There was a time about ten years ago when I could not conceive of anything better than a visit to Walt Disney World. We were living in North Florida at the time, and for the first time, it made sense, both financially and logistically, for us to be annual passholders. Then we discovered Disney Cruise Line. My mind was blown, and thus began a long debate over which vacation type is better: cruise or theme park?
I have visited three Disney parks worldwide: Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Walt Disney World. I grew up in South Florida going to Walt Disney World (I first went back in 1973 when there was only one park!), and have been a passholder there, so I will mostly be talking about that resort in this article. I’ve actually lost count of how many trips I’ve taken to Walt Disney World.
I’ve been on eleven Disney Cruises all over the world. We’ve sailed out of seven different ports on many different itineraries – everything from Alaska, the Caribbean, and the Greek Isles to Iceland, New York, and the Baltic. We’ve done all lengths of cruises – from three days up to 12 days.
I’ve been on three of the four Disney Cruise Line ships: the Magic, the Wonder, and the Dream.
So how can I help you narrow down which vacation you should take? See which of these statements describes your vacation style:
You probably make lists and check them off. Sometimes you even add items to a list just so you *can* check them off!
I know how it is, because I’m like this, too. In the weeks leading up to a vacation, whether it’s Disney-related or not, I do tons of research, bookmark websites, create spreadsheets, and type up an itinerary.
You like to relax and take it easy on vacation.
Forget the alarm clock and the smartphone…when you have days off you like to kick back and relax. You sleep in, and don’t always want to adhere to a strict schedule. Hakuna matata!
If that’s the case, then a Disney Cruise is calling your name. While it’s not fair to say that a cruise is completely unstructured, there is significantly less planning involved than with a Walt Disney World Resort vacation.
Sure you can plan your shore excursions ahead of time, and even reserve adult dining options, the spa, and the onboard Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, but you can also just go with the flow and see if there are any options available once you board. Or just hang out on the ship, as we did on our last two cruises on the Dream.
Oh, and did I mention that Disney Cruise Line has its own private tropical island paradise, Castaway Cay?
You always like to see something new
There is always something new to see or experience at the Disney parks. After all, Walt himself said: “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Even when my family is lucky enough to visit the parks multiple times a month, we always find new activities.
And Disney parks are an increasingly “foodie” destination; it seems there is always some new limited-edition cupcake, churro, or other food to try. And then there are the seasonal decorations which temporarily adorn the parks and the various special events and festivals like the Festival of the Arts or the Food and Wine Festival.
You would like to spend time as a couple
There is an entire restaurant, Palo, on each of the ships that is only for those 18 and older. And on the Dream and the Fantasy there is a *second* adults-only dining venue, Remy.
Each ship has an adults-only coffee shop and pool area. The spa and gym are also childfree. Many of the lounges don’t allow children at all (a few of them, like O’Gills, will ban kids after a certain time).
But for most parents, the best part of a Disney Cruise Line vacation is that if your kids are over three and potty trained, they can play in the youth clubs from morning until night, and most nights the clubs are actually open until midnight.
Yes, that’s right – free childcare with trusted Disney counselors. In youth clubs that look like Andy’s room from Toy Story, or the inside of the Millennium Falcon. Or a swanky New York loft with video games. You’ll most likely have a hard time peeling your kids *out* of the clubs!
You like to feel pampered
Now, if you are fortunate enough to stay club level at one of the deluxe resorts at the Walt Disney World resort, you will undoubtedly have superior service from wonderful cast members.
However, on a Disney Cruise, every single cabin has a stateroom host or hostess who will not only give you turn down service and create towel animals for you, but will basically treat you like royalty.
You’ll also have access to FREE, 24-hour room service, all kinds of on deck food options, and rotational dining where you have an attentive serving team that follows you around as you change restaurants each evening.
So which type of vacation should you choose??
The type of vacation you choose comes down to personal preference, but our preferences have also changed over the years: when our children were 5 and 3 for example, a Disney Cruise gave my husband and I a bit of a break and the kids absolutely adored going to the clubs.
But there have also been periods of my life where I have only gone to the Parks, and I miss them like an old friend between visits.
This article attempts to highlight unique aspects of each type of vacation and provide food for thought. Perhaps next time, you will change-up your family’s vacation routine. Or you might even try the best of both worlds, a land/sea combination.
Whatever your Disney vacation needs, Patricia at All for Dreams Travel can provide FREE help! Contact her for a quote today.
**Feature image courtesy of Jollyfrogger Diva