Disney Cruisin’ – Is it a Good Value?

Several weeks ago I received an email from Kristin about Disney Cruises, and she asked: “Is it a good value for the money compared to a Disney World vacation?”

In a blog entry I asked you to tell me what you thought, and I’d like to share some of those responses with you now. Thank you to all of you who responded!

Karen N wrote : I think that there are several factors to consider:

1) Entertainment. If you love thrilling rides and being on the “go” the whole time, WDW is probably a better value. If you prefer a combination of relaxing time and adventures, cruising is the better options because you have the “at sea” days, relaxing time on deck, Disney activities, shore excursions, and Castaway Cay.
2) Lodging–What level of room do you stay at WDW? Do you do deluxe resorts or value?
3) Meals–All meals are included on ship whereas at WDW, you are paying separately even if it is on the meal plan.
4) Finances–To determine whether the cruises are a good value when compared to WDW you really have to look at what you are getting and what you are paying. When going to WDW, my family stays at our DVC resort, we do the dining plan, pay for our passes, and inevitably buy lots of souvenirs. On the cruise ships, we usually stay in a category 10 room (which may be considered inferior to our DVC accommodations) but our food is included, the entertainment (other than shore excursions) is included and it gives us a good mix of relaxing and activity. Dollar for dollar I think the cost is probably comparable except that the cruises give you a more diverse experience while the park gives you a more action-packed experience. I guess it depends on what you want.

Dale said: In reference to the question about swapping out Disney World with a cruise, I would recommend that the person try either the three or four night cruise and still go to Disney World after the cruise. That way they can decide if a longer cruise is right for them. That is what we did, and after two of the four night cruises we decided that it is just too short of a time to be on the ship. 🙂

Masayo wrote: I think it’s quite different from WDW vacation. It’s Disney yes, but still very different. DCL is a bit pricier than WDW cause most meals are inclusive. I think that makes me feel safe to try what I want to eat without hesitation. I’m so spoiled when I’m on the ship I think. To me, no need to use transportation to come/go to the room and no wait (most of the time, just a short wait for elevator or take stairs, right?), that’s quite convenient and energy saving.

Vic’s thoughts: Hi, The comment on taking a Disney Cruise versus going to The World depends on many things. Has the family ever vacationed at the World or taken a cruise before? Our family has taken 4 Disney Cruises. I agree with Laura, the experience is totally different. The World is a fantastic place to vacation, either with or without children. We have been there every month of the year and seem to be able to find the new experience that we missed every time we go.

A Disney Cruise is also fantastic either with or without children. Without children, there are many things to do on the ship, and the ports can be interesting if you plan. With children, I’m sure the ports won’t have as much to offer, but there are many activities on the ship, including clubs where Disney cast members tend to your children and parents can go ashore (parents are given a pager).

In conclusion, The World is Disney to the maximum, in every aspect for both young and old. A Disney Cruise is Extremely Wonderful. (It will spoil you, you won’t want to cruise anywhere else.) Families with or without children, Young Adults, and Older Adults, will have the time of their lives !!!!!

Kevin B wrote: Yes. It’s an all-inclusive vacation. All food, entertainment, and lodging are included. When I priced a Disneyland vacation versus a Disney Cruise Line vacation it was significantly easier to do the cruise. It’s also much more relaxing. Theme parks are overwhelming for children. Excursions, photographs, gratuities, and alcoholic drinks are the common expenses incurred beyond the basic cruise price. Remember to consider inside staterooms, especially for your first cruise. I guarantee with all of the activities to do, you will only sleep and shower in your room.

Lori E commented: Personally, I don’t think you can compare a DCL vacation to a WDW vacation. They are very different experiences, however, each one on its own can be a great value. The thing that really struck me as I read all of your entries is how well Disney “fits” with so many different people. You and Lee did things that we might not choose to do and some of our interests are probably very different from yours. The bottom line though is that we all can have our dream vacation on land or at sea with Disney!

Donna B says: I have been on 7 cruises including Disney and can say that cruising is the best travel deal out there! When you figure the cost of transportation, hotel, food, and entertainment, you can’t beat a cruise. And it is great after a day of sight seeing to know where I am going to eat and sleep.

Laura C writes: All cruises are a good value for the money, but the bonus of being surrounded by Disney is a plus. The attention to detail on a Disney ship is nothing short of Disney magic. I think it depends on your family and the kind of vacation you are looking for. My family of 6 have been on several Disney cruises and frequent the Disney parks, we love both. But when I ask my children which they prefer, they always answer “the Disney parks”. There is nothing that compares to going on the rides at your favorite disney park.

Lissa F shared the following: I think that a Disney cruise is just as cost effective as a stay at WDW. All of the food is included, which is great, and not just “getting you by” food. It’s all-you-can-eat food. If your little one is hungry while playing at the pool, just go to Goofy’s Galley! The shows are awesome! There is almost an entire deck devoted to kids’ activities, child care is available, and there are adult-only areas. And many people think that a cruise is more enjoyable than a stay at the parks because there isn’t that “we have to do everything, ride every ride, mentality”….a cruise is more laid back.

Jeff H wrote: We were just on the Disney Magic, Eastern Caribbean in mid-January. I would say it IS “a good value for the money compared to a Disney World vacation”. Since the meals are included, this can save a lot of money. Also, since you can know the total price up front, it can help with the budget. Of course, this conveniently overlooks the bar bill and souvenirs! I would be equally as happy with the Cruise as with a vacation at Disney World, and I think I get equivalent value on either.

So there you have it! Kristin, I hope that helps you, and others, in deciding if a Disney Cruise is right for you. For the record, I did not receive any kind of response from anyone who expressed dissatisfaction with a Disney Cruise – except perhaps for it not being long enough. 🙂

Laura Gilbreath is a native of San Diego, CA. She has been making the trek up Interstate 5 to Disneyland since she was a small child and terrified of talking tikis and hitchhiking ghosts. She and her husband Lee enjoy trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as sailings on the Disney Cruise Line.

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4 Replies to “Disney Cruisin’ – Is it a Good Value?”

  1. We have been to Walt Disney World dozens of times, but sailed on the Disney Magic for the first time last October (we have cruised many times before on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Princess, Cunard and Costa).

    Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but I have to say I was disappointed in the Disney Cruise, but my expectations were very high. We took a tour “Art of the Theme Ship Tour” the first day, and the gentleman that gave the tour was SO NOT Disney. He even said “they tell me to talk about carpets a lot on this tour, I don’t know why…I don’t think many people are interested in carpets, but they tell me I have to talk about them”….talk about a HUGE bubble-burst!!! Can you imagine anyone leading a theme park tour at the parks saying anything like that? Also, although our waiter was a wonderful waiter, he had never been to the theme parks and had no “Disney Culture”. In Animator’s Palette when the music from Fantasmic came on, he was standing right beside me, and I said “I love Fantasmic!” and he said “What is Fantasmic?” The crew is so international and not many of them have even been to the parks at all, nevermind have the “corporate culture” that I come to expect from Disney Cast Members.

    The cruise was great in terms of food, service, etc, but in my mind it didn’t distinguish itself enough from other cruise lines to warrent the higher price tag. We sailed on the Carnival Splendor for less than half the price a month after our Disney cruise, and I think the differences between the cruises was very small….certainly not woth the huge difference in cost, in my opinion.

    I wanted to LOVE Disney Cruise Line, really I did….but I just couldn’t…

  2. Going to WDW can be much cheaper than DCL because there are so many more cheap options on US 192 to stay per person, and by only eating cheap snacks and very cheap meals, you can definitely do WDW on a SUPER slim budget.

    It’s a minimum of about $1000 for a couple just to do a 3 night cruise once you add taxes and insurance and upgrades to any cabin that isn’t the cheapest inside cabin. Add 2 kids to the mix, and a cruise is suddenly much more expensive than WDW. The only extra cost for your kids at WDW is the admission if they’re old enough. So, for the last 2 years, our son has come along to WDW with us without any cost increases. But DCL charges 2 year olds the 3rd passenger price.

    But you certainly can spend much more at WDW than the cheapest DCL vacation, and vice-versa.

    As far as the value proposition, it just depends on what you value more: theme parks or cruising?

    Also, keep in mind, you can go to WDW whenever you want. Just pay and they’ll let you in (rare exceptions are certain crowded holidays when they hit attendance limits). On the other hand, the cruise is something you have to book ahead of time. DCL only accomodates about 4000 people on any one day. 4000 people seems like just one section of Magic Kingdom parking lot 🙂

  3. One thing I noticed that makes cruises better than the parks is character availability. If you are looking for meet and greet time with a greater range of characters, then go with the cruises.

  4. Laura,

    Thank you so much for posting the question and responses. After reading them I think we are much more frugal than alot of other travellers. We LOVE DisneyWorld and are interested in a cruise, however, when we travel we go at Value times and for several trips have taken advantage of the free dining plan in Aug – Sept timeframe. We also stay at moderate resorts and look for good airfare. So a week at DisneyWorld is considerably less expensive than a week cruise (including food). We understand that it is a totally different experience but we just aren’t sure we can justify the cost difference. We have a trip booked in Sept, 7 nights/8 days, Park hopper Water parks and more tickets at French Quarter with free dining for $2500. But a 7 night Cruise in Sept is almost $3700 for the lowest category room. Since both include food, travel would be equal, and approximately same gratuities and souvenirs the DisneyWorld vacation is alot cheaper.

    Maybe some day we can splurge on a cruise!! Again thank you so much for all of the input.