Are you wondering which is the best Disney cruise ship for your family vacation?
Depending on your travel party, you may find that some of the Disney ships are better than others. If you are traveling with a baby or toddler, the ship features and activities you will be looking for will obviously be different than those who are cruising with adults only.
This post will detail a comparison of the ships so you can determine which is the best Disney cruise ship for your family.
- Best Itinerary and Destination
- Comparison of Disney Cruise Ship Rooms
- Differences in Ship Pools
- Activities Comparison
- Best Disney Cruise Ship for Toddlers
Best Itinerary and Destination
The ship’s itinerary can be a strong factor in the quest to find the best Disney cruise ship for your family. For example, if you are looking for a cruise to Hawaii, this narrows down your choice right away since the Disney Wonder is the only ship that travels to Hawaii.
Similarly, you may want to choose the best ship for you based on the departure port. If you live on the east coast, you may not want to spend the time and money to fly all the way out to California for your trip.
Likewise, if you live near a specific port, you could drive and save money on flights. All of these factors could help narrow down your decision.
In addition, a ship’s itinerary may help sway you toward one ship over another. Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, is a huge draw for cruisers. The best Disney cruise ship for your family may be one whose itinerary visits this picture perfect island!
Comparison of Disney Cruise Ship Rooms
The price difference between room categories on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder tends to be more significant than that on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. In other words, booking a stateroom with a verandah on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder can cost quite a bit more than a room with a window one that is an interior cabin.
However, when pricing out stateroom options on the Disney Dream or Disney Fantasy, you may notice that the rate does not increase quite as much. You can compare the prices for an oceanview room vs an oceanview room with a verandah and see that they typically aren’t drastically different..
Therefore, if you are positive that you want to have a verandah AND you want to save money, you may want to stick with the Disney Fantasy or the Disney Dream to avoid the higher cost of a room with a balcony.
Differences in Ship Pools
In addition to the adult only swimming areas onboard, each of the Disney cruise ships has two main pools on the pool deck: a shallow pool and a deep pool. (Note that the term “deep” is used loosely here as my six year old is able to stand in the deep pools on the ships.)
Since the swimming pools onboard the Disney cruise ships are fairly comparable, you probably wouldn’t base your decision on best ship on the pools. However, the water slides on the ships have many differences that may help you lean one way over another.
Mickey’s Slide vs Twist-n-Spout
Each of the Disney cruise ships has a yellow water slide that is appropriate for children who are 38 inches or taller. The Twist-n-Spout slide on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder are also open for big kids and adults to ride.
However, Mickey’s Slide on the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream is for those guests aged 4 to 14 ONLY. Depending on the age and height of your kids, the available water slides on board could be deciding factors in choosing the best Disney cruise ship for your family.
AquaDunk vs AquaDuck
In addition to the yellow slides, the Disney cruise ships (except the Disney Wonder) also have a more elaborate water slide for big kids and adults. On the Disney Magic, this larger slide is called the AquaDunk.
The AquaDunk starts off with the floor dropping out from under you, and your body plunging down the slide. Riders on the AquaDunk must be 48 inches or taller to slide.
The Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy both have a large slide called the AquaDuck, which has a 42 inch height minimum. This is a much calmer slide compared to the AquaDunk and allows up to two people to travel on a float through a tube.
If you have a child who isn’t quite 48 inches tall, the AquaDuck on the Fantasy or Dream is a really fun additional water slide that younger kids are also able to enjoy.
There are so many fun things to do on a Disney cruise, and there is no way you will get to do them all! You can visit the official DCL website before your cruise to see different activities offered on your ship. All of the ships have characters and toddler time for little ones. But some events and experiences may only take place on a couple of the ships.
Midship Detective Agency
Midship Detective Agency is a popular activity and interactive game on two of the Disney ships. Basically, you are given a quest with a case to solve. You then embark on a self guided tour of the cruise ship to look for clues. Midship Detective Agency can be found on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.
Each of Disney’s cruise ships has youth clubs for kids of various ages. You can sign up your child for the kids club as long as he/she is three years old or older.
The cost of the clubs is included in the price of your Disney cruise too!(There is a nursery for kids younger than three, but it is not included in the price of your cruise.)
If your kids plan on spending time in the youth clubs, you may want to compare the clubs on each of the ships. For example, the Disney Fantasy, Disney Wonder, and Disney Magic all offer a Marvel Super Hero Academy in their Oceaneer Clubs. If your child is a really big fan of Marvel, this may be something to consider when booking your ship.
Some of the Disney Cruise Line ships have special themed nights that may be of interest to your family. For example, the Disney Magic has a dining room based on the theme of the Rapunzel movie.
While you dine at Rapunzel’s Royal Table, the characters from the movie come out to sing and dance.
The Disney Wonder is also home to a themed dining room, which is inspired by the movie, The Princess and the Frog. During your meal at Tiana’s Place, characters from the movie walk around to greet you as you enjoy the live jazz band and a New Orlean’s inspired menu.
Best Disney Cruise Ship for Toddlers
If you are planning to cruise with a toddler or baby, you may be looking for comparisons of the different ship activities for little ones. The main difference in the ships that may concern those families cruising with a toddler is in the baby and toddler water play areas.
Nemo’s Reef vs Nephew’s Splash Zone
Disney Cruise Line (along with most other cruise lines) doesn’t allow children in the pools unless they are 3 years of age or older AND potty trained. Your options for toddler splash zones on the Disney ships vary by ship.
Nemo’s Reef is located on both the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy. This splash pad is a decent sized play area with features that pour or shoot water. There is also a tiny slide in Nemo’s Reef for those small kids who aren’t yet able to use the other slides on the ship.
The baby and toddler water play areas on the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder are much less elaborate. Since these splash zones are smaller and offer less exciting water features, they are better for babies and younger toddlers.
If you have an older toddler or a preschooler, Nemo’s Reef on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy is the definite winner here.
**Note- an additional water play area called the AquaLab is available on the Disney Fantasy, Disney Wonder, and Disney Magic. Like the pools, this area is for those children who are three years old or older AND potty trained.
Final Review of Disney Cruise Ships
As you can see, the best Disney cruise ship for your family is entirely subjective. It largely depends on the ages of those in your travel party. It also depends on the interests of those who are cruising.
I have a difficult time ranking the Disney cruise ships from best to worst because each of the ships offers unique and fun experiences for families. My overall conclusion is that you can’t go wrong with any of them!
Which do YOU think is the best Disney cruise ship for families?
Comment below and let me know!