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Disney Cruise Line vs. Celebrity Cruises

Disney Cruise Line vs. Celebrity Cruises cruise thing

Disney Cruise Line is amazing, but it’s also very expensive. Much more so than most of its competition. As I recently traveled on a Celebrity cruise to Alaska, on the Celebrity Infinity, I thought I might share how I thought it compared to my experiences on DCL. The Infinity is about the size of the “classic” Disney ships: the Magic and the Wonder, both of which I’ve been on.

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Our first impression on celebrity was good; we were greeted with champagne and orange juice as we entered the ship through the main lounge area.

Food & Drink

On DCL, there are three well themed, and beautifully decorated, main dining rooms that you rotate through. Other than special events like pirate or formal night, each restaurant has its own menu tied to its theme. Your servers rotate with you and learn what you like. You select a seating time, and if you are a smaller party you are assigned to a group of other passengers to dine with each night of the cruise. I really enjoyed these aspects of a Disney cruise, every night at dinner is fun and different but the food and service was always great, at least in my opinion. There is also an adult-only specialty restaurant (or two) on each Disney ship, but I never saw the need to go since the main dining rooms were so good. Celebrity only has one main dining room. It’s beautiful, but doesn’t have any Disney theme or story of course. You can choose a traditional fixed dining time or make reservations for each night at a time of your choosing. We opted for select dining, making individual reservations each night. The great thing was, most nights we were given the same servers despite our different reservation times. For the most part, the service and food were good in my mind, if generally too fancy for my tastes. We were not fans of the lobster and the sirloin steak was too buttery for my taste, but the chicken breast was good and we enjoyed trying some of the other dishes. Overall, the main dining room gave me no reason to try the many specialty restaurants available at a steep up-charge.

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On Celebrity, the main dining was also open for breakfast everyday and lunch on sea days, or days where we did not get into port until the late afternoon. You could also get room service most of the day. Weirdly, I liked how they cooked the eggs better for room service than in the main dining room. But, I really enjoyed how they walked around with trays full of pastries in the main dining room. So many croissants! The buffet was also open for breakfast and lunch, but I was not very impressed and only ate there for embarkation day lunch, as nothing else was open. The buffet was often very crowded and it was frequently difficult to score an outside table at lunch, so clearly a lot of people on the cruise liked it. A good thing was they had good (included) hard ice cream up there available from about noon to 10pm. There was also gelato available for added cost downstairs. By the pool there was a burger bar that seemed popular, but I wasn’t wild about. On DCL, the buffet and at least one of the main dining rooms are typically open for breakfast and lunch, and I also preferred the main dining room for sit down meals to the buffet there as well. Overall, I think the food and dining experience was slightly better on DCL than Celebrity, but not a big enough difference to justify the price.

Both cruise lines charge for alcoholic drinks, but I don’t drink so I’m going to move on to non-alcoholic options. On DCL soda is included in the price you pay, both at meals and at self serve machines on deck 24/7. The cove café offers speciality coffees at an up-charge. On Celebrity, the only beverages that are included are basic coffee, tea, lemonade, and iced tea. None of which I thought was very good. To get soda on celebrity you either pay by the can or get the $18 per person per day standard non-alcoholic beverage package. Some people see this as being nickel and diming, but the overall cost of celebrity is certainly less. More annoying than the price is having to hand over your room key at every meal to get a soda, and it always seems to take way longer than it should. The good news is that for only $4 more per person per day you can get the  premium non-alcoholic beverage package which includes non-alcoholic frozen drinks and unlimited specialty coffees and teas from their equivalent of the cove café and more. This is a deal I certainly took advantage of! Maybe the wait was more understandable when everyone at our table ordered non-alcoholic daiquiris at dinner.

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Entertainment & Pools

We were on an Alaskan cruise with Celebrity, and when you go to Alaska the entertainment is the ports and the scenery. That was fantastic. The Celebrity ship was expertly designed to take full advantage of it; the main indoor lounge areas all had large floor to ceiling windows, larger than on DCL, allowing passengers to soak in the scenery. There was also a large indoor lounge atop the forward end of the ship that provided excellent views. Beyond visiting ports, I spent most of my time sleeping and eating.

But in case you are considering a less destination-centric cruise, let me tell you about the entertainment on board Celebrity cruises. The main entertainment is three Broadway style shows in a beautiful Vegas style theater. These shows showcase the Celebrity dancers and popular music from all of the last five decades. They are fun and upbeat and the dancing and singing are good, but they lack a story. This is very different from the shows on DCL that, of course, tell great stories and showcase the characters and music from many Disney classics that you already know and love. DCL definitely wins on the main shows. On Celebrity, you could also see the Celebrity dancers at dance parties at night and at Celebrity life dance lessons during sea days. The dance lessons were pretty fun, even if my foxtrot skills were not excellent. This was one of the Celebrity lifestyle activities.

There also was a ilounge where you could use the internet and a small library where you could borrow books and board games. There were also multiple performers on the Celebrity cruise ship in various lounges. This included a piano player, a jazz duo, and a couple of alright bands. They were pretty good but they only played an hour here or 45 minutes there and moved about the ship, so you really had to look at the schedule to find them. I enjoyed listening to them.

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A very popular activity during a sea day on Celebrity was the galley tour, where, after some introductions, guests were brought in small groups through the ship’s galley and got some samples from one of the specialty restaurants. Another popular activity was Top Chef at Sea. There were also a number of art auctions and information sessions about other Celebrity cruise line itineraries, as well as a casino and lots of shopping. Something many people enjoy on DCL, especially on sea days, is the full scale movie theater with first-run Disney movies including Star Wars and Marvel films. On Celebrity, we were treated to a Star Wars movie on the rooftop terrace. This was a really cool space but, at least at the time we saw it, not an ideal space for a movie. It seemed like we were staring into the sun. We hit the pool instead.

I really enjoyed the pools on the Infinity. Outside there was a shallow family pool, a deeper family pool, and two hot tubs. Inside the solarium there were two more hot tubs and a large thalassotherapy pool. This pool was neat, it was heated and had large warm metal loungers in the pool. They were great for lounging in and letting the water wash over you. In the adults-only solarium there were lounge chairs with padded cushions on them that were very comfy. Also in the solarium was a buffet featuring some light healthy food options, include fresh fruit.

The solarium and its pools had family swim time for a few hours each afternoon. We saw a lot of kids coming into the pool then. There were also a few who were in the pool well before that time, including one time when a pre-teen and her older companion were splashing around in the pool while holding beverages in glass cups. No one said anything to them. I feel like it would have been addressed quickly on DCL, but that’s just my gut. It was nice on Celebrity that all the lounge chairs inside and out had towels and (for the Alaskan cruise at least) blankets on them, as well as stacks of extras around. A complaint I did have about the pool area was one whole side of outdoor deck seemed to allow smoking and there were a lot of people smoking. It bothered me to even walk on that whole side of the ship. I never had that issue on DCL, I couldn’t even tell you where the smoking area was. I also missed that on DCL there is a complete path around the top outside deck of the ship you can walk. On Celebrity there was a running path that encompassed most of the middle of the top deck, but to go to either end of the boat you had to walk inside or upstairs.

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Other notes

On Celebrity, we got a balcony stateroom for less than half the price of an inside stateroom on DCL for the same cruise locale. For this trip the balcony was particularly great as we got to see glaciers, whales, and lots of amazing scenery from it. There was plenty of storage in the closet and drawers. The beds are high enough to put your luggage underneath, also key. Our room was about the same size as an inside stateroom on DCL. It had one bathroom, not split like on DCL, with a stand up shower, toilet, sink, and some counter space. It’s random, but I found the toilet seats in the rooms and throughout the ship oddly shaped. It was a little more like a boat toilet then a standard American seat. It didn’t have as much surface area to sit on. Just a little weird.

As far as cleanliness goes, I didn’t see a major difference between DCL and Celebrity in the rooms or public areas. Like DCL, in front of each dining area was hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer was also provided when we re-entered the ship from port.

DCL clearly wins on characters, by miles and miles. Disney characters are all over the ship regularly and are easy to line up and get a photo with. They are all listed in the navigator, with the times and locations. The Disney characters are the type and quality you would expect to see at a Disney park, Mickey, Minnie, etc. The characters change outfits daily too, which I really appreciated, so you get lots of adorable pictures. You clearly cannot expect that on a cruise line other than Disney. Celebrity had a few “characters” as well, if you can call them that. For example, we ran into a very small, quite shabby looking, moose. Needless to say, we didn’t purchase that photo.

That gets to my takeaway point. In my opinion, DCL is a great cruise line and offers some special things only they can. That might be what you are looking for and are willing to pay for. However, Celebrity is a great cruise line, especially if you want to travel to a place Disney doesn’t go, or if Disney isn’t in your budget.


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