotel ($175 r/t and gratuity). All Ears® Reader Linda E writes: "We decided to splurge and have Tiffany Towncar pick us up in a limo! What a wonderful way to get to the port... it was relaxing, we watched videos and got to stretch out in cool comfort."

-- Rent a car. Some readers recommended keeping the rental car for the entire time to get the best rates. Others found it more economical to do a separate car rental for each portion of the trip. An Avis rental office is available in the nearby Radisson hotel. Ken Vida shares: "I made the first reservation by calling the main Avis 800 number and received a great rate ($28/day). This may seem like a lot, but when you figure how much Disney charges for the bus, it is really a good deal. Instead of making my second reservation with the national rental desk I chose to call the local desk at the Radisson to check availability of certain cars and also to try for a good deal. That idea paid off because I got a great rate on a midsize car for the remainder of my trip."

"We arrived at Orlando Airport at 5:30 p.m. the night before the 4-Day cruise," Ken continues. "We got our luggage and headed to the Avis rental desk to pick up our car. I also confirmed the reservations for picking up the car at the Radisson on the return. The next morning we drove the car to the front of the hotel with our luggage, dropped off the keys at the Avis rental desk and waited a couple of minutes for the shuttle van. Make sure you get on the Avis shuttle, there is also one offered by the hotel, but there is a fee. When we had to disembark we waited in a predetermined area in the port parking lot for the shuttle to arrive. It promptly picked us up and brought us back to the Avis desk in the Radisson. I waited in a short line and picked up my keys for a different car and we were off to BoardWalk. It was very easy, quite economical, and we will be doing it again when we cruise again in October 2003!"

-- Drive your own car and park it at the port parking lot or at the local hotel at which you spent the night.

ALL EARS® TIP: Be sure to make round-trip arrangements in advance!

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We asked All Ears® Readers to tell us about their experiences parking and staying near the port. Convenience and safety were the number one reasons for parking in the DCL port parking lot!

David Reich explains how the parking works: "When you get there, there is a line of cars going through some basic security checks (driver's license) to go to the terminal. Then you pull around, and drop off your luggage. Make sure to pack a day bag. Since you have given your luggage (and tipped the handler) the next best thing to do at this point is to leave the other travelers with you at the terminal, drop off your passengers at the terminal and drive over to the parking lot. They can get on line for check-in while you are parking the car. When you return from the cruise, there are luggage porters who will take your luggage with you through customs if you like, and take it right to the door of your vehicle. Highly recommended. A few extra dollars in a tip saves you lots of headache. Quick departure from the lot, not a lot of traffic. Well marked signs to I95, A1A, or 528, if you're going to Orlando."


-- From Connie Roberts: The most important thing I would say about the experience is to write down where you park! You'll soon forget that detail after a relaxing and enjoyable Disney cruise. I didn't do that, but, fortunately, by the time we got to the lot there weren't many vehicles left and my van was easy to find!

--- Some words of advice from Dale and Mary: Remove all food items from your vehicle. If you don't, you may return to an ant-infested car. Also, be sure you put up a sun screen to protect your dash.

-- Catherine Fortier-Barnes notes: We love the convenience of being able to arrive when we want. The best part, though, is at the return. We are among the first off the ship, quickly go through customs and then get to our car. If we are off the ship by 8:30 a.m. we can be in a Disney theme park by 10 a.m. Since we are from Rhode Island and usually take an evening flight home, we feel like we gain an extra day of vacation. We would rather spend those last few hours in a theme park than the airport.

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We received lots of positive comments about the various hotels near Port Canaveral.

From David Reich: The best deals on hotels are about 10 miles away, down in Cocoa Beach. It is about a 15 minute drive up Route A1A to the Disney Cruise terminal. One thing to remember when going there is that the Disney Terminal is Exit A, which is over the overpass on A1A North. If you blindly follow the first signs to the port, you will go to the south entrance, and not end up at the right place. There's lots of construction there now, and Disney is the north entrance to the port.



Many readers wrote about a positive experience staying at the Radisson, using its Avis rental counter and the shuttle over to the port.

Diane writes of the Radisson: The pool is very nice and we had a view of the ships in port from our room! Even if you don't have a car there are some fast food places to eat (Subway, pizza) next door. They have packages that allow you to leave your car at the hotel and take the Avis/Radisson shuttle back and forth to the port, which could save you a lot of money in parking fees. TIP: Reserve your place on the shuttle when you check in to get your choice of times, they can fill up quickly.

Jean agrees: Because we were staying for a few days before the cruise in Tampa and after the cruise at the BoardWalk Villas, we found that the rental car for the 13 days was much cheaper than renting for a few days, dropping it off at the Port and then re-renting a car. We stayed at the Radisson the night before our cruise and left our car in the hotel parking lot for free. The Radisson was fairly close to the ship (no more than 10 minutes away). In fact, we hurried out to the side of the hotel in the morning and could see the ship from the upper balconies, it was very exciting! The ship was so beautiful in the distance. It brought tears to my eyes after all of our waiting for over a year! It was like getting a bit of the cruise ahead of time!


Holiday Inn Oceanfront in Cocoa Beach

Major Ross Pearson and his family used a one way Avis rental from Orlando to Port Canaveral: We asked for AAA/Corporate/Entertainment card discounts and received a room for four for about $80 in March 2002. When checking in at the front desk I asked if there were any oceanfront rooms available and I got one for about $10 extra. The hotel was an older property but well kept, clean and had a kid-friendly restaurant. The next day I just dropped off the car at Avis in Cocoa Beach and they shuttled us and about 15 other cruisers to the ship. Just leave yourself plenty of time because Avis gets busy with everyone checking in cars and shuttling everyone. After the cruise we did it in reverse.

TIP: Instead of waiting with everyone for an Avis shuttle to pick us up at the cruise ship parking lot I jumped into a waiting cab back directly to Avis and beat the rush. Then I drove back (5 minutes) and picked up the family.


Best Western Oceanfront Resort in Cocoa Beach

Cindy writes: We booked a room and got a great discount when I requested a "pre-cruise" rate! We were able to walk the beach and visited Ron Jon's Surf Shop (open 24 hours a day) to help pass the time till we could board!


Comfort Inn & Suite Resort in Cocoa Beach

We spent 2 nights here and were only minutes away from Port Canaveral. We were very impressed with the rooms and thoroughly enjoyed the pool and the volleyball area. Ron Jon Surf shop was within walking distance from our hotel, and we had a fantastic time shopping there (especially the kids). We would definitely stay at Cocoa Beach again before our next cruise, and will most likely stay at the same hotel. Teresa Richardson


Quality Suites at 120 Flagler Cocoa Beach

Dale and Mary say: VERY reasonable and affordable - huge rooms - impeccably clean - with a great view! In fact ,we saw the Disney Magic arrive shortly after midnight - beautiful sight after dark with the lights strung the length of the ship. Next morning the hotel serves a complimentary breakfast, eggs, bacon and sausage, prepared by a chef!


Hampton Inn

John Horodysky writes: The Hampton Inn was great and we were able to get rooms for only $80 per night, instead of the going price of $120.


For a complete report on all the comments received regarding hotels and parking visit:


Watch for Part III of this series, in which we'll look at Cruise Documents, Packing, Check-In, Day Bags, Boarding, and the Scramble for Reservations.

For more detailed information on the Disney Cruise Line experience, check out Mickey's Magical Cruise Guide at: This document is available in Word and PDF and will soon be available in html format!

This is the second in a series of All Ears® articles on the Disney Cruise Line. If you have cruised on the Disney Magic and would like to contribute to the articles, please send your trip report or comments to



Continue on to Part III



Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.