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Everything You Need to Know About Disney Cruise Line

Once upon a time…in a tiny RV in Massachusetts, a six-year-old girl was told she was going on a Disney Cruise. Little did that six-year-old know that she and her family would continue to cruise almost every year for the next fifteen years of her life. My family had no idea what we were getting into when we first cruised in 2001, but it’s safe to say that Disney Cruise Line flipped our world upside down. We fell in love that year and have never looked back. And the rest, my friends, is history. Don’t believe me? Let me explain to you why Disney Cruise Line is the best of the best, and hopefully you’ll understand my love for these ships. 

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The Ships:

  • Disney Magic

The Magic is the oldest in the Disney fleet. Disney first commissioned this gorgeous ship in 1996 and she set sail on her maiden voyage in 1998. This was a huge step for Disney as a company, but well worth it. The Magic paved the way for the future of Disney sailing and cruising as an industry. The Magic is in a unique position in the fleet because it is a classic, but was also recently reimagined, so feels new. She has all the charm of the original design, but with some sweet upgrades. The atrium of this ship has a brand new glass blown chandelier that hangs over the new staircase and carpeting. This design now makes you feel like you are going underwater as you travel lower in the atrium. The atrium isn’t the only place onboard ship that has gotten a face-lift, however. Restaurants and kids’ clubs have been upgraded, too. And let us not forget the Aquadunk, a waterslide that plummets from the smokestack to the pool below.

The Magic holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first ship I ever sailed on. Time does not seem to phase this classic ship as it sails with as much grace as ever. The new whozits and whatsits on the most recent ships truly are amazing, but the simplicity of the Magic only adds to its elegance and, well, magic.

  • Restaurants:
    • Lumiere’s – French-style cuisine based on the movie Beauty and the Beast.
    • Carioca’s – Brazilian-style cuisine based on one of the Three Caberos.
    • Animator’s Palate – a restaurant dedicated to honoring animation that transforms from black to white as you eat.
  • Standard Itineraries: Bahamas, Caribbean, Northern Europe and Mediterranean.
  • Disney Wonder

The Wonder is the Magic’s sister ship. Very similar in design and function, but it absolutely has its own character. It is the second oldest ship and is one of the classics. The Wonder still has the original designs that it did when it was first commissioned in the late 90’s, like its own themed adult district, less-high-tech kids’ clubs, and its restaurant Triton’s. I think this ship often gets overlooked because it is older, but not the original. It’s kind of in this in-between spot. But the Wonder is unique for this reason exactly. For Disney purists, this might be the ship for you. I don’t know how long they’ll keep it this way, but I like all the classic touches – I think it makes the ship feel most like home.

  • Restaurants:
    • Triton’s – A beautiful restaurant themed after The Little Mermaid.
    • Parrot Cay – Very similar to Carioca’s on the Magic, only more general South American cuisine and décor.
    • Animator’s Palate – Same restaurant as on the Magic.
  • Standard Itineraries: Bahamas, Caribbean, and Alaska
  • Disney Dream

When Disney announced the building plans in the late 2000’s for two new ships in the fleet, my family nearly had a group conniption. I don’t think my dad has ever booked something so fast. The news of the Dream (which I called the name of, thank you very much) was huge for the company. The possibilities for it were endless. And the Imagineers delivered. The Disney Dream is much bigger and grander than the classic ships. It was a bit overwhelming the first time I stepped onboard, to be honest. There’s just so much to take in! Basically everything from the Magic and Wonder were upgraded in the Dream. There are brand new kids’ clubs, a completely revamped adult district, two extra pools, new restaurants, bigger theaters, you name it. Some argue that the Dream is too big; it’s all about preference. The Disney-est addition is that of the AquaDuck, the state of the art water slide that wraps all the way around the top deck! This ship definitely upped the ante for the future of cruising.

  • Restaurants:
    • Royal Palace – this restaurant pays homage to the Disney princesses and their royalty.
    • Enchanted Garden – a New Orleans style restaurant that makes you feel like you’re in an outdoor garden.
    • Animator’s Palate – an upgrade of the version on the classic ships that makes guests feel like they’re dining in an animator’s studio, with a surprise visit by Crush!
  • Standard Itineraries: Bahamas
  • Disney Fantasy

The newest. The shiniest. The generally-most-expensive. The Fantasy. This behemoth of a cruise ship is the Dream’s sister ship, with some upgrades of its own. The Fantasy has The Royal Court, a restaurant very similar to the Royal Palace on the Dream, but in my opinion is classier and less cheesy. There are several more of these little tweaks to enhance the ship, but another major draw for the Fantasy is one of it’s specialty cruises: Star Wars Day at Sea. That’s right, I said it: Star Wars. On certain Fantasy itineraries, you can partake in one of the biggest franchises in the world on the open sea. Being on the Fantasy truly makes you understand why Disney is ranked among the best for cruising. This ship does not disappoint.

  • Restaurants:
  • Royal Court – Extremely similar to the version on the Dream.
  • Enchanted Garden – Same as Dream’s version.
  • Animator’s Palate – Same interior as the Dream, but includes a special show where guests get to create their own animation that comes to life!
    • Standard Itineraries: Eastern and Western Caribbean

Now that you’ve got the basics for each of the ships, I’m going to tell you about some of the aspects of cruising Disney that make it, in my not-so-humble opinion, the best in the world. Ready?

For a no obligation, FREE Quote with new bookings contact our sponsor Magical Vacation Planner by calling: 1(407)442-0289 Or for a free no obligation quote with new bookings you can fill out the form by Clicking HERE!

For a no obligation, FREE Quote with new cruise bookings contact our sponsor Magical Vacation Planner by calling: 1 (407) 442-0289

Or for a free no obligation quote with new bookings you can fill out the form By Clicking HERE!

Dining:

Every cruise line claims to have great food and great dining. They’re probably all correct. But, as usual, Disney is different. Disney Cruise Line provides great food. In all honesty, it’s probably not the best food on the high seas, but the actual dining procedure is what makes it the best. During the day, there are several quick serve places up on the pool deck and a full buffet that runs breakfast, lunch and dinner. But at night, the magic happens. Disney Cruise Line introduced “rotational dining,” a first for the cruise industry, but an instant success. What that means is that each night of your cruise, you’ll go to a different restaurant on board ship and your waiters will travel with you. There are three main restaurants that you will all rotate through. This means that each night you will have a different atmosphere, different menu, different experiences, but still the same wait staff. It’s really cool.

Speaking of your wait staff, they’re amazing. All of them. There’s something extra special about Disney Cruise dining staff. Because they serve you each night, you really get to know them as people, not just your servers. There’s something really comforting about walking into dinner and knowing that your servers that you now know are there waiting for you, usually with a joke, questions about your day, and your drink order already on the table. This is especially great for kids. The servers are wonderful to adults, but it’s so great when they bond with the kids. Your dining staff usually has a bunch of magic tricks up their sleeves to play with the kids in between orders. When I have cruised in the past, I was never just “Molly,” I was “Princess,” or “Princess Molly.” There’s something magical about that for a kid. We have had servers that became our friends and we continue to see when we cruise. It sounds spoiled (and it is) but it’s the standard for Disney Cruising and it’s amazing.

Entertainment:

Let’s be honest, Disney isn’t known for cruising, it’s known for entertainment. Being on the high seas is no different. It might even be better. One thing I love about Disney in the parks is the same at sea: there is always music playing. The ships have many live bands and acts that are there to entertain day and night. There’s never a dull moment on a Disney Cruise. Provided each day in your stateroom is what’s called your Personal Navigator, a list of all of the events for the day. This is always covered in things to do for guests of all ages. Most of the kids’ entertainment comes in the clubs, which I’ll get to later. For adults, there are often behind-the-scenes tours, spa visits, cooking demonstrations, that kind of thing.

But my favorite kind of entertainment comes at night. Each night, in the Walt Disney Theater, the amazing theatrical cast puts on a new show. These aren’t just people singing Disney songs on a stage – these are full out, Broadway-style productions. On longer cruises, there are often variety acts or movies shown during that Showtime Tonight slot in between show days. But show days, for me, really prove what Disney does best: storytelling. These are all shows unique to Disney Cruise Line, some based on your favorite Disney movies, and some totally original. On the Magic are Disney Dreams, an award-winning show about a little girl named Anne Marie who learns to fly with the help of Peter Pan, and Twice Charmed, a twist on the original Cinderella tale, which is my personal favorite, and Tangled the Musical. On the Wonder are Toy Story the Musical and Golden Mickey’s, like the Oscars but for Disney movies! The Dream has Villains Tonight! a show about all your favorite bad guys, and Believe, a show about a father who needs to believe in magic! And the Fantasy produces Aladdin the Musical and Wishes, a show about three high school grads trying to keep the magic alive. These shows are truly captivating and enchanting. It’s very easy to forget that you’re on a ship and not think you’re on Broadway with these classics.

Entertainment even goes outside! On the pool decks of each of the ships, DCL holds many different deck parties to keep the whole family entertained. These parties include Adventures Away, Frozen Celebration and Pirate Night. Pirate Night is extra special because it lasts all night and includes fireworks! That’s right, another first for the cruise industry and truly spectacular!

Kids’ Spaces:

It’s easy to feel like a kid on a Disney Cruise, but if you’re actually a kid, you get some serious perks. When I was little, my parents rarely saw me. I was always playing long and hard at one of the kids’ clubs. For infants, there are daycare options for a fee. But for everyone older than 3, daytime kid entertainment is free. For the little guys, there is the Oceaneer Club, a state of the art kids’ space that is chalk full of games and fun all day long. On the Magic this includes Marvel Academy, a space dedicated to the new Marvel movies. For tweens, there’s the Edge, a space for the inbetweeners that has games and video game and movies and the new ability to check yourself out (if mom says it’s okay!). Finally, there’s Vibe, a teen only hangout. This is a great place for teens to just chill and not worry about being bugged by parents or siblings!

Disney has done an extraordinary job at catering to the very specific needs of their underage guests. The staff in the kids’ clubs are hugely important and fit their roles beautifully. When I was a kid, I always felt so special in those programs. I was never bored and always came back to the room tired. Every detail of those spaces is intentionally made to cater to kids. The bathrooms are all size appropriate. The ceilings in the newer ships are even lowered to make the kids feel big. The character appearances allow those kids to live their dreams. For childcare alone, Disney Cruises are worth it.

 

Adult Spaces:

Almost as important as the kids’ spaces are the adult spaces! These are just too cool. While I was sad to leave the Vibe, I was so excited to graduate to these spaces. Adults get their own pool and deck space, called Quiet Cove, and the name fits the description. I dig the Cove Café, which is an adult only coffee bar next to the pool. You can find me there sipping a frozen mocha about every day. Don’t forget the Vista Spa, which has everything from a gym, to the Rainforest Showers, to massages with the most incredible views. Very easy to lose yourself in there.

There are also adult districts on each of the ships. They all have different names, but similar spaces, like Keys on the Magic or Cadillac Lounge on the Wonder, both piano bars. I love The Tube on the Fantasy, a London Underground inspired bar. And La Piazza, also on the Fantasy, an Italian bar, complete with Italian leather and a sidecar to boot! These bars and clubs are more than just that. They’re all experiences – different and special, romantic and exciting. With these spaces, adults can be adults and have nights to remember!

Even more memories can be made at the adult only restaurants, Palo and Remy. These restaurants are extraordinary and can be booked for a flat fee before your cruise, so make sure to check if there’s a spot open and have some parmesan with balsamic for me.

Castaway Cay:

Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island. It’s glorious. When on a Caribbean or Bahamas cruise, your last day will be at this wonderful island. The Disney ships pull right in – no tender necessary – and let you off for a day of adventure. Much like on board, the island is divided into sections: kid only, family beaches, and Serenity Bay, the adult only beach. All are great. You can do shore excursions like on other stops if you want, like parasailing, fishing, snorkeling, biking and more. But I like to just use Castaway Cay as a relaxing beach day. I love going on Pelican Plunge, the new, super cool water slide off of the family beach, grabbing lunch at Cookie’s, the lunch buffet, and then taking the tram to Serenity Bay for some quality hammock time. There’s something for everyone on Castaway Cay and leaving that beautiful island is a heartbreaking affair. But that last day just makes you more and more excited for your next cruise!

Design:

Many cruise ships out there right now are pretty cookie cutter. Not Disney. Disney has gone all out with the look and feel and practicality of these ships. Everything from their coloring to their smokestacks are unique. The colors on the outside of the ships are that of Mickey Mouse himself, including the lifeboats, which Disney had to get special permission to make yellow to match his shoes. Modern ships only need one smokestack to run, but the Disney design wanted to stay classic. So, to compliment classic ocean liners, they put in two. (The fake one houses the Vibe on the old ships and the Edge on the new ones.)

The insides of the ships are an art deco, classic, elegant design. I think that’s what surprises people most about Disney Cruise Line: it’s not just Mickey everywhere (although he’s hidden about quite a bit), it’s truly elegant and mature. I love this about the ships.

Even the staterooms are unique design-wise. Most rooms include a split bath, full bathtub and shower, raised beds for storage, and still manage to be beautiful. Every single design choice on board these ships was intentional and brilliant. Disney Imagineers put so much work and dedication into the ships just so that we don’t notice. The cruises run as smoothly as they do each and every time because of the excellent designs throughout the ships.

Magic:

Here’s my favorite. Magic. Not just the name of the original ship. But the number one reason for the success of Disney Cruise Line. This one you truly have to experience. You can’t just read about it and get it. The magic comes from a feeling that you get while on board one of these amazing ships. It comes from laughing at an inside joke between you and your server. It comes from running into Belle in the elevator or giving Peter Pan directions to find Tinkerbell. It comes from watching a little kid’s face light up upon seeing fireworks shot off of the smokestack or holding hands with Mickey along Deck Four. These are moments that you cherish when you’re there and deeply miss when you’re not. When you take away the logistics and practicality and “grown-up” stuff, the Disney magic is what makes these vacations special.

Now, there are about a million more things to know about Disney Cruise Line, but these are the things that stick out most to me. You’ll just have to go check them out for yourself and get sucked into the wonder and magic and fantasy and dreams that Disney provides!

For a no obligation, FREE Quote with new cruise bookings contact our sponsor Magical Vacation Planner by calling: 1 (407) 442-0289

Or for a free no obligation quote with new bookings you can fill out the form By Clicking HERE!

About Molly Elias

Molly Elias has been a dedicated Disney fan since she was 18-months old. She has grown up with and learned from Disney her whole life. As her family's main vacation spot, Disney World is a place of love and laughter and magic for her. Her family also prides themselves on their Disney Cruise Line knowledge and would rather be on the high seas with Mickey than anywhere else in the world. Molly plans to keep Disney in her life forever, while also pursuing a writing career. She recently completed a master's program in creative writing in the hopes that someday she will be able to be a writer for the Happiest Company on Earth. Molly keeps Walt's famous quote at the forefront of her life: "Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."