Most of my friends and family consider me to be a Disney Freak. It seems like every year, somehow, my family ends up doing something Disney-related.
I grew up visiting Disney World with my own family, and then I worked for Disney in California. I can’t help it if I’m a little biased towards Disney!
After taking our kids on two separate Disney World vacations that were a week long, we went on our first Disney Cruise. And ever since that first cruise, there was no turning back. We were hooked on Disney Cruise Line!
The reality is that my family prefers Disney Cruise Line over Disney World any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Since we experienced both a Disney Cruise and Disneyland just this summer, I asked my kids again to see if their perspective changed. Nope! Disney Cruise Line all the way!
So if you are puzzled by our choice and wonder why we shifted from the parks to the cruise line, keep reading.
Both DCL and the Disney parks have plenty of opportunities to meet the Disney characters. However, I find the character experiences on DCL to be a little more unique and varied.
On a Disney Cruise, the characters come out multiple times throughout the cruise wearing different outfits for unique photo opportunities. On any given cruise, Minnie could be wearing her cruise director outfit, a formal dress, a vacation outfit or even an Alaskan fur coat.
My daughter will never forget the moment on our last Disney Fantasy cruise when Cinderella invited her to a special Princess Procession. She got to make a grand entrance on the staircase before practicing a curtsy with Cinderella.
Would your kids enjoy dancing on stage with Mickey and Minnie?
Halloween dance party with the characters? Photos with the characters on the beach? Yes, please!
On our most recent cruise to Alaska on the Disney Wonder, we experienced so many magical moments with characters. Imagine dancing with Tiana in her restaurant and having a pj party with Pluto! How about looking at the seals floating by on icebergs with Goofy?
Disney Cruise Line has some fantastic Broadway shows that are not available at the parks. The Golden Mickeys show features performances from several classic Disney movies. Disney Dreams—an Enchanted Classic gets me choked up every time. There is even a show about the bad guys, Villains Tonight.
My family also enjoys watching new release movies on the big screen while on board. On our last cruise, my son watched the premiere of Cars 3 the night before its nation-wide release.
Jugglers, ventriloquists and magicians also entertain us on Disney Cruise Line. I like how each performer has a family-version and an adult-version of their acts at different times and locations.
Dinner on a Disney Cruise ship is a form of entertainment in itself. Each restaurant has a different theme, and your servers rotate to each restaurant with you throughout your cruise.
It’s hard to get bored during dinner when you can get up and limbo during a Mardi Gras parade at Tiana’s Place on the Disney Wonder.
Animator’s Palate restaurant has always been our favorite. On the classic ships, the walls transform from black and white to colors. On the newer ships, Crush interacts with guests throughout the meal.
We always look forward to seeing our drawings come to life during the animation magic show at Animator’s Palate.
Oh yes, this is a biggie. Kids ages 6 months to 17 years have a safe place to have fun.
Our youngest started in the nursery and has now moved onto the Oceaneer Club and Lab. Our oldest started in the kids’ clubs but has since moved on to the tween club, the Edge.
The kids programming on Disney Cruise Line is unparalleled in the industry. Kids can either play on their own or participate in group activities.
My husband and I can enjoy a quiet meal or go to an adult show without feeling guilty about leaving our kids. They are safe and having a blast!
It really comes down to effort required and convenience. On a cruise, we don’t have to walk far. If our kids get tired, we take the elevator to our room. If we forgot something, our room is steps away, not miles away. When we get hot, we take a break on a lounge chair or go inside to the air conditioning.
Walking through the parks can be exhausting. No matter how much we prepare for it, our feet are still hurting by the end of the day. It’s a beating!
While we do love the rides, we sometimes return from a park trip feeling like we never went on vacation. Even though Fast Pass + has helped reduce wait times, I feel like we have to carefully plan our activities and meals in order to avoid long lines.
To us, a cruise is just easier and more relaxing. Aside from the adults-only restaurants, meal reservations are not required. We have a spot at dinner every night.
But, speaking of adults-only, I love that we can go to certain places on a Disney Cruise ship and not deal with our kids (or anyone else’s kids). Finally, Mom and Dad get a vacation, too!
We still love the Disney parks. But, we just prefer to visit them in smaller doses. Two days is about our maximum tolerance.
Since we get more relaxation and enjoyment from a Disney Cruise, that is where we will prioritize our vacation time and money. Disney Cruise or bust!
How do you feel about Disney Cruise Line vs. the Disney parks? Are you curious to try a Disney cruise?
(See my article 10 Tips for First-timers on Disney Cruise Line)
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.