Everything to Know for Your First Disney Cruise
From familiar entertainment and exciting Marvel experiences to upper deck water slides for kids and plenty of quiet pools for adults to relax, there’s so much to do — and also to know.
Related: Disney Is Opening a Fully Immersive 'Star Wars' Hotel
Here are all the Disney Cruise Line basics, to help you determine if this state-of-the-art experience at sea is an ideal vacation choice for your family
What and Where
Disney Cruise Line operates four different ships — Magic, Fantasy, Dream and Wonder — that travel on itineraries that include tropical stops in the Caribbean and Bahamas, domestic outings to Alaska and along the coasts, as well as throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. Sailings last anywhere from two nights to two weeks out of ports in a handful of countries, with some departures out of Port Canaveral, located an hour from Walt Disney World.
Disney Cruise Line’s essence is extremely family-friendly, offering the charm of Disney characters, films and music through every step of the journey. In addition to the plentiful activities for young ones, the ships and activities offer quiet areas and escapes that are exclusive to adults.
Pools, Slides and More
Disney Cruise Line ships have an assortment of pools and themed water play areas, with most offering a large signature waterslide. The AquaDunk on the Disney Magic shoots riders down from three stories up, while the AquaDuck on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy offers a water coaster ride high above the pool deck.
Instead of spending each night in a formal dining room, Disney Cruise Line has rotational dining, wherein guests switch between three different restaurants. The stylized eateries vary between ships — Disney Wonder serves cajun and creole food at “The Princess and the Frog”-inspired Tiana’s Place, while Disney Magic offers a “Beauty and the Beast”-themed Lumiere’s — and all have Animator’s Palate, which highlights the artistry of Disney and Pixar’s most popular films.
There aren’t any true attractions on board, but this is still definitely Disney. Special interactive appearances from Finding Nemo characters at Animator’s Palate restaurant on Dream and Fantasy sailings is on par with Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot and Disney California Adventure, while the Midship Detective Agency unveils an exciting layer of the two ships you’d otherwise never know.
Disney Cruise Line visits destinations across the globe, but a favorite among guests remains Castaway Cay, a private Disney-operated island in the Bahamas.
The sit-down restaurants, buffets and room service on all Disney Cruise Line ships is included in the price. Unlimited soft-serve ice cream and treats are also available around the ship, as well as complimentary fountain soda, tea and coffee in restaurants and on the main deck.
Disney ships offer plenty of tranquil adults-only areas. All ships have a set of pools reserved exclusively for adults, as well as a collection of bars and restaurants that are segmented away from the rest of the ship. The Senses Spa Rainforest Room has a selection of steam rooms and whirlpool spas, and Castaway Cay offers Serenity Bay, a beachfront area of the island exclusively for guests 18 and over.
Disney Cruise Line does offer dining upgrades by way of its upscale on board restaurants, which are exclusively for adults and absolutely worth the splurge. Palo, an Italian restaurant located on all four Disney Cruise Line ships, serves a three-course selection of dishes including pasta, steaks and souffles, well as a brunch on select sailings. Disney Dream and Fantasy additionally offer Remy, a multi-course fine dining French restaurant with a dress code to match.
All Disney Everything
You can watch Disney films on the large-scale “Funnel Vision” screen at the Goofy Pool or Donald Pool during the day or night. Disney ships even play Disney, Star Wars and Marvel films the same day they’re released in theaters, broadcasting the newest films inside the Buena Vista movie theater.
If you’d rather call it an early night, there's a range of films on-demand within state rooms. Cabins have a “split” double bathroom and shower that can be used as a bathtub, as well as pull-down beds and fold-out couches. There’s also a laundry room aboard each ship that’s open 24 hours.
With new Marvel Day At Sea bookings on the Disney Magic and Star Wars Day At Sea on the Disney Fantasy, the ship turns into a completely themed environment with exclusive deck parties, activities, fireworks and themed food and drinks all day and night long. Star Wars sailings offer photo ops with R2-D2 and C-3PO as well as famous beings on both sides of the force, while Marvel fans will love meeting Iron Man, Black Panther, Loki and Spider-Man among others, as well as a visit from the Guardians of the Galaxy. There are also special sailings over Halloween and Christmas that incorporate the holidays into onboard activities.
One oft-praised feature of Disney Cruise Line are Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab, both included in all sailings. This set of connected and themed play areas is for kids ages 3 to 12. Guests aboard Disney Fantasy will have an extra-special time learning skills and accomplishing impressive feats with Doctor Strange and Thor in the Marvel Super Hero Academy, while the Star Wars: Command Post brings kids face-to-face with intergalactic activities, as well as special appearances by beloved characters like BB-8. Similar experiences are available at the Marvel’s Avengers Academy on Disney Magic, Marvel Super Hero Academy on Disney Wonder and a Star Wars-themed Millennium Falcon space on the Disney Dream.
If you’re looking for a photo opp with Mickey Mouse, you won’t have to search very far. Disney princesses, popular characters and even some rare favorites offer regular meet-and-greets on Disney Cruise Line sailings. If you miss them, which is nearly impossible to do, there are opportunities within lively character dance parties, spontaneous appearances on the ship’s pool decks and certain interactions — Disney Princess Gathering and Frozen Meet and Greet, specifically — can be pre-booked.
In addition to nightly Broadway-style shows on all four Disney Cruise Line ships, some of which bring familiar Disney films such as “Aladdin,” “Frozen,” and “Beauty and the Beast” to life, there are plenty of other shows to take in throughout the cruise, especially with outdoor “deck parties”, trivia and solo entertainers.
Pirate Night + Fireworks
An entire night of Disney Cruise Line sailings is dedicated to “Pirates of the Caribbean,” with themed dinner options and complimentary pirate bandanas for each guest, even though plenty pack their own outfits and come in full freebooter regalia. After an adventurous evening performance with Captain Jack Sparrow, the spectacle’s “buccaneer blasts” begin, a true fireworks show at sea set to the energetic film soundtrack.
Though most everything is included in Disney Cruise Line sailings, there are a few additional but worthy expenses. Mickey-dusted cappuccinos at Cove Cafe are delightful, Royal Court Royal Tea offers a tableside experience with Disney characters and Vanellope’s & Treats on Disney Dream and Sweet On You on Disney Fantasy are ideal stops for delectable sundaes, scoops of gelato and other themed baked goods. For the little ones, there’s also a “It’s a small world” childcare nursery for children six months to three years old, for an hourly cost.