First Time Cruise Planning: Follow Along


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Recently I decided that I might like to go on a cruise for my next vacation. I am a big Disney World fan, yet I’ve never been on a cruise. It only made sense that I would want to experience my first ever cruise with Disney. I am a very thorough Disney World vacation planner and I’ve done tons of research into those types of vacations. But I was clueless about the Disney Cruise Line. Where do I even start? Follow along with my first time cruise journey!

Departure Port

My path might not be the best path for everyone, but maybe my learning experiences will be able to help others. The first thing I wanted to figure out was where we should board the ship. There are lots of different ports of departure to choose from.

On the Disney Cruise Line website you can search by departure port. This can help you decide on which cruise is right for you. Maybe a port is within driving distance of your home, or maybe one port is much cheaper to fly to then another.

The departure ports include: Galveston Texas, San Diego California, Vancouver Canada, Miami Florida, Port Canaveral Florida (this is the closest port to Walt Disney World), and New York. There are also ports that depart from other countries. You can find those on the Disney Cruise Line website.

At first, I thought Galveston sounded like a great option. I live a few short hours from there so I could easily drive and forgo the costs of airfare. With that in mind, I chose Galveston as my departure port and looked at my options.


Dates

I was able to quickly tell that out of Galveston, Disney offered cruises to the Bahamas and to the western Caribbean. It seemed that all the cruises happened in the months of November, December and January. This led me to discover that the 4 Disney cruise ships travel around to different ports during different times of the year. This forced me to look at my second decision; what time of the year did I want to cruise?

I don’t have children so I don’t need to worry about them missing school, and my job is pretty flexible with my vacation time. Obviously, these are things you’ll need to take into consideration when choosing your cruise. This could be very unfortunate for some people, the departure dates from your optimal port of departure might not sync up with your own schedule.

Another thing that I discovered is that Disney Cruise Line offers special holiday sailings. In 2017, the Halloween dates vary from ship to ship, but they seem to start around the beginning of September and go through the end of October. If you happen to be sailing on Thanksgiving Day your ship might provide a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Of course there are also Christmas themed sailings that begin around November 10 of this year and go through the end of December. A special celebration also occurs for New Year’s Eve.

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Length of Cruise

Another important aspect of your Disney cruise is the length. Disney cruises can range anywhere from a quick 3 day weekend getaway to a 13 night transatlantic cruise or a 14 night Panama Canal cruise.

I did consider doing a quick 3 day cruise, since this will be my first cruise ever and I’m not sure if I will enjoy it. However, the shortest cruise out of Galveston is a 4 day and it only hits one port. I didn’t really think that sounded so appealing, I wanted to experience more ports. I decided that maybe a 7 day cruise would be more what I was looking to experience.

Destinations

Disney Cruise Lines offers lots of exciting destinations. There are Alaska cruises, European cruises, California coastline cruises, New England and Canada coastline cruises and Panama Canal cruises. Then there were the options I had always heard of like the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Mexico.

Since the dates offered from Galveston were ok with me, the next thing I looked into were the ports of call, or the places the ship visits.

My boyfriend, who will be the one sailing with me, wasn’t too excited about any of the ports. Also, sailings from Galveston seemed to have more days at sea and less ports than other options. This led me to backtrack to square one and look into other departure ports. At this time I discovered that Disney Cruise Line offer several cruises out of San Juan Puerto Rico in January. These itineraries had you visiting the Southern Caribbean, which my boyfriend had never visited and thought sounded interesting.

Ships

Another big factor to choosing the right cruise for you is the choice of ship. As of today, Disney Cruise Line offers 4 ships: the Magic, Dream, Fantasy and Wonder.

The Disney Magic is Disney’s first cruise ship. She was launched in 1998 and features 11 public decks, can hold 2700 passengers in 875 staterooms and has an approximate crew of 950. The Magic is decorated in the Art Nouveau style.

The Disney Wonder is Disney’s second cruise ship, debuting shortly after the Magic in 1999. The Wonder is almost exactly the same as the Magic except the interior is decorated in the Art Deco style.

The Disney Dream is the third of Disney’s cruise ships. She debuted in 2010 and can hold up to 4000 passengers and 1458 crew members.

The Disney Fantasy is the newest of Disney’s ships. She launched in 2011 and can carry 4000 passengers and 1458 crew members.

An interesting fact that I discovered during my research is that each ship has a fairy Godmother. The Magic’s is Patricia Disney, the former wife of Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney. The Wonder’s godmother is Tinker Bell. The Fantasy’s godmother is Mariah Carey. The Dream’s godmother is Jennifer Hudson.

Now, there are lots of differences between the 4 ships. These range from water slide selection, to dining rooms, to kid’s club offerings. One of the differences that I personally found interesting was that each ship has a different Broadway caliber Disney show. The Fantasy has Aladdin the Musical. The Dream has Beauty and the Beast. The Wonder has Frozen the Musical and the Magic has Tangled the Musical.

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Though the differences between the ships may not seem like such a big deal, these are hotly debated among Disney Cruise Line fans. It’s a good idea to do some research into each ship and decide if the differences matter to you and your family.

 

Cost

The final factor that I am going to mention today is cost. Disney Cruise Line is not cheap. There are many other cruise lines out there where you can sail the same itineraries for half the price.

So why would I pay twice as much for a Disney cruise as the same cruise with a different company? I think there are several answers to this question. Most people’s first reply will be about the children’s experience. Since I do not have children, that can’t be my reasoning.

My first reason to pay the premium prices for a Disney cruise is the entertainment. As I’ve stated before, I am a big fan of Disney. I love the movies, the music and the parks. I believe that I will get my money’s worth from the special Disney shows, movies, characters and experiences available on board.

My second reason is the crew. I have heard nothing but rave reviews about the level of service that you receive on a Disney cruise and I am excited to experience it for myself.

There are several ways to cruise with Disney at a bit of a discount. Military discounts and Florida resident rates are available. You can book the cruise yourself through the Disney Cruise Line website, or you can book through a travel agency. Dreams Unlimited offers a shipboard credit for anyone who books through them. It is also usually best to book a cruise right when they become available, as the price rises the more people book that cruise.

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Conclusion

I hope that some of my experiences will be able to help you plan your first Disney cruise!

After all my research, I have decided to book the Wonder out of Puerto Rico in January for a Southern Caribbean itinerary.

In my next installment I am going to go deeper down the rabbit hole and research what happens after I book my cruise.



*The information contained in this article represents the opinion of the author, and not necessarily the opinion of the DIS.


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