Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Destinations

What is Included in a Disney Cruise

IMPORTANT: DUE TO COVID-19, DISNEY CRUISE LINE SUSPENDED WORLDWIDE OPERATIONS IN MARCH OF 2020 AND NO ONE CAN BE CERTAIN WHEN THEY WILL RESUME.

Photo Credit: Disney Destinations

Our family loves cruising…there is no arguing about that. People often ask me if I have a favorite cruise line. I honestly do have a favorite (although I haven’t tried every cruise line…yet). But I also have a caveat that just because I have a favorite cruise line, doesn’t mean I always recommend it. Each cruise line…especially Disney Cruise Line…offers unique experiences that are included.

Disney Cruise Line tends to price out higher for a lot of families. It is what they include that is unique that makes them a little more expensive than other cruise lines. If your family enjoys Disney or are looking for the best family-friendly cruise line, that is when I recommend Disney Cruise Line.

I’ve created a list of some of the things that are included with a Disney Cruise Line cruise to give clients an idea of whether or not a Disney cruise is the right choice for them.

Broadway-Style Musicals

Each of Disney Cruise Line’s ships offers a large theater where entertainment is shown each night. Most night’s you can see a musical or show that is written specifically for Disney’s cruise ships. These Disney-themed musicals are Broadway style in professionalism and yet short enough for kids not to get too antsy.

Complimentary 24-Hour Room Service

Disney cruise line offers 24-hour complimentary room service. Menus vary, but generally you can find items like custom-made sandwiches, pizza, and even a few specialties from the chef like grilled salmon on the menu.

I have a few family members that enjoy ordering warm cookies and milk at 11:00 at night right before bed. Not mentioning any names, but they do it pretty much every single night when traveling on a Disney cruise.

There are a few room service items that do require an additional charge such as wines, beverages, and some specialty snacks. Always check your in-room menu. If additional charges apply, it will be noted on the menu.

Complimentary Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Most cruise lines offer a very limited selection of complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. Disney offers coffee, tea, milk, hot chocolate and soda 24-hours a day on the pool deck as well as in the dining rooms during meals. Soda packages can be very expensive on other cruise lines requiring you to pay per person, per day. This is one area where Disney offers a far better value than its competition.

Disney-Themed Kids’ Clubs

Disney Cruise Line has one of the largest selection of kids’ clubs found among the major cruise lines. Their offerings and activities are some of the most family friendly…and of course offer Disney touches.

Although I’ve never been able to “experience” a Disney youth club because I was an adult by the time I first sailed on Disney Cruise Line, I can say I’ve checked them out and think these should be available for adults to enjoy, too. Did you hear that, Disney? We want an “kids club” for adults. Some of the experiences offered are pure magic for a little Disney fan.

“it’s a small world” nursery

“it’s a small world” nursery! is available for young children from ages 6 months to 3 years old. In the nursery the young ones can make simple crafts, play games, take a nap, or watch movies.

The design of the “it’s a small world” nursery! is influenced by the classic Disney attraction found at its theme parks.

Disney’s Oceaneer Club

This club is for children from ages 3 to 12 years old. In the Oceaneer Club kids can make friends and explore multi-themed areas and connect with characters from new and classic Disney movies.

Here the kids will enjoy dressing up as a character, special storytelling get-togethers, and play areas that are larger than life and immerse you in Disney stories.

Disney’s Oceaneer Lab

Disney’s Oceaneer Lab is also for children ages 3 to 12 years old. While the Oceaneer Club we talked about above is all about the Disney magic, the Oceaneer Lab is all about exploration.

The kids can learn and play while at sea through engaging discovery activities, crazy experiments, and interactive spaces and game play.

Edge

This kids club is the perfect place for any tweens in a group. At Edge the kids can spend time with kids their own age while they enjoy doing arts and crafts, play games, and watch movies.

Vibe

This area is a teens-exclusive space. Here the teens can chill out and listen to music, enjoy some games with fellow teens, as well as watch some TV. Vibe also offers activities like karaoke and teens-only dance parties.

Delicious Meals in Themed Restaurants

Tiana's Place is a themed restaurant included in a Disney Cruise.
Tiana’s Place – Photo Credit: Disney Destinations

One of the areas Disney excels at in the family cruise arena are its restaurants. I’ve been on many family cruises, and the experiences included in a Disney Cruise restaurant can’t be beat. The wait staff are trained very well at interacting with children of all ages and ability.

In addition, each ship offers three different restaurants for dinner. You are assigned a rotation where your family gets to enjoy at least one meal in each restaurant…your wait staff travel to the different restaurants with you.

One night you might enjoy a musical performance by Princess Tiana while eating at Tiana’s Place with delicious foods you might find down on the bayou in New Orleans. The next night you might find yourself dining in Animator’s Palate where the restaurant literally comes to life as you enjoy your meal…and who knows, Crush might just stop by your table to talk and hang out for a few minutes.

First-Run Films Included on Your Disney Cruise

Disney offers several places onboard where you can sit back and enjoy some classic…as well as first-run Disney films. There is nothing like getting to see a film the first day it opens…for free…onboard a Disney ship. We were lucky to see the film Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson…on opening day…in digital 3D on one of our Disney cruises. It was a fun experience for our family.

Snacks

Disney Cruise Line offers snacks in all the usual places…like burgers or pizza on the pool deck. In addition, you can find soft-serve ice cream on the pool deck for whenever you want a cool treat.

There are also a couple of lesser known places you can get complimentary snacks onboard. One area where you can find some complimentary snacks is at the Cove Cafe. The Cove Cafe is found in the adults-only area of the ship. Although the specialty coffees and drinks here are offered for an additional fee, the assortment of pastries and desserts are complimentary. This is not a self-serve area, but a cast member at the Cove Cafe will be happy to serve you if you ask.

Another hidden gem for snacks can be found in the adults-only area of the Disney cruise ships during late evening entertainment. This is usually a buffet of snacks and can include items such as spring rolls, mozzarella sticks, and coconut shrimp. The buffet changes up each evening. These snacks are usually only around for a short time each evening from approximately 10:45 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. And because this is a buffet, you can feel free to snag as much as you want to eat.

Special Meet and Greets with Disney Characters

Being able to meet up with Disney characters and Princesses is unique to Disney Cruise Line. You can meet Mickey and Minnie and all the gang dressed up in their cruising attire…and all dolled up in their finest on formal night. You can find a guide of the times and places you can meet the various characters included in the Disney Cruise daily Navigator app…a listing of all times and activities onboard the ship.

Themed Deck Parties and Days at Sea

By far and away, one of my favorite things included in a Disney Cruise are the themed days at sea. I have seen nothing like it on any other cruise ship. Sure other cruises offer themed days, but it is not the same. Not all themed days are available on each cruise itinerary. If you want to experience one in particular, you will need to research the dates (or contact your friendly travel agent) to find the specific theme that you are looking for.

Below are a few examples of Disney Cruise Line’s themed days:

Marvel Day at Sea

Marvel Day at Sea is included in your Disney Cruise.
Photo Credit: Disney Destinations

This day is all about Marvel Super Heroes. Marvel Day at Sea includes encounters with some of your favorite Marvel super heroes. You can join in for a special secret agent training session and watch a super hero stunt show. Generally, these cruises take place early in the year and are on sailings to the Bahamas and the Western Caribbean.

Pirates in the Caribbean Night

On Pirates night on a Disney Cruise ship, you will start the evening off eating a pirate-themed dinner in your assigned dining room. You can enjoy special trivia and games as well as photo ops with the Disney characters dressed up in their finest pirate garb. The evening is capped off with a special “Pirates in the Caribbean” show on the pool deck followed by fireworks set to special Disney pirate-themed music (weather permitting).

Star Wars Day at Sea

If you are a Star Wars fan, this day is for you! On a Star Wars Day at Sea, you will find yourself transported aboard a cruise ship to a galaxy far, far away…okay, a galaxy found on a ship in the Caribbean, but it’s still pretty fantastic. Here you will encounter characters from the Star Wars movies, engage in Jedi training, and end your day at a special Star Wars deck party.

Is a Disney Cruise for You?

When I work with clients, I try to match them up with experiences that they enjoy. Sometimes people are unsure if a Disney cruise is a good fit for them. My family likes Disney, so for us it really doesn’t take much to convince me to get on a Disney ship.

And although Disney’s prices are often more expensive than some of its competitors, it includes experiences that you simply can only find on a Disney Cruise. Whether or not those experiences are worth the extra money is a personal matter.

If you want more information on how cruise lines price cruises in general, this article continues to be my most read blog post:

Beginner’s Guide to Cruise Prices

In the end, I enjoy how family-friendly a Disney cruise is. And since our family really enjoys our Disney (and Star Wars and Marvel movies), it is a perfect match for us when we head out on the high seas.

If you know someone who might want to know about Disney Cruise Line, please feel free to use the buttons below to share this post with them. Sharing is caring!

Alaska, Cruises, Destinations

Discover Alaska’s Inside Passage as a Family

I remember not long after we got married, my hubby and I often talked about the places we wanted to travel to in our lifetime. Destinations were often categorized as ones we would do as a family and others where we would wait to have an empty nest. Honestly, Alaska was one of the places that neither of us were very interested in. Living in the Pacific Northwest, the pictures of Alaska all seemed similar to what we saw almost every day. Then one day…

…after our son was grown and moved out, my parents suggested taking a family cruise to Alaska. As they were aging, they were having trouble getting around on their own and appreciated the thought of having their grown kids along with them. We all coordinated a trip that included my parents, two of my siblings and their spouses, as well as a couple of friends that we consider family. Even if I wasn’t excited about the destination, I knew I’d enjoy the time with them.

Getting on the ship in Seattle, I started to get a little cranky. My hubby and I seemed to be the youngest ones on the ship…(although I think we found one couple who were younger than us). We were traveling on Princess Cruise Lines which does tend to have a slightly older clientele and cruising in September after all the kids were back in school definitely changes the demographic. But…

…can I just say how much I loved cruising the Inside Passage!!! Being able to sit on my balcony and watch the scenery and wildlife float by was an amazing experience. Having naturalists onboard the ship explaining what we were seeing and teaching us how to spot whales was phenomenal.

Where is Alaska’s Inside Passage?

Alaska’s Inside Passage is a coastal water route that travels from the Puget Sound region in Washington state, up the west coast of Canada, and reaching all the way to Alaska weaving in and out of islands. It is popular by ships (and passengers) who wish to stay out of the rougher waters of the open ocean.

A bonus is the stunning scenery you encounter as you wind your way through the passage. It is true northwest frontier with unspoiled forests and beaches. You view glaciers, waters abundant with icebergs, cascading waterfalls, fjords enshrouded by mist and fog…all from the deck of the ship or your cabin’s balcony. You can watch eagles soaring above, orca and humpback whales playing and eating in the waters, white mountain goats perched along the cliffs, and occasionally a bear down by the water trying to catch a meal.

What is the Best Way to Experience Alaska’s Inside Passage?

There are three ways to experience Alaska’s Inside passage. You can see it via car travel stopping and staying in small hotels or campgrounds along the way. Some areas of the Inside Passage are not accessible by car, so this makes it the least desirable way to see it.

You can travel via Alaska Marine Highway System ferries. These passenger and cargo ferries are colored in blue and yellow. You can catch a ferry out of Bellingham, Washington. You can look at the schedules and choose where you will stop along the route and plan how long you wish to stay in each. The Alaska Marine Highway System has a helpful website for planning if you want to go this route.

My preferred method for seeing Alaska’s Inside passage is via cruise ship. One of the things I enjoy about cruising the Inside Passage is that many cruise lines offer something for everyone no matter your age or what you enjoy doing. People who enjoy adventure can go zip lining or hike on a glacier. Those who are interested in culture can enjoy a salmon bake and some traditional Native American dancing. If you want to sit back and enjoy a scenic train ride, they’ve got you covered too. And at the end of the day, you can all gather back for dinner and share your experiences.

Princess Cruise Lines has been rated the #1 cruise line for Alaska for a number of years. But Royal Caribbean’s Anthem class ships are definitely giving them a run for their money. The ability to experience the Alaskan scenery suspended 300 feet in the air on the North Star 360-degree glass capsule (exclusive to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line) can’t be beat.

Also highly recommended for Alaska is the Norwegian Cruise Line ship the Bliss. This ship was specifically designed with Alaska in mind and includes a two-story indoor observation area on the front of the ship. A good travel advisor can help you find the cruise ship and cruise line that best fits you or your group’s wants and needs.

Where You Can Expect to Stop on an Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

Most Alaska Inside Passage cruises start their round trip voyages in ports at either Seattle, Washington, or Vancouver, British Columbia. Typically these cruises last seven nights but could be longer or shorter depending on the cruise line and time of year.

Typically, cruises stop in the ports of Juneau and Skagway. You also usually have several days of just cruising the inside passage or along an iceberg-filled fjord.

Juneau is Alaska’s state capital. It lies between a waterway that never freezes over and ice fields that never melt. Some of the top things to do in Juneau include taking a seaplane ride over Mendenhall Glacier…or maybe even a helicopter that stops on the top of the glacier. Visit a summer sled dog camp where you will be taken on a ride via a wheeled sled led a team of huskies. Another popular favorite is a whale watching trip and salmon bake. Again, there is pretty much something for everyone’s age and level of adventure.

Skagway also has some unique excursions to enjoy. You can ride the White Pass Train along the mountainside and enjoy some breathtaking scenery while you learn about the miners heading to the gold rush in Alaska. Their stories are intriguing and often tragic. You can visit the Liarsville Gold Rush Camp and enjoy some fun entertainment and try your hand at panning for gold. If you’re up for some real adventure, try zip lining over the Alaskan wilderness.

How to Save a Little Money on Your Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

There is no way around it…cruising can be expensive. But when you take into consideration all that a cruise includes, it doesn’t cost significantly more than taking the Alaska Marine Highway System and piecing everything together yourself. There are also a few ways to try to keep your costs on a cruise reasonable.

Some of my top tips for keeping cruise costs down are:

  • If possible, travel during May or September. May is the start of the cruising season into Alaska. Since the kids aren’t out of school yet, you will find the ships not as full and less children running around. The same holds true for September after the kids have all gone back to school. This makes for a great opportunity for families traveling without school-age kids or families that home school.
  • Avoid the “specialty dining.” The food on an Alaska cruise offers lots of fresh and local foods in the dining rooms. There really isn’t much need to pay extra for the “specialty dining.”
  • Compare cruise lines. Some cruise lines offer better rates but lack some of the amenities offered by the more expensive cruise lines. If the main attraction of this cruise is experiencing Alaska, these amenities probably won’t be important to you and makes it easier to forego them.
  • Don’t book your port excursions through the cruise line. There are lots of useful websites like Shore Excursions Group where you can book the same excursions offered by cruise lines at a lower price. Most offer money-back guarantees in case a ship is unable make a port. Always check the fine print to be sure you understand terms and conditions. However, I’ve had nothing but excellent feedback for Shore Excursions Group from my clients.
  • Understand the factors of how a cruise is priced. This article titled Beginner’s Guide to Cruise Prices continues to be one of my most popular blog articles of all time.
  • Use a travel advisor to help you watch for and apply any promotions to the cruise you’re interested in. A trained travel advisor is worth their weight in gold.

How Can I Learn More About Alaska’s Inside Passage?

One of the best ways to find more information about Alaska’s Inside Passage is to contact your travel advisor for more information. A good travel advisor will be able to find the answers to your questions and make recommendations to you based on your travel preferences. If you are getting serious about booking, many travel advisors will send you information and brochures that you can go through.

I always recommend doing a little research at home, too. I find one of most informative and unbiased ways to find out about destinations is by searching for and checking out books, magazines, and videos through my local library.

Alaska’s Inside Passage Offers Something For Everyone

If you had told me 15 years ago that Alaska is a great destination for everyone, I would have given you the stink eye…seriously. I thought Alaska was for the person who enjoyed rustic camping and adventure that required a person to be in tip-top shape physically. I was so wrong.

I absolutely love Alaska’s Inside Passage for all that it offers. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 5, 35, 65, or 95, there is something that will inspire you and take your breath away. The food, the nature, and the activities provide something for every member of your family to enjoy, remember and talk about.

I always say that the family that plays together, stays together. Alaska is the playground of the last frontier. It is best experienced with your family and friends.