When Disney Cruise Line announced the rest of the 2012 itineraries early in April, there was much excitement. Several new ports would be home to Disney ships. . . Seattle, New York, Galveston, in addition to Port Canaveral and Los Angeles. And, this year, Vancouver and Barcelona are home ports for Disney ships. So, does a guest using a port other than Port Canaveral, get the same Disney Cruise Line experience?
We have 3 Disney cruises under our belts, and 2 of the 3 have been in and out of Port Canaveral. One of our Disney cruises was the Mexican Riviera itinerary sailing out of Los Angeles at the World Cruise Terminal in San Pedro. It was definitely a different experience to use that terminal as compared to Port Canaveral.
One reason is that the cruise terminal in Port Canaveral is used exclusively by Disney. Yes, other cruise ships dock in Port Canaveral, but use other cruise terminals there. Since, the cruise terminal is used exclusively by Disney, theming is everywhere. From the cutout replica of a Disney ship, to Mickey hands adorning the columns, the cruise terminal is Disney! Where else do you get to walk through large Mickey ears to get on a ship?
The televisions throughout the cruise terminal show Disney cartoons. Disney characters are available to meet and greets in the terminal. The folks who work here are cast members—service and show are 2 of the 4 Disney Pillars!
Guests are immersed in Disney the moment they enter the cruise terminal—or board a Disney bus to get to the terminal, which brings me to the next issue.
Transfers! A 3rd Disney Pillar is efficiency (that is one of the reasons I love Disney!) and the Disney machine has guest transfers down to a science to and from the port. They swiftly and safely (the 4th Disney Pillar--safety) transport guests (and luggage) to and from the port to/from the airport and Disney Resorts.
While transfers are available at other ports—and we used them! It wasn’t quite as smooth. Luckily, we found out later, we arrived the day of our cruise. Flying to the west coast gave us more time during the day to fly, due to the change in time zones. Some guests who flew in a day or two before their cruise found that there were no DCL representatives to find at the airport, as they were only in place on embarkation days. We heard that people were a bit lost with no one to go to for assistance. Even at Orlando International, there is the Magical Express Desk downstairs that would be available to help!
We were directed to find the DCL representative near baggage claim, and we did. She directed us to claim our luggage—which we did—and somehow get it to her. She then took our luggage and we were directed to a spot to catch a bus outside the terminal. When we boarded the bus—which was not a Disney bus, it made many stops around the airport to pick up other guests.
Once we got started heading to the World Cruise Terminal, our driver did a nice job pointing out special spots—as many as you can find on a freeway! We arrived at the World Cruise Terminal about an hour and a half later—a little longer than it takes to get to Port Canaveral. We did not use Disney transfers to return to the airport, as we flew the day after our cruise.
The World Cruise Terminal is quite large. It is the home of the original Love Boat series! We checked in just fine, but the wait to board the ship was excruciating. Guests had bags scanned after the boarding numbers were called, so there was a bit of a back-up while boarding. At Port Canaveral, the scanning takes place as guests enter the terminal.
There was also much confusion in the terminal—a shore excursion desk was busy as was the check-in area for the kids club. We had already registered for everything on-line, so we didn’t know if we needed to queue up for these things, especially the kids club, and the folks working at the terminal didn’t know either. It became a dilemma, as the lines were long and as they called the boarding numbers, there was a worry that you would still be waiting in the long line.
At Port Canaveral, they do call boarding group numbers, but there is no queue for shore excursions. There is a kids club registration area, but we have never seen the queue as long as it was in San Pedro. Also, when we asked a question, someone could answer it!
I looked through our photo archive for any photos at the World Cruise Terminal and couldn’t find a one, if that tells you anything about what there was to see and do there.
A major difference is that Disney employs the cast members that work at Port Canaveral. Temporary workers, or cast members, are employed at the other ports. Hence the reason for only seeing a DCL representative at LAX on embarkation days. Disney contracts those services—transportation, use of the port, etc. And, while those same contracted services happen at Orlando and Port Canaveral, the extended contracts for use give Disney more leverage in terms of theming, training, etc.
I’m hopeful, that now the Disney Wonder is making the World Cruise Terminal in San Pedro its home port for a few years that many of the kinks we experienced have been worked out. As for the other temporary Disney ports, I can’t say.
I am wondering which airport in Galveston will be used to offer Disney transports to the cruise terminal. There is a small airport in Galveston, then there is Houston Hobby—on the southern edge of Houston, which is closer to Galveston. The largest airport—George Bush Intercontinental Airport is on the northern edge of Houston—will leave a 1.5 to 2 hour drive to Galveston and the cruise terminal. A scenic drive/ride through downtown Houston, but still. . .
Potential Disney Cruise Line guests, just need to keep in mind that a experience they may have at a port other than Port Canaveral may not be the same experience that they would have at Port Canaveral with Disney Cruise Line.
In addition to missing the Disney terminal at Port Canaveral, the efficient bus transfers, and the Disney characters at the terminal when we took the Mexican Riviera cruise, we found ourselves missing a stop at Castaway Cay. Having only been at Castaway Cay only one time before that cruise, it was amazing to feel as if something had been left out of our Disney Cruise Line experience. We’re making up for it on our 4th Disney Cruise with two stops at Castaway Cay!
So, is Port Canaveral the best port? We think so!