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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line: How Do They Compare?

I bumped into some fellow Disney fans at the local pool and of course our conversation turned to Disney.  While they had been to Walt Disney World many times, they had yet to try a Disney Cruise.  Their questions got met comparing Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line in terms of experiences, lingo, etc.  Here are some of my thoughts:

Overnight accommodations: 

Walt Disney World Resorts come in value, moderate, and deluxe levels.  There are standard rooms with two double/queen beds, king size beds, and then 1, 2, or 3 bedroom suites/villas.  A standard room can accommodate a family or two couples.

Disney Cruise Line has several categories of staterooms sleeping 3-6 guests.  Two couples sharing a stateroom and wanting to sleep with their partner/spouse would have to look at a suite stateroom, as most categories below that offer one queen size bed and pull down/convertible beds.  Most staterooms are designed to accommodate a family and an adult must be booked into each stateroom if the reservation has more than one stateroom.


Walt Disney World has a variety of dining pampering palettes through a broad range of offerings.  Prices vary and depending on the location, a reservation may be required.  Advanced Dining Reservations can be made at most locations 180 days in advance.  Shows, character dining, and special event dining can be found throughout the Walt Disney World Resort.

Dining on any Disney Cruise Line ship takes guests through three main dining rooms for dinner and as many different menus as there are nights on the cruise.  Quick service locations offering buffet style selections, pizza, and burgers can be found almost round the clock and 24 hour room service is included with the cruise.  The only advance reservation for dining would be for Palo/Remy, the adults only dining locations on the ships.  There is an extra fee for dining at Palo/Remy and reservations can be made at various times before the cruise depending on Castaway Club Level and final payment.  The earliest would be 120 days before a cruise.


Walt Disney World Resort has four theme parks, two water parks, Downtown Disney offering shopping, dining, and entertainment.  Guests decide their level of participation in all of the offerings.

Disney Cruise Line offers activities for guest from sun-up until well past sun-down.  Character greetings, Broadway caliber shows, music, games, seminars, family activities, pools, and shopping are a part of the daily line-up of activities.  Guests participating in shore excursions at various ports have many more activity possibilities.  Guests decide their level of participation in all of the offerings.

Timing and Pricing:

Costs for staying at a Walt Disney World Resort vary depending on the season—value, regular, holiday, peak, etc, and the type of room and type or resort.  Guests can book a Walt Disney World Resort stay a year or more ahead or last minute and still pay approximately the same amount for the same accommodations.

Guests deciding to cruise with Disney Cruise Line at the last minute will end up paying more than the guests in the stateroom next door.  Cruise prices are determined by supply and demand.  The closer the cruise sailing, the higher the prices—generally.  Also, cruises that sail when children are out of school such as holidays and summer will be higher priced than a cruise in October or February.  Prices for staterooms on certain cruises can fluctuate almost daily.  Booking early is the key to getting the best price.

Key To The World Cards:

Guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort receive Key To The World Cards that operate as their resort room key and park ticket.  If the dining plan has been added to the ticket package, the credits are loaded onto the Key To The World Card.  Guests may also make purchases using their Key To The World Card charging them to their room account that is either secured with a credit card or cash.  Though, other forms of payment can be used to make purchases throughout the Walt Disney World Resort.

Guest of Disney Cruise Line also receive a Key To The World Card that operates as a key to their stateroom.  It also is an ID of sorts as it is scanned anytime a guest leaves the ship or returns to the ship. A photo is attached electronically to the account and appears on the computer screen when the card is swiped when embarking or disembarking the ship.  Key To The World Cards can also be used for shopping and charging other on-board experiences such as spa treatments, arcade credits, or photo purchases.  The ship has a cashless system where purchases are charged to on-board accounts that are secured with a credit card or cash.  This allows guests to spend any on-board credits in their account as well.

In addition to the similarities above, the famous Disney service is noted throughout both the Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Cruise Line.  Yes, they are very different experiences and are difficult to compare as other factors come into play such as relaxation and aesthetics.  Another factor is crowd.  The number of guests on a Disney Cruise Line ship is controlled by the size of the ship and limited to a certain number of guests.  Crowds at Walt Disney World are determined by the time of year and park.  Trust me, there are fewer people on the ship—even the newer, bigger ships. 

Flexibility of travel must also be taken into consideration.  When cruising, travel dates are somewhat determined by the dates of the cruise and offer little in terms of flexibility unless days are added at the beginning or end of a cruise.  Also, return flights home must be for noon or after on the day of disembarkation.  There is much more flexibility in travel times/dates when staying at the Walt Disney World Resort.  If we have a 7:30 am flight home, it’s okay.  Disney’s Magical Express will get me to the airport for the flight—and for free.  Using Disney transfers for a Disney Cruise are an additional per person fee.

Which do we prefer?  Both!  As much for their differences as for their similarities.  If someone is a fan of the Disney parks, their opinion of a Disney Cruise may vary, and to each his own.  I will say, though, that it may be beneficial to give it a try before you decide if you do or don’t like something.  You may be surprised!

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