It’s that time of year again. The Disney Cruise Line itineraries for summer and fall of 2017 have been released! The itineraries include some new destinations in Alaska and Europe, and a return to many old favorites in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. So, no doubt many people will be scrutinizing these itineraries, researching the ports, and deciding which cruise is right for them in 2017. However, when the perfect cruise has been selected, and the costs calculated, the same age-old question may arise. Is this Disney Cruise really worth the $$$ price tag? It is no secret that a Disney cruise is expensive! No one can argue that one – they do often cost more than other cruise lines. For some people, the mere sight of the cruise quote will be enough to put a pause on their booking. So is a Disney cruise worth it? Will you see the value in the extra $$$ you are spending for this experience?
First of all, this article isn’t about the benefits of cruising in general or what is and isn’t included. Across the board, with the majority of the larger well-known cruise companies, they will all offer the same basic experience – food and meals included, entertainment, swimming pools, recreation, and the opportunity to visit multiple destinations within a short period of time. So if you can get that basic experience elsewhere for a lower price what do you get with Disney that makes it worth it?
We recently had the opportunity to go on a 7 night Caribbean cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy. Although we have cruised with other companies, this was our first time on a Disney ship. So I thought it might be helpful if I share the six ways that really stood out as special or unique about our sailing with Disney and where we saw some of the extra $$$ that had been spent.
1. The Entertainment. The one thing Disney knows how to do well is entertain and put on a show! And they did just that with their theatre productions shows that were on most evenings. The standard of all the performances were of an extremely high quality. The show themes were creative (obviously Disney themed) and very well executed and the actual production with the special effects and the theatre techniques seemed to give it that extra magic that you just don’t usually get aboard cruise ships. I have seen shows on Broadway and the London West End and these theatre shows were absolutely on par with them. The other entertainment included a sail away party, a pirate night, themed holiday nights (in our case, Halloween on the High Seas parties), a farewell party and you can’t forget the Fireworks at sea! Not a bad way to end an evening on board!! So whether it was a musical in the theatre, a show in the atrium or a deck party, every evening was unique and fun. If I had to pick just one reason to go back on another Disney cruise, this would be it!
2. Unique Ship Features and Attention to detail. The attention to detail is definitely Disney’s signature touch and it really feels that every inch of the ship has been “pixie-dusted” by means of these clever ship features. Here are just a few of those features that I liked around the ships:
- The Midship Detective Agency – an interactive detective game that directs its participants to cleverly disguised works of art around the ship to help solve the mystery. This was a really fun and very unique game that had everyone, adults and kids alike, running around the ship trying to find clues in the artwork. I have never spent that long staying at the wall art on a ship before! Such a clever idea.
- The detail and backstory on the Aqua Duck water ride. There are duck footprints on the stairs and has a cute story revealing how Donald got stuck in the side of the forward funnel. All wonderfully detailed and made it so much more than just a basic water ride.
- Certain public corridors had large portholes with built in seating. Clever use of the space, and instead of simply having windows there, they have created lovely idyllic and quiet spots to sit and watch the world sail by.
- The magical porthole found in the inside stateroom category. Something unique that makes an ordinary inside stateroom really special. This is a screen made to look like an actual porthole, that by means of a camera on the exterior of the ship, shows live video footage of what you would see if you had an outside or a verandah category stateroom. The magical part is the occasional appearance of a Disney character floating across the screen. A really fun feature that entertains and is a practical real time view of your port.
- Wave phones – Disney’s answer to communication between families aboard the ship at no extra cost. Each stateroom has 2 wave phones that allows you to text and call without using your personal cell phone. You can call any shipboard phone, other wave phones and other staterooms. You can even use it on shore at Castaway Cay. These were really useful to have and made it really easy to keep in contact with other members of our party. If you have children in any of the supervised facilities, nursery or the Oceaneer Clubs then this means you can be contacted if necessary.
Although some of these ship features may not necessarily be exclusive to the Disney Fantasy, or the Disney Cruise Line in general, they all came together to make the ship fun and interesting, and definitely enhanced our onboard experiences.
3. The customer service on board. The level of service on board was of a very high standard and all the crew members tried really hard to ensure we had the best possible experience. However to some degree or another you should get good levels of customer service on all cruise’s ships, so this wasn’t in itself anything unique or special. Where we noticed the difference in Disney however was the level of service given to our little boy, who at the time of travel was only 15 months. From our own waiters in the main dining rooms, the waiters in the buffet restaurant Cabanas, the stateroom attendants and many more crew members, all of them went out of their way to talk to him, interact with him, making him feel very special and important. They really treated him as importantly as any other guest. So we were extremely impressed with the level of customer service given and it absolutely enhanced our cruise overall.
4. The Disney Characters on board. Well, this is obviously something very special and unique with a Disney ship – the characters are on board for your entire cruise and you can enjoy many benefits as a result. There are character meet and greets that happen many times a day from embarkation day to your last evening on board. The characters on board include Mickey Mouse and his pals, The Disney princesses, Chip n Dale, certain Disney Junior characters and at times, certain Toy Story characters. It was so much fun seeing them around the ship, queuing up for those all important photographs with them and seeing them participate in key shows and parties through out the sailing. They made appearances in the sail away deck party on embarkation day, the welcome on board theatre shows and the different themed party nights through out the cruise before saying a fond farewell on the last evening at the See Ya Real Soon show. So yes, if you’re a fan of the Mouse himself, then you will love this aspect of sailing with Disney! We certainly did!
5. The Rotational Dining Experiences. This was something very new to us and it made our dining experience much more than simply enjoying our meals. The ship has 3 themed dining rooms, The Enchanted Garden, The Royal Court, and the Animators palate. When you have arrived on board on embarkation day you will receive your restaurant schedule and then each evening you, your tablemates and your servers will rotate to a different restaurant. This way everyone gets to experience the theming and the entertainment of each restaurant. Each restaurant has been designed to a different theme, and whether its the décor, the tableware, the special effects or the attire of the waiters, each aspect comes together to make it an entire evening experience. With Rotational dining, each evening is exciting, unique and above all entertaining! One Top tip: When it is your turn to go to Animators Palate for the evening do not miss it!!! Extra money spent – worth every penny in that restaurant alone! So although you may get great food on other ships I am not sure that they could ever top the dining experiences you can get aboard a Disney ship.
6. Castaway Cay – A private island owned by Disney, and is reserved exclusively for guests sailing on the Caribbean or Bahamian cruises about the Disney cruise ships. The island is beautiful and it was definitely a port highlight on our cruise. Whether you want to sun bathe on the many different beaches, swim, snorkel, or explore the island or waters by means of a port adventure, there is something for everyone. When you have worked up an appetite, then head to the BBQ location for an all-inclusive BBQ lunch. The characters were also ashore ready to pose with you for your castaway photos. So yes, a great destination and again, obviously unique to Disney! We has a great last day at Castaway Cay and although we didn’t get to experience all of the activities available, we saw enough that would make us want to go back!
So those were the six things that really stood out as special or unique about sailing with Disney and it did enhance our cruise experience. Was it worth the $$$ price tag that a cruise with Disney can cost? Well, for our family and our interests, we saw the value in each of these six things, so for us it was 100% worth the extra money spent. It did mean that extra bit to save but for what we saw and experienced it was worth it for our family. Will we sail again with Disney? Well, like everyone else, I will also be scouring the itineraries and prices for 2017 but I really hope that budget permitting we can get to go on another Disney cruise. I guess it is time to start saving!