Best for: Families with kids of all ages.
Snapshot: Voted “best cruise line for families” by Travel+Leisure readers seven years in a row, Disney Cruise Line is the epitome of kid-friendly cruising. While many cruise lines offer kid-friendly features and services, only Disney Cruise Line puts its entire focus on families. Along with creative kid clubs, fun family spaces, and a rich repository of Disney family entertainment, there is also plenty that will appeal to parents.
Brimming with the classic style of 1920s ocean liners, Disney’s ships are sophisticated and full of grown-up appeal, from the elegant art nouveau and art deco design flourishes to the array of adult-centric areas, including the spa, fitness area, adults-only pool, café, and nightlife zones.
Highlights for families: You can expect fabulous entertainment including Broadway-quality musicals, first-run Disney movies, and poolside classic Disney films; oversized family staterooms with split bathrooms (shower/tub on one side; lavatory on the other); rotational dining that lets passengers try every restaurant; fantastic top-deck pool areas and sports playzones; and kids’ clubs with exceptionally creative Disney-themed programming. Caribbean cruises feature a day at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.
Passengers on the Disney Magic are treated to an original stage show spectacular of “Tangled: The Musical” with three songs created exclusively for this show by Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken and Grammy Award-winning lyricist Glenn Slater.
Kid stuff: Disney offers supervised children’s clubs and activities for kids ages 6 months to 17 years. For kids ages 3 to 12 (and loosely split into smaller groups for ages 3 to 4, 5 to 7, 8 to 9, and 10 to 12), the Oceaneers Club and Oceaneers Lab offers cooking classes, science workshops, movies, video games, scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, and more.
Disney’s vast arsenal of family-friendly entertainment (including the recently acquired “Marvel” franchise) is integrated into the kid spaces and offers opportunities for character meet-and-greets around the ship. Older kids also get their own hangouts and activity programs: Edge for tweens ages 11 to 14 and Vibe for teens ages 14 to 17.
On longer sailings, including transatlantic crossings, Hawaii voyages and Panama Canal transits, the minimum age for children is 12 months.
Best ships: With just four ships in the fleet, it’s hard to pick a favorite. The two newest sister ships, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, and the newly renovated Disney Magic (re-launched October 2013) have more elaborate top-deck waterplay areas than the Magic’s sister, Disney Wonder, which launched in 1999. The Dream and Fantasy feature the AquaDuck water coaster ride, which briefly zooms over the side of the ship and circles above the perimeter of the top deck in a translucent tube. The Magic features the AquaDunk, a three-story body slide that begins by dropping through a bombardier hatch and zooming over the side of the ship before splashing down in the landing pool.
Best bargains: Last-minute sailings (within two to three months of booking) typically offer a better chance of scoring a lower fare.
Good to know: Disney is a premium cruise line with a premium price tag. Families will find value, however, in pricing that comes closer to being all-inclusive than other cruise lines. There are relatively few for-fee activities and dining options onboard, and even non-alcoholic beverages are included in the fare. On the downside, Disney offers sales and special promos less frequently than other cruise lines.
Special sailings: Halloween on the High Seas takes place on most voyages aboard all Disney Cruise Line ships from late September through October. Families are treated to a slew of frightfully fun events and activities, special decorations, Disney characters in costume, unique menu items in the restaurants and themed parties on deck.
During the holiday season, Very Merrytime Cruises celebrate the period from Thanksgiving through Christmas and New Year's with special celebrations and events.
New in 2017: Disney Cruise Line is bringing back its Star Wars Day at Sea, a day-long celebration aboard special sailings on the Disney Fantasy celebrating the legendary adventures and iconic characters from the Star Wars franchise.
In 2017, Disney Cruise Line will sail on new itineraries and to new ports, including first-time visits to new destinations in Alaska and Europe. That summer, Disney Cruise Line also returns to Norway, the British Isles, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
In the fall of 2017, Disney Cruise Line is returning to New York with sailings to the Bahamas and the Canadian coast – including a new seven-night Canada cruise. San Diego will serve as a home port with cruises to Mexico, and Galveston will again be a homeport with sailings to the Caribbean and Bahamas.
Also in the fall of 2017, Disney is introducing Marvel Days at Sea, a special day-long celebration aboard select sailings on the Disney Magic. Families can take part in numerous Marvel-themed activities during this special event, which is included in the Disney Cruise fare.
Coming in 2018: In the early part of 2018, Disney Cruise ships will sail from homeports on both coasts. Favorite tropical itineraries in the Bahamas and the Caribbean depart from Florida and Puerto Rico, and a variety of Baja and Mexican Riviera sailings depart from California.
In fall 2018, Disney Cruise Line will sail on new itineraries and to new ports, including first-time visits to Bermuda and Quebec City, Canada. In addition, three special sailings from New York will take guests to Walt Disney World and to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. Sailings from California, Texas and Florida round out the 2018 fall season.
Disney Cruise Line will add two ships in 2021 and 2023. The ships will be slightly larger than the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy and will each include 1,250 staterooms.
Every cruise line has its own personality and signature features. Is Disney Cruise Line the right fit for your family? Read about the best kid-friendly cruise lines to find out which is the best match for your family's vacation style.