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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Monday, April 8, 2013

Disney Cruise Line: Shore Excursions or Stay on the Ship?

Do you stay on the ship, book a shore excursion, or explore the port on your own?  This is a decision Disney Cruise Line guests must make for each port of call for their itinerary.  Now, Disney does make this decision easier by not charging guests individual port arrival charges, though that cost is figured into the cruise fair.  Other cruise lines charge guests each time they get off the boat in a port.  So at least you know that if you want to get off the ship and see the sights you will not be charged extra.

There are some things to take into consideration when making the decisions about what to do in each port:
  • What time of year are you traveling and what is the weather?  Cooler months, while that is a matter of personal taste when traveling to warmer climates such as the Caribbean may mean more sight seeing, history, or shopping at ports than water adventures.
  • Have you been to that port before?  If yes, and you don’t feel compelled to see or do anything in that port again, then by all means stay on the ship.  But be sure that is the case.  PassPorter Cruise Line Guide books have an extensive list of shore excursions along with guest ratings.  A list is also available on the Disney Cruise Line web-site.  There are also “non” DCL shore excursions that are available in each port; the internet or your travel agent can help you find those if you are interested.
  • Are there varied interests in your family?  If so, it might be beneficial to split up on port days and take advantage of a variety of shore excursions.  Let’s say at least one parent and some older siblings want to see ancient ruins in Cozumel but there is also a young child in the traveling party.  If traveling with Disney, the young child could stay on the ship in one of the kids’ clubs or nursery while other members of the family participated in the shore excursion.  Or, some family members could stay on the ship while the others explored the port.

Know that Disney has sought out the very best shore excursions in each port, elicits your feedback on your experiences, and strives to offer shore excursions for all ages and budgets.

Having sailed with Disney five times, our shore excursions have tended to be somewhat adventurous and interactive. . . sea lion encounters, swimming with stingrays, parasailing, swimming with dolphins, sailing on a pirate ship, and snorkeling the reef off the coast of Cozumel. 

On our most recent cruise onboard the Disney Dream in December 2012, we stayed on the ship when docked in Nassau.  It was our third time in Nassau, it was December and a bit cooler (mostly windy) and while the water park in Atlantis would have been fantastic, we decided to enjoy the ship instead.  It was our first time staying on the ship while in Port and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  The boy headed to the kids club after spending time with us in the morning then the husband and I took in a trivia session and explored the ship.

Since sailing number six is coming in a little over a year, we have already started planning for the various ports on our itinerary:  Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Castaway Cay.  There is a shore excursion that involves tubing and swimming through caves in Cozumel that is of interest to us.  We may just stay on the boat in Grand Cayman, and we are anxiously awaiting more information to be released about the shore excursions in Jamaica.  And our day at Castaway Cay will include bicycles and floats, even though there is a kayak tour that sounds promising.

When you do decide your shore excursions, you can reserve them on-line at when you complete your on-line check in.  The deadline typically coincides with your “paid in full” date and various depending on whether you are a new cruisers or your Castaway Club level—silver, gold or platinum.  Each level has a “window” in which to book shore excursions, spa treatments, reserve cabanas, and make dining reservations for Palo/Remy;  silver is 90 days from the cruise, gold is 105, and platinum is 120 days from the first day of the cruise.

No matter what you choose, you and your traveling party are bound to have a magical time on board any Disney ship!  Bon Voyage! 


  1. Stay on the boat in Grand Cayman!? It's one of the most gorgeous beaches I've ever seen and a favourite stop of ours!

    1. Carolyn,
      I can be persuaded. What beach do you recommend?