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Thinking About “Cheating” on Disney

My husband thinks I’m the craziest, most loyal Disney fan out there. He has no idea that I don’t even hold a candle to some Disney fans!

To be fair, not all of our vacations are Disney-related. We’ve visited California and Florida on trips without stepping foot inside a Disney park. In reality, many of our family trips don’t involve Disney at all.

However, there is just something special about a Disney vacation. Disney knows how to cater to people of all ages. If I add the word “Disney” to any vacation, I just know it will bring happiness to my kids’ faces.

The truth is, I’ve been in a relationship with Disney since I was a baby. And some habits are hard to break.

However, we are now feeling some pressure to “cheat” on Disney with its competitors. This has really made me start to over-analyze our future vacation choices.

Thinking About Cheating on Disney

Universal Florida

I’m blaming the Nickelodeon TV Channel for this one. My son watches one show on this channel, and every day he sees a commercial for Universal Florida. You see, over all these years of going to Disney World, we’ve managed to keep the existence of Universal hidden from my kids. Until recently. Darn you, Nickelodeon!

Here’s the thing: My husband and I spent two days at Universal before we had kids. This was before the Harry Potter stuff was there. And, we did not care for the two parks. Most of the rides were too extreme for us! And now, it seems like many of the rides are set in front of a movie screen, which makes me feel motion sickness.

It’s not that I don’t think the Harry Potter stuff would be cool. I have no doubt it’s amazing! What really bothers me about Universal is that you have to pay extra for fast passes or stay at an onsite hotel to get them. So un-Disney-like!

We are looking at spending two days in Universal parks. To experience the Hogwarts Express, we have to buy park-to-park tickets. The cost for my family of five for two days two parks (not including the new water park) is $1347.20. The price is comparable to Disney World, and wouldn’t be horrible if we could use points to stay offsite.

But the kicker is that we can probably only visit during peak times with my kids’ school schedule, and lines will be long. If we buy the fast passes for two days, it adds another $1000 to our ticket price, bringing our total to $2358.85. For $177 more, we could save our points and stay in an onsite hotel with ticket package that includes fast passes. Darn you, Universal!

Royal Caribbean

This one is on me. I’m tempted to book our next cruise on Royal Caribbean instead of Disney Cruise Line. Why?

It comes down to two things: Price and Amenities.

The price of Disney Cruise Line has increased at a much faster rate than inflation and its competitors. For example, back in 2012, my family sailed on DCL for 5 nights in June, with “double-dip” stops at Castaway Cay. We paid around $3700. That same itinerary, same ship, same week is available in 2018 for a price of $7982. More than double the price!

Over the past 6 years, we have managed to sail during the off-season and during a special “Kids Sail Free” promotion to keep down the price of our Disney cruises. But, our luck is running out.

In the future, it will be hard to pull the kids out of school for more than a couple of days at a time. So, we’re stuck with cruising during Spring Break, summer, Thanksgiving or December school break. All peak times!

Royal Caribbean is appealing to me because, next to Disney, it seems like the cruise line most geared toward families. The newer ships have awesome onboard recreation, like ice skating rinks, bumper cars, slides, wave riders, etc.

And while the price of Royal Caribbean is not dirt cheap, it’s a little easier to swallow during peak times. During June 2018, the same week as the 5-night Disney cruise for $7982, we could sail for 7 nights on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas for $6716 in a family oceanview room. It’s cheaper, and has more days!

Of course, the hours of the kids’ clubs are not comparable to Disney Cruise Line. And, some things that are included on Disney (like soda) are not included on Royal Caribbean.

If It Aint Broke…..

So there’s that saying, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.” Our Disney vacations are not broken. They are awesome. Expensive, but awesome. Disney just has the magic, coupled along with outstanding customer service. I’m not sure that I should even consider cheating on Disney.

On the other hand, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” If we try Universal and Royal Caribbean, we may fall in love with a different product and kick ourselves for not trying them sooner. It could happen.

I don’t have to decide anything immediately. We can always book a trip to Universal with little notice. However, we will be on a Disney cruise ship in a few weeks, and I need to decide if I will do an onboard booking for 10% off.

Have you tried a new brand and regretted it? Or, have you tried something new and regretted not trying it sooner? What factors would cause you to stray from your trusted travel brand? If you are a die hard Disney fan, have you ever considered cheating on Disney with the competition?

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Author: Nancy

Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.

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26 thoughts on “Thinking About “Cheating” on Disney

  1. I know people who love Universal. We have taken 10 family trips to Disney and 3 trips to Universal. Every time I’m in Universal, I dislike it. I’m not a big ride person so I feel like all I do is wait. I’m in a wheelchair, and I have found the staff to be rude and nasty to me. I’m super friendly so it always shocks me when someone in the hospitality industry isn’t nice. If I were to “cheat” on Disney, it would not be with Universal. We love SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Aquatica, and Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay. My kids even enjoyed Lego Land and they were pass the target age when we went.

    I’m sure you will enjoy Universal but you have to go with the mindset that you will not compare it in anyway to Disney or you will be disappointed!

    • @Michelle I’m sorry to hear that Universal employees were so rude to you! You’re right–if I do Universal or Royal Caribbean I can’t keep comparing them to Disney, or I probably will be disappointed.

    • @Michelle It’s truly despicable when someone is rude to a person in a wheelchair. I’m very sorry you were subjected to that kind of treatment at Universal. Actually, rudeness is despicable regardless!

  2. We did royal Caribbean for the first time a few months ago out of Florida for 7 days, it was….meh.

    we were on their oasis of the seas ship and the shows were good, kids loved the wave rider pool,zip line, and rock wall. Personally, I thought they could’ve done a better job keeping things neat at the restaurants. Some tables took a little too long to clean up, and once the tables were picked up it was weird passing by the outdoor restaurant and seeing the cart where they placed all the dirty dishes. They had about 6 ping pong tables and all of them had some type of damage, likely from the humidity or outdoor elements. Staff was ok. They weren’t rude, but other than the dinner wait staff folks weren’t going out of there way. This wasn’t a big deal for us, but it may be for others.
    We’ve done Disney cruise before too and I found myself regularly saying, “Disney wouldn’t do that,” “Disney would’ve cleaned that table by now,” etc.
    We still had a great time but at no point was I kicking myself for not trying sooner.
    Would probably be a good idea for you to experience for yourself and then decide.

    • @Maria Sorry to hear your cruise on Oasis was just “meh”. That’s my hesitation with making the switch. Even though it’s cheaper than Disney, cruises still cost quite a bit and I’m not sure I want to pay that much for “meh”. Disney employees have such outstanding service on the cruise ships. And you’re right, I might just need to experience it to figure that out.

  3. Frankly, I think brand loyalty is a human weakness and highly overrated when it comes to most things; however, with Disney, you truly are paying (if often quite a bit more) for something set apart from the competition, so I get that. But with that said, trying new things is a great idea, particularly if your kids are clamoring for Harry Potter land, or if you can save significant money on a quality cruise. After all, variety is the spice of life! But like Michelle said, you will need to go in with an open mind and not compare every little thing to the Disney you love, because you’ll only be disappointed. Worst thing happens, the new experiences fall a bit short, but you’ll have experienced the novelty of something new, and you’ll KNOW you’re making the right choice when you go back to Disney the next time (as opposed to second guessing yourself like you are now)!

    • @Debra you’re right! The worst that can happen is that I make a different choice the next time and I won’t second guess myself. 🙂

  4. We are looking into Punta Canta the Nickelodeon Hotel all inclusive. I took a carinval cruise in January and was not kid friendly not sure anything is to Disney Cruise.

    • I’ve never been on Disney cruise, so can’t really make a comparison. However, due to living in Florida, my family has tried most cruise lines. I agree on Carnival, it’s probably not the best fit for families. You may want to try Royal Caribbean and possibly NCL. Good price point and value, IMO.

  5. I’m glad we tried Universal! The kids wanted to go for Harry Potter, and they liked Universal much more than Disney! Beyond Harry Potter, I think part of it was the luxury of the unlimited fast passes. They could go on rides they liked over and over and skip the line every time.

    If it helps we did travel hack the whole trip to make it happen. For the park-to-park tickets we combined Undercover Tourist with reimbursements from Cap One and BOA travel card, and then upgraded in the park. For the hotels we did the Citi Prestige 4th night/APH rate combo to get the free fast passes for the tickets.

    Once it was all lined up, I think it brought it in line with Disney (if not cheaper).

    I’ll be interested to hear the thoughts about the cruise. I want to take the kids, but not sure I want to pay for it!

    • @Madison I’m glad your family liked Universal! I’m sure my boys will be nuts about Harry Potter, but I’m not sure my 6-year-old daughter will ride much in the parks. Glad you were able to travel hack to reduce the cost of your trip.

  6. I’m not opposed to trying new things but I’m willing to pay more for certainty. I’m certain my family will enjoy Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line so we tend to stick with what we know and love. Having said that, Disney Cruise Line in particular has ASTRONOMICAL prices. Next year, we are paying what you paid for your family of 5 for a 5 day cruise in June ($3800), and we are only on a 3 day cruise, family of 4 and going during Hurricane Season.

    Do I like it? No, but we will continue to go as long as the value is there for us and we can afford it.

    • @Natasha Yep, Disney Cruise Line does have astronomical prices. I blame myself partly for that, because I’ve convinced many of my friends to go on a Disney Cruise. I didn’t really have to do any convincing, actually, they just saw the photos and video and were hooked, LOL. My husband is more hesitant than me to try Royal Caribbean.

  7. We were looking at doing an Alaskan cruise (I want to go sooo bad) and with the kiddo we were planning to do a Disney cruise. We did one on the Fantasy a couple years ago and it was amazing. We were even more convinced that Disney was the way to go after seeing how often the kids club on Royal (our other favorite cruise line) was closed. Then we started to plan it out. Not only was the disney cruise twice the price, but since it leaves out of Vancouver and not Seattle, we would have had to pay for a passport for the kiddo since he only has a passport card. After looking at everything, we decided that’s while we love Disney, we will be there to see Alaska. And that extra money we save can maybe take us to WDW the next year.

    • @Sarah, I agree, you can use the money you save for an entire WDW trip to still get your Disney fix. 🙂 For us as a family of 5, the price difference wasn’t as huge for an Alaska cruise compared to other cruise lines because we have to get two rooms.

  8. We just did Universal Sudios and my boys (12 and 9) really enjoyed it. That being said, however, it was the first large theme park they’ve ever seen, so what do they know?:) I’ve always avoided them but decided to go for the Harry Potter parts (really well done, I thought).
    You are right that the rides are mainly of the virtual reality type, as well as a few water-y ones and a couple of extreme (looking, at least) roller coasters. I personally didn’t expect to ride anything though, so for me the few I could handle were a nice bonus. And we were there off season, so lines were manageable. Also single rider lines helped.
    One great thing was that ANY venue will give you cups of ice water for free, so I could skip lugging the water bottles around and refilling them with lukewarm water at the fountains. Also, the food was really good and cheap if you bought sides (roasted tomato and tortilla soup, $3.89, side of delicious beans, $1.59), so we could avoid lugging leftovers around. They also have kids’ meals (supposedly for 9 and under but most don’t ask, YMMV). Those varied by venue and were mostly unadvertised, so you have to ask, but they were quite reasonable and my son would actually eat them (a huge plus).
    Whatever you decide, enjoy!

  9. Nancy,
    I feel you pain. As a former Disney cast member I can attest you customer service at Universal is ok. I went to Universal last year and I was in shock how different things are. Employees have a much more casual attitude, not as magical as Disney. The rides are great for older kids. I went with my son to enjoy the kids area (Minions, Curious George, Dr. Seuss and Barney). Again I love the rides. But Disney has something special. The Imagineering team at Disney goes out of their way to make sure everything is perfect (from lamps design, bedspreads, restaurant menus, employees uniforms, music). Cheating Disney is ok, but just adjust your expectations.

  10. Last Orlando trip, we did 2 days at Universal Theme Parks and a 7 day Disney Cruise (off-season 2013). We all had a wonderful time (kids were 9 & 6 at the time) at the parks as there was something for everyone (large & small rides, shows, etc.) My oldest didn’t ride Jurassic Park back then so 4 years later, he’s been dying to ride it so we bought Universal/California passes (since the deal came back this year — last year they hiked the prices because of Harry Potter and I think guests are over the craze now). We go for a few hours each visit (been about 4 times so far) and that’s plenty (won’t be renewing next year). I have to say that Universal’s food is way better than Disney (I hate Disneyland food with a passion and the prices — and we have Disneyland passes and I refuse to eat there).

    Now the 7 Day Disney Cruise was on the Fantasy…it was my least favorite…of course, I compared it to the service and food on the Wonder as the Fantasy was newer (new staff) and just too big so food quality was really low IMO. See — I compare even Disney with Disney 🙂 My kids don’t even like the DCL’s kids clubs…they just stay with us, and we’re all so spoiled with shows, movies, scavenger hunts, excursions, excellent service, decent to very good food (they have my kids try everything off the adult menus, and if they don’t like it, they’ll bring something else) — it’s the service and the beauty of the ships that stand out.

    I would love to try Discovery Cove and Busch Gardens, but I promised the family Disney World first. So that’s for another Orlando trip.

    I had priced out Royal’s large ships, and I was very surprised at the cost (I know not Disney prices), but still pricey. I know we would all compare Royal to Disney, and I know for a fact that it would ruin our cruise so I won’t even bother trying it. Maybe we’ll change our minds when the kids are older teenagers, but for now, we’ll stick to DCL and we’ll go less often. I’m hoping Disney’s new ships (coming out 2021 & 2022?) will drive down the prices of the smaller ships — yeah, wishful thinking on my part — but I can still wish.

    • @Stephanie I’m with you on the Disneyland food–none of it really impressed me, especially compared to the awesome food choices at Disney World! Oh, I really wish the new ships would drive down the prices on the older ships, but somehow I doubt it. 🙂

  11. So interesting! I would say think of it as a different experience not a “this isn’t Disney” cruise or trip

  12. If I had my way I’d do Disney vacations all the time, but sadly my husband isn’t a huge Disney person. We like to cruise with NCL and even though it’s “not Disney” it’s still acceptable to me, lol

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