Disney started its own cruise line in 1999, after several years of offering the "Disney Experience" aboard other cruise lines.
Today Disney owns its own ships, and it "owns" them in the sense that everything about these ships is all Disney all the time. They are a Disneyphiles dream come true, especially the two newest ship Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.
Once upon a time there was a small but innovative cruise line called Premier that came up with a very good idea. Sailing out of Port Canveral, the closest port to Orlando's magic Kingdom, Premier Cruises added the Disney experience with characters and package trips with cruises and visits to DisneyWorld together.
Eventually Disney launched the first ship in its fleet, theArt Deco-themed Disney Magic, a sleekly beautiful vessel reminiscent of the transatlantic steamship era. The line followed a year later with sister ship Disney Wonder.
The initial reaction to Disney entering the market from established cruise lines was fear, after all, Disney is an entertainment juggernaut. However, Disney kept their cruise line to a modest two ships until 2010 when they finally introduced the new Disney Dream, a larger and more "magic" version of the smaller ships followed by a sister shipm the Fantasy.
As it turns out, Disney Cruise Line hardly competes with the mainstream cruise lines at all. Disney draws the vast majority of its passengers from the ranks of Disney lovers, not from other cruise lines. In fact, the vast majority of Disney cruisers have never been on another cruise. At the same time, people who started out with Disney for researching a cruise, soon found that other cruise lines also have plenty to offer family cruisers, often at a much lower price.
Disney Cruise Lines has thrived, even though their cruise fares range 30 to 100-percent higher than comparable ships, because of people who love all things Disney.
With Disney Dream as the new "flag ship" for Disney, the Art Nouveau-themed sister ships Disney Magic and Disney Wonder take turns sailing to more exotic itineraries like Europe, the Mexican Riviera and Alaska. Disney Dream remains in Port Canaveral, about 60 miles from Orlando, for the people who want to combine short 3 or 4-day cruises with a visit to Disney World. All of the ships offer occaisional seven-day Caribbean cruises.
As you might anticipate, the accent is on fun, Disney-style. Entertainment is a huge feature on these ships, and one must credit Disney for bringing shipboard stage production to a new level with bigger casts, more extensive special effects and those superbly timed and executed family fun shows that leave all but crankiest curmudgeon smiling despite himself.
All of the ships have excellent 3-D movie theaters. Main dining is done in a unique style called "Rotational Dining" where guests sample a different themed restaurant every night, but they eat with the same tablemates and waiters nightly.
Dinner may be the only time that families get together. There are extensive areas specially made for - and restricted to - specific age groups. These groups are infants and toddlers (aged 6-months to three years), kids ages three to 11, "tweens" (12-14) and teenagers 15 to 17. Adults also get their own areas where kids are not allowed.
Disney Magic and Wonder
The early ships each have an adults-only entertainment area -- "Beat Street" on Magic and "Route 66" on Wonder -- neither a casino nor a disco, and the adult-only Italian gourmet restaurant onboard is called Palo.
The older ships' staterooms (Magic and Wonder) are larger than average and beautifully appointed, with categories 10 and higher getting a bath-and-a-half, making them especially popular with families (inside staterooms, categories 11 and 12, have only a single bath). Forty-four percent of outside cabins have verandahs. All come with bathtubs, a television, a mini-bar, a safe and a hair dryer.
In 2004 Disney added newer public areas including Diversions, Cove Cafe and a new college-dorm-meets-coffee-bar place for teens. Cove Café, an adults-only coffee bar adjacent to the Quiet Cove pool is a pleasant place to relax on comfortable couches, watch TV, check e-mail, or read one of the many magazines on the shelves. Sports fans, meanwhile flock to Diversions, which resembles an English sports pub. The swank Walt Disney Theater resembles a plush venue on the Great White Way. Studio Sea, which offers G-rated floor shows, is styled like a television sound stage. The gyms and spa areas have been enlarged.
Disney Dream and Fantasy
Disney Dream - christened January 2011 - is a much larger ship than the older sisters, coming in at 128.000-tons and a berth capacity of 4000 people. A sister ship to Dream, Disney Fantasy, is already well under in the same Papenburg, Germany shipyard where Dream was born and will debut in 2012.
Nearly all staterooms on Disney Dream are designed especially for families; including spacious suites with private verandas, oceanview staterooms with oversized portholes and inside staterooms with "virtual portholes" - video screens with a live feed from the bridge of the ship where Disney characters may show up "unannounced" at any time. All staterooms on Dream can sleep at least one extra person, any can sleep two extra, and a few three. There are two bathrooms, one a master bath with double sinks, a rain shower and a whirlpool tub, and another half-bath with sink and toilet.
The Disney Dream Concierge Royal Suite at 1781 square feet with veranda, includes a master bedroom with queen-size bed, one in-the-wall pull-down double bed and one in-the-wall pull-down single bed in the living room. There is a separate whirlpool tub on the veranda. There is a living room, media room, an open dining salon, a pantry, wet bar and walk-in closets. This suite has two 42-inch LCD high-definition flat-screen televisions, one in the living room and one in the bedroom. There is an iPod docking station, couch, desk, chair, and dining table. The large veranda with Jacuzzi tub, also has patio furniture, deck lighting and Plexiglas railings with childproof locks.Fellow Passengers
Disney's primary market is families with children, although you'll find more adult couples during school vacation periods. one thing they all have in common, they love Disney and have probably been to the theme parks more than a couple of times.Shore Excursions
Disney offers shore excursions just like other cruise lines, but also specializes in tours designed for kids. These tours are offered in various ports of call as well as the private island.Kid's Excursions
As you might anticipate, Disney offers terrific programs and facilities for little folks. At Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, kids enjoy a 15-acre snorkeling course above a living reef, supervised games for all age groups, bicycling courses and sailboats, kayaks and rafts for rent.
The Oceaneer Clubs for kids four to 11 span nearly an entire deck, with supervised programs for children aged 3-5 and 6-8. Children aged 9-12 can enjoy high-tech interactive programs in the Oceaneer Lab, while those 11-12 can compete in a marine biology knowledge quest game show and send digital postcards to friends. And they'll see more Disney characters than at the theme parks!
Disney was the first cruise line to offer a nursery for infants and toddlers. Services include feeding, napping areas and changing, as long as food is supplied by the parents. Disney keeps huge stores of disposable diapers and other childcare needs onboard and will even deliver them to the stateroom. Group babysitting is offered in Nursery areas for an hourly fee.
Complementary sodas are available in the dining rooms and the buffet's beverage area. There is a charge for soda's in the bar area's and through room service.
At Disney, gratuities can be charged to your shipboard account. The recommended tipping guidelines are per person per cruise:
- Dining Room Server $11.00
- Dining Room Asst. Server $8.00
- Dining Room Head Server $2.75
- Stateroom Host/Hostess $10.75
- Dining Room Server $14.75
- Dining Room Asst. Server $10.75
- Dining Room Head Server $3.75
- Stateroom Host/Hostess $14.50
- Dining Room Server $25.75
- Dining Room Asst. Server $18.75
- Dining Room Head Server $ 6.50
- Stateroom Host/Hostess $25.25
On all cruises Dining Manager and Room Service tipping is at the passenger's discretion.
A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar, beverage, wine, and deck service tabs.
I'd like to share a racist encounter I had with a Disney employee on a Disney Fantasy cruise. The appalling incident took place on Sept. 21, 2013, and ruined my entire cruising experience.
At 9:50 p.m., I was standing in front of The Tube (Disney's adults-only nightclub), waiting for my wife. Two Disney staff members (one male and one female) stood at the entrance of The Tube. While I was minding my own business, the male staff member called me a "chink" and walked away. (I later discovered his name was Franky, the host of cruise game show "Match Your Mate."
As a Canadian citizen of Chinese descent, I was extremely offended by this racial slur, and shocked that Disney would hire racially intolerant people as employees.
On September 22, I reported this horrible incident the front desk. On September 23 at 2 p.m., my wife and I discussed the incident with Mike, the assistant cruise director, at Cove Cafe. Mike informed us that he would talk to Franky a second time (Franky claimed that the incident never happened when Mike first talked to him after I filed my complaint).
I later filed aformal complaint in writing to Disney after leaving the cruise. In response, Joel Hayes, Disney's "executive guest correspondent," apologized, but refused to disclose any disciplinary proceedings, only vaguely saying that my "concerns were handled accordingly." This was despite my insistence that, as a victim of an ugly racist remark, I am entitled to know that Franky's punishment was appropriate for the level of embarrassment and pain that this incident has cause myself and my wife during what was supposed to be an enjoyable vacation.
As a result, I have lost my confidence in Disney hospitality. It is ironic that Disney is reputed to have top-notch management, as this has not been my experience in the least.
In all our past cruising experiences (as frequent cruisers, Disney Fantasy was our 24th cruise), this was the only one in which a cruise staff member directed a racial slur at me, a paying guest.
This was our first cruise - EVER. I wasn't sure about the price, seemed reasonable until I read the other comments today indicating otherwise.
We had a great time, but felt it was too much packed into too short a period of time. Our next cruise will be a minimum of seven days. Period.
I'm all for fun, lots of fun, but have several concerns with this cruise experience -
1) The pools were completely shut down after fireworks so a party could take place. Again, I'm all for fun, but my kids wanted to swim and there was nothing available that evening other than very, very loud, rock-type music that got on our nerves - BIG TIME. Because our kids are 9 and 11, they weren't allowed into the splash pad which also closes early.
2) Compared to the WDW experience, the character lines SUCKED. What was most surprising was there were ZERO characters available at any of the evening dinners. No characters walking around and greeting the children, giving autographs, allowing for pictures. Instead, you had to WASTE your valuable time standing in a stupid line waiting ang waiting and waiting. Iguess that was the price to pay. At WDW, you can plan your meals (with the dining plan) and eat at restaurants at least once every day with characters abounding throughout the restaurant.
3) No lifeguards at all so it was a big free for all with wild kids jumping in an already overcrowded pool with zero consideration for others safety and enjoyment. Parents nowhere.
4) Stateroom (level 10) was great other than it always seemed hot and stuffy. A/C didn't keep up.
5) MAKE SURE to have your luggage outside your room by 10:30PM the night before disembarkation. We weren't aware of this little policy and had to man handle all out luggage off the ship. No big deal though and it was our fault anyway.
6) Don't even think about internet availability. I'm self-employed so I"m almost always in work mode. Bad mode while at sea or at a port. Doesn't work... even though I was charged over $15.00 for service.
7) Food was great at the three restaurants, my request for an additional slab of prime rib was met without question, and it was excellent. HOWEVER, pizza, burgers, and chicken strips after hours? That's it? We were very disappointed by this. After hours crap food in my opinion. Maybe my expectations were set too high, but I though because this was a cruise, I could eat what I want, when I want it, 24/7. Forget it.
8) If you want to get somewhere in the ship - TAKE THE STAIRS. The elevator lines were a joke and big waste of time - waiting in lines AGAIN.
I booked a cruise with Disney not too long ago. The ship, The Wonder, was sailing out of Miami of January 24th 2014. I booked my cruise at that time as it was affordable for myself and my family. This was my first cruise and I found it more affordable to book my airfare on my own, as it was much cheaper. I got an e-mail last week saying the cruise was cancelled, due to unexpected maintenance. No other time of the year is an option for me and Disney will not reimburse the cost of my airfare, saying I must use it and incur the penalties prior to being reimbursed for the change fees. I told them the only reason I booked air to begin with was to go on this specific cruise and they refused to satisfy my request. I am now out over $900 in airfare that I am not going to use, and if I do will have to pay $600 in penalties. I strongly encourage anyone booking through Disney to look at other options!!!!