When deciding to book a Disney Cruise, there are certain elements you should keep in mind, including which cruise line to book. The Disney Cruise Line and the Carnival Cruise Line are experiences that both promote a lively, active, fun, and welcoming setting. Disney tends to be more family-oriented, and Carnival is better suited for passengers looking for more of an all-around party vibe. This is something that you should keep in mind when deciding what to pack for a Disney Cruise.
The Disney and Carnival Cruise Lines come highly rated for their fun onboard activities, but the two lines differ in their approaches to cabins, kids clubs, dining, prices for family activities, and nightlife for adults.
A Comparison of Disney and Carnival Cruise Lines
Disney and Carnival Cruise Lines can both usually carry up to 4,000 passengers.
Disney has five cruise ships, while Carnival has twenty-three vessels. This means Carnival’s homeports offer a slightly wider range of itinerary options. Disney Cruises sail to Alaska, Mexico, Bermuda, Canada, Europe, Hawaii, the Bahamas, the California coast, the Caribbean, and the Panama Canal. Carnival Cruise also offers these destinations, but the actual ports visited may vary.
Carnival has nineteen different embarkation ports, while Disney has thirteen.
Disney decks out their cabins (called “staterooms”), providing split bathrooms, a private lounge, a television media library, and access to video games, music, and board games. Carnival offers a bit less with its cabins, focusing instead on group activities and common areas.
Regarding dining, Disney offers a more diverse, heavily themed, and multisensory affair, while the Carnival Cruise has a simpler menu. You can also optionally add to the Disney dining experience; the adult-exclusive restaurant Palo costs an additional $45, or the optional Disney’s Royal Tea costs $200 per child and features various Disney Princesses.
In the case of Carnival ships, cruisers can choose set-seating where they can be served dinner at a fixed dining time each night while onboard, or opt for a more flexible schedule every night. Disney has a more structured dining schedule by which everyone eats at one of two set times every night, but passengers enjoy eating at a different restaurant each night (while your wait staff remains the same!). Disney passengers can opt out of their set dining for a particular night if desired.
Games and Activities
There are water slides on nearly every Carnival vessel, and Disney has the AquaDuck water coaster tube ride, the AquaDunk water slide, or the AquaMouse attraction on its different ships — along with other pools and water slides.
Carnival cruises thrive when it comes to passenger-participation activities—offering outdoor dance parties, hairy chest contests, belly flop competitions, and a game show where cruisers participate in larger-than-life versions of games including Connect Four, Yahtzee, Battle of the Sexes, the Love and Marriage Game, and an adult scavenger hunt called Quest.
Youth Clubs and Family Fun
Both cruise lines offer nurseries for their young passengers. Disney has a full-time nursery (fees apply) to provide babysitting for kids aged 6 months to 3 years old. Carnival’s Night Owl service provides late-night-only babysitting for kids as young as 6 months, also for a fee.
Both lines also offer large youth clubs with structured activities. Disney offers dedicated spaces for different age groups: children (ages 3 to 12 with targeted activities for narrower age groups in that range), tweens (ages 11 to 14), and teens (ages 14 to 17). Carnival’s Camp Ocean activities are divided up into these age groups: 2-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, and 15-17.
Generally speaking, Disney has a wider variety of activities onboard for families to experience together, and also sells many extra items including candy, stuffed toys, and costumes for pirates and princesses.
Carnival cruises shine at night. Their ships provide a party atmosphere with ten bars and lounges specializing in rum, tequila, inventive cocktails, and beer. Disney ships also offer an extensive nightlife district just for adults, with several lounges and lively clubs. There are also often live musicians in the atrium each night, providing an enjoyable atmosphere for all ages.
If you’re wondering whether Disney Cruises have a casino, this is another category in which Disney Cruise Lines remain family-focused—between the two, only Carnival’s ships have casinos. Disney does offer bingo games with prizes.
Disney also has spaces for adults to relax, however, offering a spa, thermal suites, cocktails, and an adults-only sun deck and pool.
On a Budget
Carnival is almost always the winner when it comes to traveling on a limited budget. With advance planning, a family of 4 might be able to get a Carnival cruise for around $2,000, while a similar Disney Cruise might start around $3,000 or more. When pricing a cruise on either cruise line, be sure to understand what is and isn’t included in the fare — something that’s included on one cruise line might cost extra on another. Typically, prices shown do not include transportation, alcohol, or other onboard expenditures.
Both cruise lines serve a host of customers including couples, families, solo travelers, and groups of friends. For those traveling with children or looking for family-friendly fun, cruising with Disney is the best choice. For those looking for more of a non-stop party atmosphere on a budget, Carnival might be more appealing. Whichever one is right for you, you’re sure to have a blast!