Are you planning a vacation for your family and wondering which is better: Walt Disney World or Disney Cruise Line?
My husband and I have taken countless trips to Disney World with our two little girls. We also began cruising with Disney when our older daughter was a toddler.
Both types of Disney vacations provide plenty of magical experiences for your family to enjoy, but what is the better option?
In this post, I will compare a Disney cruise vs Disney World vacation to help you determine which is better for your family!
- Disney Family Vacation Ideas
- Which is cheaper?
- Land and Sea Packages
- Disney Cruise vs Disney World with a Toddler
Disney Family Vacation Ideas
Disney offers many different types of vacations for families, but I will focus on what Disney Cruise Line is like compared to Walt Disney World. First, let’s discuss a brief overview of each vacation.
Walt Disney World
Anyone who has ever visited Disney World knows that the planning process for your vacation is a really big deal.
Not only do you have to choose your dates and your hotel, you also need to make decisions about:
- which day you will visit each park
- Fastpasses for popular attractions
- dining reservations
- itineraries for each park
In addition, you need to determine how your family will get around at Walt Disney World. Both of my kids are still in car seats, so this adds an added item to think about when planning any trip.
We love that we don’t have to worry about bringing and installing car seats when visiting Disney World. Instead, we hop on the FREE Magical Express from the airport and use Disney shuttles to/from the hotel and parks.
Walt Disney World is FULL of amazing rides and entertainment too!. You could arrive at a park at opening, stay until closing, and still not see or do everything offered. Plus, there are so many things to do at Disney World outside the parks!
At Walt Disney World, the dining options are endless. All sorts of restaurants are available from chains to pubs to fine dining. Since reservations are needed for most of the popular restaurants, you do need to make sure to book these in advance.
Disney Cruise Line
When you plan a Disney cruise vacation, you don’t really have to do a lot of pre-planning compared to Disney World.
Initially, you just book the Disney cruise and sign up for your dining time. Once online check in is available for your trip, you can schedule a few activities; however, most of the entertainment options do not require tickets or reservations.
A Disney cruise also provides tons of activities for your family including:
- water slides
- Broadway style shows
- cooking classes
- arts and crafts
In addition, your Disney cruise will often visit Castaway Cay (pronounced “key”), which is Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. This tropical paradise is as amazing as you are probably imagining! Castaway Cay provides crystal clear water, character meet and greets, and family friendly excursions!
Unlike Walt Disney World, you do not need reservations for dining on the cruise ship unless you choose to spend extra money and eat in one of the specialty, adult-only restaurants.
Rather than booking a time for meals each day like at Disney World, you just show up at your restaurant of choice for breakfast and lunch. For dinner, you are assigned a time and restaurant, so it really takes all the guess work out.
If you want to learn more about how dining works on a Disney cruise, you can check out this post:
Which is cheaper?
One of the main questions I get asked about comparing Disney World to a Disney cruise is which is the cheaper vacation.
The short answer is that it totally depends.
Your Disney cruise vacation will vary in price based on the time of year you travel and the length of your cruise itinerary. If you choose to sail in the summer months or during holiday breaks, you will pay a higher price.
Your Disney World vacation will also vary in price based on the time of year you take your trip. The Disney World resort hotels are more expensive during peak times, similar to a Disney cruise.
Let’s break down the different items you purchase for Disney World and a Disney cruise to determine which is cheaper.
Accomodations and Dining
When you reserve a cruise with DCL, you usually choose your stateroom at the time of booking. You can pick a cabin with no windows, one with an ocean view window, or one with a balcony, You could also book a suite and cruise in the Concierge Level.
Each of these room levels is priced differently. With a few exceptions, your meals are included in the price of your Disney cruise. So, the majority of your cruise costs are paid in one lump sum ahead of time.
If you want to compare the price of a Disney World vacation to a Disney cruise, you will want to include your WDW hotel cost and the price of your meals to get a fair estimate.
You can choose from different hotel levels at Walt Disney World, and the price you pay will depend on the hotel level you choose:
- value resort
- moderate resort
- deluxe resort
- deluxe villas
My family and I tend to stay at a deluxe resort or a deluxe villa at Disney World. We find that a cruise vacation is pretty comparable in price to that of a deluxe Disney World vacation.
As mentioned above, your transportation at Disney World is completely free. Disney’s Magical Express will pick you up at the airport and transfer you to your Disney resort hotel.
Once on Disney property, you can use the shuttles to get anywhere you need to go (on property) for no additional charge.
When you cruise with Disney, you are responsible for getting your family to and from the ports. Disney Cruise Line offers shuttle services from the airport to the cruise port, but it is NOT free. Therefore, you will need to add the cost of your rental vehicle or shuttle service to your cruise total.
You can read more about how these shuttles work in this post:
Tickets and Extra Costs
If you are visiting Disney World with your family, you more than likely plan to purchase park tickets. Although kids are free if they are under 3 years old, you will need a park ticket for each guest over age three.
If you plan to visit each of the Disney World theme parks, the price of your vacation can really add up.
As mentioned above, most of your fees for a Disney cruise are included in your initial reservation. Some other extras you may need to account for include:
- specialty dining
- specialty/alcoholic beverages
Land and Sea Packages
Many families have a difficult time deciding between the two vacations, so they combine them together!
Although Disney does not offer deals or discounts on land and sea packages, you would save money on flights if you are already in the area. This brings up a common question:
Should you do Disney World or a Disney cruise first?
Often times families sailing out of Port Canaveral (or even Miami) choose to add days at Disney World onto their vacation. But, is it better to cruise before the theme parks vacation or after it?
If you choose to cruise first, you will have the Disney parks to look forward to on the last day of your Disney cruise. This helps make the final day of your cruise a little less sad.
In addition, when you visit Disney World after a cruise, you don’t have to worry about rushing to catch a flight home on debarkation day.
On the other hand, if you decide to visit Disney World BEFORE your cruise, you get the more stressful vacation out of the way. Your family can spend time enjoying the theme parks first. Then you can end the combined vacation on a relaxing note.
In addition, you will want to arrive near the cruise port at least the day before you set sail. So, if you are getting a hotel room anyway, you may as well book one at Walt Disney World!
Do you go to Disney World on a Disney cruise?
Depending on the cruise itinerary that you book, the Disney ship may stop in Port Canaveral, Florida. If this is the case, you can purchase Disney World tickets as your excursion.
A Disney shuttle will pick you up at the cruise port and drive your family to Walt Disney World. You will get to enjoy the park(s) for the day before catching the bus back to Port Canaveral.
Disney Cruise vs Disney World with a Toddler
If you are planning a Disney family vacation with a toddler, you will want to consider your little one’s interests when determining whether a Disney cruise or WDW trip is better.
That being said, the vibe of each vacation is quite different, and my family personally finds the cruises to be much more toddler friendly. A Disney cruise vacation feels more relaxing, and you don’t have the added stresses of Disney World.
Once you are on the ship, you don’t have to worry about boarding shuttles. You just take the stairs or the elevators to each deck to find pools, restaurants, shops, or entertainment.
In addition, a Disney Cruise Line vacation confines your family to the ship, which really helps when members of your travel party want to experience different activities.
My husband and I have two kids who are five years apart in age. Since my younger daughter is a toddler, her older sister obviously has a different schedule and interests.
On the Disney cruise, it’s easy to walk back to the room with our toddler for a nap or bedtime without disrupting our older child’s activities. At Disney World, you would have to grab a shuttle back to the hotel in order to put your toddler to bed.
Also, some toddlers are a bit leary of rides at Disney World, but they tend to enjoy meeting characters. Popular Disney characters are all over the cruise ship, and the lines for meet and greets are WAY shorter than those at Disney World.
Is Disney World or a Disney Cruise Better?
So, which is the better vacation? It really depends on your family and their interests.
My husband likes to say that Disney World is a trip and not a vacation. It is true that it’s not the most relaxing place to visit, but we still love it! Disney World offers so many activities, shows, and experiences that you just can beat.
A Disney cruise, on the other hand, is totally laid back and easy. The cast members cater to every need that your child has, so parents get to enjoy themselves too!
Either way, Disney knows how to provide a great time so you really can’t make a bad choice!
Which Disney family vacation do you prefer: Disney World or Disney Cruise?
Let me know why by commenting below!!