Ken and Emily: While many people think first of Disneyland or Walt Disney World when considering a Disney vacation, Disney Cruise Line is an excellent option as well.
We’ll share what you need to know for your first Disney Dream cruise!
Picking Your Disney Dream Cruise
You can search Disney Cruise options on the Disney Cruise Line website, which allows you to filter your search by date, destination, port of departure, and ship.
If you don’t have a least a little bit of Disney love in your family, you’ll probably want to avoid Disney cruises. While the overall cruise quality is excellent, the prices of Disney cruises are often double those of other cruise lines. If nothing Disney appeals to you, there’s no way to justify that cost on a Disney ship.
But if you as a solo traveler, or a couple, or as a family have some love for Disney, you should definitely consider a Disney cruise. There’s no place like a Disney cruise ship for kids who are Disney obsessed! If you find yourself singing “Be Our Guest” in the car on the way to work, then you’ll be at home a Disney cruise in a way you won’t on other ships. 🙂
1. The Disney Dream Itineraries
The Disney Dream offers a few different itineraries departing from Port Canaveral, including:
- A 3-night trip with a stop a Nassau and a stop at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay
- A 4-night trip with those same stops and a day at sea
- A 4-night trip with a second stop at Castaway Cay
- A 5-night trip with 2 Castaway Cay stops and a day at sea
These short itineraries make the Disney Dream the perfect ship for first-time cruisers.
2. Base Prices for Disney Dream Cruises
You can currently book the Disney Dream for itineraries through December 2018, with the lowest available price for a single guest being $1,215 and for 2 adults with 2 children, $2,298.
The price includes meals, soft drinks (soda, milk, iced tea), and a variety of on-ship activities. On the ship, you’ll have to pay for alcohol ($5 to $7 for beers, $10 to $15 for specialty drinks) and some specialty snacks.
The most direct way to book a Disney Cruise is through the Disney Cruise Line website, but that isn’t your only option. Various 3rd-party cruise or travel sites can be used to book Disney cruises. Unfortunately, it’s very rare that the prices on these sites are much better than what Disney quotes. Some sites will offer onboard credits or, in the case of Costco Travel, gift cards for booking through them.
The most important thing to know about prices for Disney cruises is that they will increase as you get closer to the date of the cruise. TouringPlans offers a nifty tool showing the historical trends of Disney cruise prices.
There’s no hiding it, Disney cruises are substantially more expensive than competing cruises. For example, a quick search for a 3-night Bahamas cruise on other cruise lines, with 2 adults and 2 children, yielded a price of $1,092 or less than half of what Disney Cruise Line costs.
So, is it worth it? It depends.
Families will get more out of a Disney cruise than will couples or solo travelers. Cruise Critic ranks the 4 Disney ships within the top 5 for families. The entertainment offerings and onboard experiences are aimed primarily at children. There’s no other cruise line where your kids will be able to sing along to a Disney performance after meeting Mickey Mouse and before dinner at a Cinderella-themed restaurant.
Couples and solo travelers may have a tougher time justifying the cost. You’ll see top-notch shows and receive excellent service, but you’ll also pay more and be surrounded by children for much of the cruise. If you’re seeking a party atmosphere, you won’t find it on Disney ships, even after hours. And if you’re seeking the most elegant of atmospheres, you’ll be confined to about 20% of the ship.
3. Planning Your Port Adventures
Excursions during your Disney Cruise are called “Port Adventures.” For example:
- Free 5K race at Castaway Cay
- $11 for an hour bicycle rental on Castaway Cay
- ~$300 dolphin encounters in Nassau
- ~$1,500 private Nassau experience
You can get an overview of the port adventures on the Disney Cruise Line website, and for popular activities, like dolphin encounters and parasailing, you should book as soon as possible (75 days in advance for first-time cruisers).
Life Aboard the Disney Dream
If you look into port adventures and don’t see much for you, don’t worry! There is plenty to do aboard the Disney Dream, although Disney doesn’t actually tell you much about the ship activities until you get on the ship.
Disney’s staterooms are among the best. They can be small, but cruise ship rooms usually are. If you want a bigger room, you can elect to pay a little more for a “deluxe” room in any category.
You’ll have access to free 24-hour room service, and a wide selection of on-demand movies and TV shows on your stateroom television.
2. Pools, Clubs, Entertainment, and Food
The pool, while not enormous, is rarely overly crowded. The adults-only area of the ship has its own pool and bar, and has plenty of open seating.
A highlight of the ship is the AquaDuck, the only water coaster on a cruise ship. Lines for the AquaDuck can exceed 20 minutes, but if you go while the ship is at port at Nassau or Castaway Cay, the kids will be able to walk right on.
Disney offers a wide selection of entertainment for kids. For younger kids, there are activities like Super Sloppy Science, a fun science demonstration, and Anyone Can Cook, where kids will get to try their hands in the kitchen. For teens and tweens, there are foosball and table tennis tournaments, as well as trivia games and reserved time on the sports deck.
The many bars on the Dream become adults-only at night. For kids, there are teen- and tween-exclusive clubs. While we don’t have kids, we’ve talked to plenty of parents onboard who swear their children could spend all day in these clubs.
The main onboard entertainment is the nightly hour-long, live theatrical performance in the Walt Disney Theater. Or check out the Upper Deck Pirate Night performance with fireworks!
If you’d like to pay more, you can have dinner at one of the adult-exclusive restaurants, Remy ($95 per person) or Palo ($30 per person). Breakfast and lunch on the ship are informal, unscheduled cafeteria and buffet-style affairs.
3. Castaway Cay
Castaway Cay (pronounced “key”) is Disney’s private island, and the highlight of any Disney Dream cruise. Every cruise that stops at Castaway Cay has a 5K run, complete with rubber finisher medals. The runners are the first people on the island, making this a great way to start your day.
There are a variety of port adventures on Castaway Cay. A great way to see the island (other than the 5K) is to rent bicycles for a 1-hour ride (~$11). You’ll find beaches, games, shops, and bars throughout the island.
Serenity Bay is an adults-only beach at the far end of the island. You’ll probably take a tram to get there, but if you’re looking for a bit of peace, it’s where you’ll want to be.
Kids get their own areas (parents also allowed) at Castaway Cay, too! The Hide Out is restricted to children between 14 and 17, and younger kids will be able to spend time at Scuttle’s Cove. If they want to explore the island, there’s also a organized “Wild Side Teen Adventure” excursion led by Disney cast members.
4. Your Guide: The Personal Navigator
When you first arrive on the ship, and then every night, you’ll get a “personal navigator,” a sort of newsletter that outlines the ship’s full itinerary for the following day. This includes things like musical performances, beverage seminars, the activities at the kids’ clubs, games, movies, and theatrical performances.
Disney Cruise Line Blog (not an official Disney website) is the best source for personal navigators from past cruises.
While some activities, like the beverage seminars, cost extra ($15 to $30 per person), most are included for free with the price of your cruise.
For most of the day, you’ll see scheduled activities for both adults and kids. And when there aren’t scheduled activities at the kids’ clubs, there will always be toys, books, games, and music available.
The True Cost of a Disney Cruise
For the most part, the price you see on the Disney Cruise Line website is the price you’re going to wind up paying, but there are addition expenses many people fail to account for ahead of time.
1. Automatic Gratuities
The only automatically added costs to your cruise are the suggested gratuities for the wait staff and your stateroom attendant. These can be adjusted if you ask guest services, but they’re automatically billed at $12 per person per night if you don’t request otherwise.
2. Airport Transfers
To get from the airport to your Disney cruise, you’ll likely use Disney’s transfer options. For $70 per person, you’ll take a Disney bus from the airport to the cruise port.
3. Incidental Costs
Beyond that, what you spend is up to you. As 2 adults, we spend between $40 and $60 per person per day in extra expenses aboard the Disney Dream.
This includes usually a few souvenirs, a premium coffee beverage each day (regular coffee is free), a low-cost activity each day, and a few alcoholic drinks each day. One popular way to save is to bring your own beer, minding Disney’s rules.
Saving on Your Disney Cruise
While the prices you find for Disney Cruises on the “discount” cruise websites are usually going to be the same as the prices listed on the Disney Cruise Line website, there are a few ways to save.
1. Paying With Your Disney Visa
Your Disney Visa can get you a variety of discounts aboard the Disney Cruise Line, including:
- 10% off a Castaway Cay getaway
- 20% off select spa services
- 10% off select merchandise
2. Booking Through a Travel Agent or Costco Travel
The one time we’ve used a travel agent was for a Disney Cruise, and we did it for a $50 onboard credit. Many travel agents have arrangements with Disney that will get use these credits (which vary based on cruise price) for booking through them, and the service of the agent is free.
If you’re a Costco member, you might be able to save big booking through Costco Travel. Costco will offer you a Costco Cash Card, sometimes more than the onboard credit you’d get through another agent, for booking through them.
3. Onboard Booking Discount
Finally, you can book your next Disney Cruise while onboard a Disney ship. Mousesavers provides a good outline of this program, which allows you to earn a 10% discount and onboard credit for a future cruise.
4. Booking With Points and Miles
But if you pay for your cruise with cards like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® or Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, you can use points to cover all or part of the cost of your cruise.
You can also book cruises with United Airlines miles on the United Cruises portal. You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to United Airlines, but this isn’t the best use of your miles. On Disney cruises, you’re likely to only get ~0.8 cents per point of value when booking through the United Cruises portal.
Disney cruises cost much more than competing cruises. While families, especially those with young children, will get the most out of the Disney experience, couples and solo travelers who love Disney should consider them as well.
To manage the price, you’ll want to make sure you account for tips, airport transfers, and incidentals in planning, and you’ll want to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best onboard credit or rebate offer.
There’s lots we love about the Disney Dream. What’s your favorite thing about Disney cruises?