A guide to Disney Cruises - from Alaska to the Bahamas

Dear Readers, this week we have Melanie who is a Disney Cruise Specialist from DCLPrepSchool.com answering some of my questions regarding Disney Cruises. Ever wondered what a Disney Cruise is actually like? How does it compare to a normal cruise? What are the destinations like and on-board activities? What activities are offered on the Alaskan Disney Ports as opposed to the Castaway Cay Port in the Bahamas? Are they just for families with kids? And food options? Please read below to find the answers to these questions and more.

How many cruises have you been on? (and what types of Cruises)
Lots. I don't like to admit in public how many Disney trips I have been on - whether on Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World. I have been on cruises to Alaska, all over the Caribbean and to the Bahamas.
How does a Disney Cruise compare to a ‘normal’ cruise? Where did the Disney Cruise go?
I'll start with where they go. Disney Cruise Line sails to the Bahamas, Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, Mexican Riviera, Canada (East Coast), New York, Key West and I am sure I am missing one or two. Disney cruises are designed with families in mind, and that is reflected in every aspect of the ships as well as where the ships sail.
If you are looking at Disney Cruise prices, is there a good $ USD rate to get if you can (I know in Australia, if you get a rate of $75 AUD per adult per night - that’s a bargain!)
Rates will depend on the type of stateroom you book, how long you sail and how many people are traveling with you. I usually advise people that they will spend about $300 USD per person per day. Port Adventures, traveling at peak times and onboard charges are all variables that will go into the cost of your cruise. I find that the mega cruises (Panama Canal and Transatlantic) which are about two weeks cost far less per day, and any cruise that begins or ends in San Juan, Puerto Rico will also cost less.
What sorts of things are there to do on the ship? Is everything Disney related?
There is a lot to do. Too much for a one paragraph answer, but there are themed pools, kids clubs, Broadway-style shows, adult-only variety acts, karaoke, fine dining, wine tasting, mixology classes, spa treatments and so much more. The pools and kids clubs have Disney theming, the Broadway-style shows all feature Disney characters and, of course, there are character meet and greets during your entire cruise, but you won't find the Disney theming to be in-your-face. It's subtle and elegant indoors and super fun on deck.
Do the Disney related activities on the ship – do they cost more or are they included in the price?
Yes and no. Most are included in your fare (meet and greets, dance parties, deck parties and fireworks), but the Princess Tea does cost extra.
Is the Cruise more suited for families with children? Would you recommend for couples?
Disney cruises are for everyone. I've sailed with and without my kids (they weren't too pleased when I went without them). There are a lot of adult-only spaces on the ship. As long as you realize that Disney is a family cruise line, and there will be kids on board, there is no problem.
Are there any Disney rides or special experiences on the ship? Or is it just themed Disney and no special rides?
The Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy both have the AquaDuck - a water coaster. The Disney Magic has the AquaDunk - a thrill slide that really gets your adrenaline pumping. All ships have smaller water slides onboard.
Did you do a Character meet and greet breakfast? How did it go? Which characters?
Character breakfasts are exclusive to cruises that are 7 nights or longer. More than likely you will see the Fab 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Donald - and sometimes Daisy). However, characters are always subject to change. If you are familiar with character meals at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, this is very similar. The characters travel to each table, and you can interact, take photos and get signatures.
What happens at the Ports?  Are they the usual cruise ports or do they have a Disney theme? Are there optional Disney extras?
Each port is different. The only one that has a Disney theme is Castaway Cay - more on that below.
Alaskan ports typically include Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau with a day in Tracy Arm Fjord (or alternate Fjord because Tracy Arm has been pretty icy over the past few years). Our favorite activity was the Dog Sled Summer Camp in Juneau. You can't go wrong when you mix kids and dogs. More pictures from Melanie on http://dclprepschool.com/juneau-alaska/

All images on this page © Melanie@DCLPrepSchool
Can you tell me about Castaway Cay? What is it like? What is there to do there? Can you stay on the island?? Is it Disney themed?
Castaway Cay (Cay is pronounced like KEY) is Disney's private island in the Bahamas, and is exclusively for Disney Cruise Line Guests. Disney bought a 99 year lease for the island in 1996. The island is Disney themed and has both adult beaches and family beaches.  Most Bahamian and Caribbean sailings stop at Castaway Cay. The island is a fantastic place to swim, relax, snorkel or meet stingrays. 

All images on this page © Melanie@DCLPrepSchool
Are there busy times of the year to go? Was it busy when you were there and how was it?
The busy time for any Disney destination is when US schoolchildren are on vacation:
        Summer from early June - late August
        Spring Break - rotating weeks throughout the months of March-April
        Christmas Holiday: Last two weeks of the year
Any other Major holiday or US holiday: New Years, Easter, Memorial Day (late may), Independence Day (July 4th), Labor Day (early September) and Thanksgiving (late November)
The least busy times are as the major vacations conclude: January, September and October. However, now it seems that most ships sail nearly full no matter what time of year it is. I have sailed on the 4th of July and in January. Each ship has a specific capacity, and even full, there is plenty of room to do what you want without feeling cramped like sardines.
Are there bargain places to eat on the ship or the Ports (is it all free?)
All of your meals on the ship are included in the cost of your fare. The only exception is if you choose to dine at Remy or Palo, which are reserved for adults only. Dining in the ports is like dining anywhere else: some places are a bargain, others can be quite expensive. With over 90 ports of call, each spot is different. I rarely eat full meals off of the ship - unless it is specifically part of a Port Adventure. With so much good food on the ship, we really aren't terribly hungry in port.
Can you recommend a particular Disney cruise?
I can easily recommend every single one of them. Each ship may look similar on the outside, but they are so unique and every cruise has its own vibe. Great cruises can be enjoyed all year long. Disney Cruise Line only sails to Alaska (Disney Wonder) and Europe (Disney Magic) during the summer months. The Disney Dream goes to the Bahamas twice a week for most of the year, and the Disney Fantasy sails to the Caribbean.  The best time to go is any time you can go!

Thanks to Melanie for answering all my questions regarding Disney Cruises. If anyone has any further questions, please feel free to post them on this blog. All Melanie's images are copyrighted ©Melanie@DCLPrepSchool.  You can also read more from Melanie at DCLPrepSchool.com

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Until next week,

More blog posts on Disney Cruises:  
Disney Cruises - All your Questions answered 

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