Ultimate Guide to Disney Cruise Line Vacations

Disney Cruise ship docked at Castaway Cay

If you’re considering cruising with Disney Cruise Line, you may feel overwhelmed with both the prices and the information that’s available. This may be especially true if you are a first time cruiser.

While the planning process may seem daunting at first, rest assured that a Disney Cruise Line vacation is actually quite relaxing. In fact, you may end up feeling pleasantly surprised at just how easy the whole vacation turns out to be. My husband and I travel regularly with our two kids, including taking trips to Walt Disney World and sailing on other cruise lines.

And, I can honestly say that cruising with Disney is one of our favorite ways to vacation. Once you get started planning a Disney cruise, you really start to see that it’s not that stressful. This is especially true when you compare it to organizing a trip to WDW or a vacation on another cruise line.

When the big day finally arrives and you board the DCL ship, you immediately feel pampered while relaxing in full vacation mode. If you’re still wondering if cruising with Disney Cruise Line is right for you, we suggest reading through our article below. Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Disney Cruise Line ships, itineraries, onboard activities, and more!

Disney Cruise Line Fleet

When you start looking into a vacation with Disney Cruise Line, you’ll notice that there are several ships to choose from. We will discuss each of the ships below in order from oldest to newest.

Disney Magic

Disney Magic docked at Castaway Cay
Disney Magic Cruise Ship

The first ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet was the Disney Magic. With a capacity of just over 2700 passengers, the Disney Magic set sail on her maiden voyage in 1998. While she is an older ship, the Disney Magic is a favorite among many avid Disney cruisers who enjoy the smaller size of the classic ships. 

Disney Wonder

Disney Wonder Cruise Ship
Disney Wonder Cruise Ship

The next ship to enter the DCL fleet was the Disney Wonder, which set sail in 1999 and is the sister ship to the Disney Magic. Since they are sister ships, the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder share many similarities. Like the Magic, the Disney Wonder holds just over 2700 passengers and features 11 passenger decks.

Disney Dream

Disney Cruise Line’s third ship was the Disney Dream, which features a passenger capacity of 4000 along with 14 passenger decks. The Disney Dream first set sail in 2011. This ship was a favorite for families as it used to set sail from Port Canaveral on 3 and 4 night sailings, which made it easily accessible for first time cruisers. It’s still a popular choice among cruisers today.

Disney Fantasy

Disney Fantasy cruise ship
Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship

The Disney Dream’s sister ship, the Disney Fantasy, embarked on her maiden voyage in 2012. Like the Dream, the Disney Fantasy holds 4000 passengers.

Disney Wish

In 2022, the Disney Wish began sailing. Although this ship holds 4000 passengers like the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, it is not one of their sister ships. Instead, the Disney Wish features many differences from the other ships in the fleet.

Disney Treasure

Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Disney Treasure, is scheduled to set sail in 2024. The Disney Treasure is the sister ship to the Disney Wish.

DCL pictures with text Ultimate Guide to Cruising with Disney

In addition to the ships listed above, Disney Cruise Line currently has two more ships in the works that are tentatively scheduled to set sail sometime in 2025.

Disney Cruise Itineraries

With the addition of the Disney Wish, Disney Cruise Line has changed the home ports and itineraries for some of its ships. If you are planning on cruising with Disney but unsure of which ship to choose, you may want to take into consideration the various itineraries to see which is the most appealing to you.

The Disney Wish is currently based in Port Canaveral, just outside of Orlando. This ship offers 3 and 4 night cruises that visit the Bahamas. The Disney Wish typically makes stops in Nassau and at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

Castaway Cay beach
Castaway Cay

If you’re really wanting to sail on this newer ship but are questioning a short itinerary, we highly suggest checking out our post on whether or not a 3 night cruise is worth it. In that article, we break down the pros and cons to sailing on a short itinerary and provide our candid thoughts from our 3-night cruise. Like the Disney Wish, the Disney Fantasy sails from Port Canaveral, Florida. This ship offers a lot of 7 night cruises to the Western Caribbean or to the Eastern Caribbean. 

Tender Boat in Grand Cayman
Grand Cayman

Additionally, you’ll find that the Disney Fantasy also features cruises of shorter and longer lengths that visit places like Bermuda or even more Caribbean islands. The Disney Fantasy also typically makes stops in Castaway Cay and even plans to visit Disney Cruise Line’s newest private island, Lighthouse Point.

St. Thomas
St. Thomas in U.S. Virgin Islands

When she’s in the United States, the Disney Dream sails from Fort Lauderdale, San Juan (Puerto Rico), or New York. These itineraries include stops in places like the Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean islands, Canada, and the new Lighthouse Point. The Disney Dream also offers a Transatlantic itinerary from Fort Lauderdale to Europe. Once in Europe, the Dream sails from Spain, Italy, or England.

cove with sailboats in Majorca Spain
Majorca Spain

The Disney Magic cruise ship sails from Miami, San Juan, Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans and Galveston on Caribbean and/or Bahamian itineraries. She also crosses the Panama Canal to port in San Diego for Baja Cruises to Mexico. You can check out my family’s trip report from our Western Caribbean cruise on the Magic in my Review of the Disney Magic from Port of Miami.

The Disney Wonder tends to offer completely different itineraries from the ships mentioned above. In North America, the Disney Wonder sails from San Diego, Honolulu, or Vancouver.

Honolulu Hawaii
Honolulu, Hawaii

Some of her most popular itineraries include the Alaskan cruises from Vancouver. The Disney Wonder also sails from New Zealand and Australia during November through February. On top of the itineraries discussed, Disney Cruise Line also offers special sailings for Halloween on the High Seas, Christmas, Marvel, and more. If a sailing features one of these, it will be noted on the official DCL website where the cruises are listed.

Alaska Cruise Port
Alaska Cruise Port

My family and I sailed on a Merrytime cruise aboard the Disney Magic and had a blast celebrating the holidays in balmy, Caribbean weather. For a full rundown on all the special activities you’ll find on a Merrytime cruise, you can read our article on Disney Christmas Cruises.

Planning a Disney Cruise

Once you get started planning your Disney cruise, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is. If you’ve ever planned a vacation to Walt Disney World or even a cruise on another line, you’ll see that DCL is really a breeze. We have a ton of resources and articles about getting prepared for cruising with Disney.

But I’ll start by sharing the most helpful one, which is our Ultimate Disney Cruise Line Planning Guide. In that post, we cover all of the tasks you need to complete each step of the way. You can read through our timeline on what checklist items to mark off at specific points leading up to the cruise.

Printable Cruise Planner
Printable Cruise Planner

We also provide a printable planner in our Etsy shop. I recommend using the written article as a guide when filling in the pages on the Disney Cruise Line Planner since the post contains little tips and tidbits for an extra smooth sailing. Some additional items you may find helpful in planning your Disney Cruise vacation include:

Overall, the planning process is super simple and much less of a headache than other family vacations you may have experienced.

Disney Cruise Activities

One of our favorite things about cruising with Disney is there are so many fun activities and entertainment options available. My family and I love that you can just walk from deck to deck to experience different activities. This definitely beats fiddling with car seats and transportation options like on other vacations. For a full account of all the fun things to do on Disney cruises, you can check out our post on the Best Disney Cruise Activities.

pool with yellow water slide on Disney magic cruise ship
Disney Magic Pool

The Disney ships are home to multiple swimming pools where kids love to play. If you are sailing on a Caribbean or another warm climate itinerary, you can pretty much swim year round. Each ship also features water slide(s) and splash pads that your kids can enjoy, depending on their height requirements. You can see a full review of some of the swimming options onboard in our post on Disney Magic Cruise Ship Pools.

red AquaDunk Waterslide
AquaDunk on Disney Magic

Kids can also burn off energy in the recreation areas onboard the ships. Depending on the ship you choose, you’ll find fun activities like the Hero Zone, mini golf, basketball court, virtual sports simulators, Midship Detective Agency, and more! If you’re looking for grown up time, the Disney ships provide kids clubs for all age levels. This allows parents to enjoy some of the areas onboard that are geared more for adults. You’ll find a spa, fitness center, bars/lounges, adult-only restaurants, and adults-only pool.

kids club on Disney Magic
Oceaneer Club on Disney Magic

One of my family’s favorite activities onboard the Disney Cruise ships is the Broadway style shows. You can view some amazing performances on your cruise that are enjoyable for both kids and parents. Additionally, you’ll find popular movies available to watch in the theater during your trip.

We recommend checking the personal navigator each day of the cruise to determine which activities you don’t want to miss. Here, you’ll find things like arts and crafts opportunities, baking classes, games, meet and greets for Disney cruise characters, and live music just to name a few.

DCL Restaurants

Another one of our favorite experiences onboard the Disney Cruise ships is the dining rooms. Since we have an entire post dedicated to explaining rotational dining, we won’t go into a ton of detail here. Basically, Disney Cruise Line offers a dining experience unlike other cruise lines.

Instead of eating in the same main dining room each night of your cruise, passengers cruising with Disney rotate through three separate dining rooms. Each of these restaurants has its own theme, and some of them even provide live entertainment while you dine.

Disney Cruise Line main dining room

Each of the ships offers an elegant restaurant where cruisers can enjoy diverse menus of multi-course meals. The ships also offer dining experiences like at Animator’s Palate and Worlds of Marvel. You’ll also find that some ships feature live shows based on Disney princesses like Rapunzel, Anna and Elsa, and Tiana.

We highly suggest dining in the main restaurants during your cruise as the food and service are great. The added entertainment is a huge bonus, especially if you’re cruising with toddlers or little kids who don’t love sitting through a long meal.

Disney Magic food window on pool deck

In addition to the main dining rooms, guests who are cruising with Disney can enjoy a main buffet. My family and I like to dine at the buffet for breakfast and lunch since it offers plenty of options for the multiple dining needs of our family.

You’ll also find some quick, counter service dining options on the pool deck onboard the ships. These are great places to find kid-friendly foods like pizza, hotdogs, chicken nuggets, sandwiches, etc. The quick service spots are a great option for lunch or for a snack after swimming.

Disney Cruise Packages

Since you ideally need to fly into the cruise port at least a day in advance, families often purchase Disney Cruise packages to make the vacation flow seamlessly. We like to utilize Disney Cruise Line ground transportation to get to/from the port.

While this is an added cost, it’s nice to start the vacation off on a relaxing note knowing that DCL is in charge of your luggage and transportation both before and after the cruise. My family and I also usually purchase a pre-cruise hotel stay through Disney Cruise Line.

Disney Cruise Ground Transportation
Disney Cruise Line Transfer Shuttle

We have stayed at the Hyatt inside the Orlando International Airport the night before a cruise out of Port Canaveral. This allowed us to arrive on our flight into Orlando and simply walk to our hotel room. The next morning, we headed downstairs in the airport to board the Disney Cruise Line transfer bus.

Four Seasons Pool
Four Seasons Miami

In Miami, we booked the Four Seasons Hotel through Disney Cruise Line for a really great rate. Our DCL shuttle then picked us up from the hotel in the morning and transported us to the cruise ship. Many families also add on a visit to Disney World when they are cruising with Disney. This is especially convenient if you are sailing out of Port Canaveral since the drive is only about an hour to the Disney parks.

While most people prefer to experience Disney World before the cruise since it saves the relaxing part of the vacation for the end of the trip, my family and I don’t mind saving WDW for last. We are always bummed when getting off the ship, and a trip to Disney World softens the blow of the cruise being over.

Disney Cruise Tips

While we have provided several Disney Cruise tips throughout this article, there are lots more to share. You can find our full list of the best tips for your first Disney cruise in this post. However, we will share a few of our favorites here.

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Printable Cruise Planner

We already mentioned booking a pre-cruise stay and transportation through Disney Cruise Line prior to your cruise. But I also wanted to add that doing so allows you to arrive at the port at an early time on embarkation day. When you arrive at the port early, you can get settled and even inquire about a room upgrade. This is how my family and I upgraded at the port to a Concierge Level stateroom on one of our Disney cruises.

disney cruise concierge stateroom
Concierge Stateroom

We also have an entire post dedicated to embarkation day for a full guide on this sometimes stressful first day. You may want to especially pay attention to our embarkation day packing list since we provide a checklist of important items we make sure to have on hand when boarding the cruise ship. Speaking of packing, we have an additional article that discusses everything our family makes sure to pack for our cruises. This post includes a free printable packing list that you can use to organize your items before your trip.

Disney Cruise FAQ

How crowded are Disney cruises?

My family and I have sailed on multiple ships and cruise lines, and the Disney cruises do not seem any more crowded than other family-friendly cruise lines. People often complain about the pools being super crowded on the Disney ships. 

While it’s true that the swimming pools are small, my kids have always found space to swim and enjoy themselves onboard. I think when you see aerial views of the crowded pools, it sometimes looks worse than it feels when you are actually onboard the ship.

If you go into the vacation assuming the pools will be crowded, you will feel a lot less shocked when you see so many other passengers at the pool. We like to go to the pools in the morning after breakfast to bypass the peak time at the pools.

As far as the rest of the ship goes, the nightly shows may seem crowded until they open the doors for you to find your seats. Other than that, we have never found the hallways or main spaces to be super congested.

I will note that we tend to take the stairs since the elevators can be difficult to snag, especially during peak times.

Are Disney cruises worth it for adults?

I have not been lucky enough to vacation with Disney Cruise Line without my kids (ha!); however, I think it would be an amazing trip. The adult-only spaces are really nice, and the dining options are great for adults.

If you are debating a Disney cruise as an adult, you may want to consider whether or not you’re a Disney fan. The Broadway style shows are a big reason why we cruise with Disney, and I personally enjoy these kid-friendly shows as an adult.

However, if you aren’t really interested in Disney theming or entertainment, you may want to look into another cruise line.

Can you cruise as a family of 5?

Disney Cruise Line offers lots of staterooms that can hold a family of 5. Aside from the large Concierge suites that you can book for a pretty penny, you’ll find regular cabins that also hold 5 guests.

Although we are a family of 4, we had a stateroom that slept 5 people with a queen bed for two, sleeper sofa for one, pull-down bunk for one, and a Murphy bed for one. 

Many families also book two separate staterooms by assigning 3 people to one room and 2 people to the other. This not only ensures that you have plenty of beds, but it also gives you extra bathrooms.

Does Disney Cruise Line offer discounts?

Unfortunately, Disney Cruise Line is not known for their massive deals and discounts. That being said, certain people can find discounted cruise rates through the DCL Military Discounts, Canadian Discounts, and Florida Resident Discounts. In the past, Disney Cruise Line has also offered discounts for Disney Plus subscribers.

If you don’t fit into any of those categories, we recommend booking your Disney cruise as early as possible. Unlike other cruise lines whose fares fluctuate, Disney Cruise Line tends to only raise their prices.

Families looking to book a last minute cruise can check to see if any “Guaranteed” cabin rates are available. This means that you won’t get to choose your exact cabin, but you can book a cabin type. Disney Cruise Line will then assign you a cabin before you set sail.

While this option is not always available, it’s a great way to grab a deal as long as you’re not picky about your stateroom.

Final Thoughts on Cruising with Disney

Overall, a Disney Cruise Line vacation is the perfect balance of relaxation and excitement. No matter which ship or itinerary you ultimately choose, your family is sure to enjoy your experience when cruising with Disney.

In our experience, the level of service you receive with DCL is unmatched with other cruise lines and resorts. Although the price for the cruise may initially seem higher than competitors, you really get what you pay for with Disney.

Chip and Dale dressed in Pirate costumes

My family and I loved our time cruising with Royal Caribbean, but we determined that you would need to book a suite in order to receive the same level of service Disney Cruise Line provides. If you book one of the suites with Royal, you’ll end up paying pretty much the same price as you do with DCL. If you’re interested in a full comparison of these two cruise lines, we highly recommend checking out our post on Disney Cruise Line vs Royal Caribbean.

Additionally, you may find our post on Disney Cruise Tips for First Timers extremely helpful. In that article, we discuss our favorite secrets and hacks for enjoying your first cruise with DCL. We hope you found our post full of useful information and that you have so much fun enjoying the magic of Disney on your cruise!

Do you love cruising with Disney? Comment below to share your favorite things about Disney Cruise Line!

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