On our first cruise, we avoided the photographers. We weren't sure how the process worked and we didn't want the hassle or expense of photos. Needless to say, we came home with a handful of photos we had taken with all of us.
On our second Disney Cruise, we planned for a photo purchase and therefore, we had more photos taken. On the ships, you can have as many photos taken as you like by the ship photographers without charge. The cost comes in purchasing photos. Rather than purchase individual photos on our second cruise, I chose a package. So many 8 X 10's and so many 6 X 8's. I was given a punch card to be punched whenever I picked a photo that matched the size. (Different photos are made into different sizes--example character photos are typically produced as 6 X 8's.) If I picked out a photo early in the cruise and changed my mind later, I could return that photo and trade for another. I could even upgrade my package, which I did. The cast members at Shutters, the photo shop on board, were always very helpful. Know that you can purchase single photos either by themselves or in addition to a package.
I came home from our second cruise with a set of pictures which I scanned and with an on-line copyright release, made a few prints. Go to Platinum Castaway Club to find the on-line Shutters Photo release to take to your local photo producer.
Fast forward 18 months to our third Disney Cruise. Once again, I had planned on purchasing photos, but this time the system had changed. Now the packages were based on points. You purchased a certain amount of points and then 8 x 10's were so many points and 6 X 8's were so many points and your card was punched based on how many points you were using to get your photos. The point system allowed for more flexibility. You could have all of one size if you wanted, rather than a certain amount of photos of various sizes. Again, individual photos could be purchased either by themselves or in addition to a package. And, upgrades to your packages--meaning more points--were available.
Another noted change was that the photographers scanned your room key or Key to The World Card when taking your photo, as a new service was offered--a photo CD--and the photos were categorized by your stateroom number. Now, while this service sounds a bit like Disney's Photopass Service, there were remarkable differences. (Click here to read more about Disney's Photopass Service.
A major difference in the photo CD on board was the cost. The CD was $399--much more expensive than the largest photo package and significantly more expensive than the Photopass CD from the parks which lists at $149, but can be purchased for $99 if a pre-purchase discount is available.
Another difference is that you are not able to view your photos on-line when you get home, which you can do with Photopass. You could, however, view your photos at various photo kiosks around the ship after scanning your stateroom key.
Also, any creative or decorative borders added to the photos on board, were not included on the CD. The photos were included, but they came without the borders.
I guess the only plus would be that the copyright release would be included with the CD.
We came home with a set of photos that I scanned and had some prints made using the on-line copyright release.
Would I ever buy the CD on the ship? It depends. If I were traveling with a large group or large family and we were able to combine our photos on a CD and share the cost, then it may be worth it.
On our last trip to Walt Disney World, we were visiting with a "suited" cast member (meaning management) at Studios. His name was John and he was from Des Moines, which was another reason we started a conversation. Come to find out, John was in charge of Photopass. I'm not sure if he is in charge at Studios or beyond, but anyway, we told him we wanted to see Photopass on the ships. He said that Photopass is already a part of Adventures By Disney. I replied, "I know," pointing to my Adventures By Disney pin. He did indicate that they were trying to get Photopass on the ships. Hopefully, by our next cruise.
Anyway, the point of this is that if you would like to get your family portrait taken on board--go for it. All of the photos in this post were taken on board. Remember, being photographed is free! My advice, have as many photos taken as you can on a variety of backgrounds. No appointments are needed. The backgrounds and photographers are typically in the lobby atrium around dinner time and you just go to the background that you like, hand them your stateroom key, and smile! Most likely you are already "dressed" for dinner. Later pick out your best pictures later when they are displayed at Shutters--usually later that night or the next day.