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Comparing Vacation Options: Disney Cruise Line vs. Disney World

Most of us think of a vacation to the parks when we think of Disney. It’s the traditional getaway for families of all ages, but maybe going to the parks isn’t your thing. Maybe you want to keep that Disney magic but take it at a slower pace. That’s where Disney Cruise Line comes in, to offer you a slower pace but keep that Disney magic. It can be hard to choose the right vacation, so here are some of the differences between these two excellent choices!

5. PACING

WDW: Going to the parks often takes a toll on us. Sometimes I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation just so I can recover from all the walking and excitement. If you are a thrill seeker who wants to ride roller coasters and can handle the stamina, Walt Disney World is excellent. There is so much to do and see that you want to get to as much of it as possible in your short vacation. With four parks, two water parks and Downtown Disney (soon to be Disney Springs) there is a plethora of activities for the whole family!

WDWDCL: A cruise is definitely a slower paced vacation, but that doesn’t make it any less fun! You certainly don’t have to worry about running across the Magic Kingdom to make it to your Fast Pass+ on time on a cruise. It’s much easier to slow it down a bit and relax when everything you could need is right at your fingertips. There are plenty of activities and game rooms to occupy the kids, as well as adult only getaways to ensure you get the rest you need.

4. ACTIVITIES

WDW: It’s true that Disney World offers more activities than the cruise because there are multiple parks, rides and shows. There’s more variety in the theme parks and therefore, more leeway in deciding your itinerary for the day. I love everything Disney World has to offer, and I love to make my day-to-day schedules of everything we want to do in the parks.

DCL: The activities on the DCL are much different than those of Disney World because it’s a little hard to build Space Mountain on a cruise ship (although that would be super cool)! The DCL ships doe have the AquaDuck which is a water coaster and always a big hit on the ships. There are live shows every night that are similar to shows like the Beauty and the Beast Live at Hollywood Studios. Your favorite characters are up on stage in Broadway caliber shows. There are also character Meet-N-Greets on board the ships too! Oh, and did I mention there’s a Pirate Night complete with Jack Sparrow and fireworks? At the beginning of your cruise, you get an itinerary of all of the activities on board to make planning your days easier. You definitely won’t find yourself bored while onboard!

3. DINING

WDW: The Disney parks offer an infinite amount of choices when it comes to food. Anything you could possibly want is a reality because the dining choice is enormous. Sometimes it can be hard for your family to agree on where they want to eat because you have a limited amount of time to try all the places you want. For those who love to try new things, Disney World is the place to sample new flavors. To help save money, WDW offers meal plans for different budgets. Eating in the parks can get quite expensive if you’re not careful so if you’re on a budget maybe looking into a meal plan would be a good idea.

DCL: My favorite part of cruising is the fact that food and drinks are included in your ticket price. DCL ships offer rotation dining, where your family will rotate through multiple restaurants during your cruise. The options are not as limitless as the parks, but you don’t have to stress about where you are going to eat every day. Since food is included, if you don’t like an item then you can order another item at no extra cost. It’s already paid for! There are also buffets on deck and ice cream stations plus free soda (which is almost unheard of on other cruise lines)! There are a couple restaurants on certain DCL ships that are for adults only and you do have to pay for those because they are gourmet and nothing says you have to eat there. It’s just a nice option for the adults to spoil themselves.

2. PLANNING

WDW: Regardless of the vacation, it always takes a lot of planning. With a Disney World vacation, you have to buy your tickets, book your hotel, possibly purchase a meal plan and prepare for a long drive or flight to Orlando. Packing is relatively simple since you can predict the weather during your stay and you don’t have to bring any special garments usually. While there’s not much paperwork to keep up with, you might have to book these things separately depending on how you book and that can be pretty stressful.

DCL: An upside to taking a cruise is that everything is handled at once. You put a down payment on your cruise and make sure it is paid for by your embarkation day. This will take care of your stateroom, food and drink, and all activities on board. On the downside, there’s a tad bit more paperwork to handle if you plan on going into the ports. You might need to bring your passport or original birth certificate to speed up the process of getting into port.



1. PRICING


Pricing is difficult to calculate because the rates of hotels change with the seasons, as do the cruise line staterooms. The Spring Break time frame, summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the busiest and most expensive times to travel to both Disney World and DCL. Prices also change with the ages in your party plus your cruise length and destination. Without giving specific numbers, here’s what to keep in mind with pricing for each vacation. I recommend calculating the prices yourself by going to the appropriate Disney websites and entering your information to really see which one will save you money. You can calculate your cruise prices at http://disneycruise.disney.go.com/ and your parks prices on Disney’s Website. Another alternative would be to plan and price a WDW or DCL trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best price for your vacation, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!

WDW: Pricing for WDW is scattered. You pay for tickets and your hotel but once you get into the parks you buy food and drinks (let’s say you didn’t get that meal plan). It can be easy to lose track of how much you are actually spending on vacation. You swipe your card or your Magic Band because it’s so easy but afterwards you might find you spent more than you intended. The upfront costs might not seem so bad for the park tickets and the hotel room, but beware those splurges in the parks!

DCL: On the other side, a cruise is all upfront so the price can be daunting. Disney cruise tickets will run you into the thousands depending on length of the voyage, your choice of stateroom and how many travelers you have. True, Disney cruises are some of the most expensive in the business but you’d be spending close to the same price in the Disney parks. The only difference is that the cost on the DCL is paid all at once. It’s one lump sum versus spending throughout the vacation.

About Jessica

Jessica is currently a photographer and writer as well as a full time college student pursuing her bachelor’s in History. She is a self-professed Disney Addict and feels no need to cut down on her “addiction.” Being from the South, Jessica is just a stone’s throw away from the Happiest Place on Earth and is planning her next visit so she can finally meet Anna and Elsa. Disney is one of her biggest passions and she looks forward to sharing her Disney tips and tricks with you!