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Battle of the fun ships: A Disney Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line comparison

In great news for cruising families, both Carnival Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line look to be sending more family-fun towards Australia. 

Carnival has confirmed a second ship will be heading towards Australia, meanwhile Disney has confirmed that cruising on Aussie shores is part of its plan moving forward. 

Carnival Australia President and Chief Executive Officer Christine Duffy told Cruise Weekly that Carnival is currently making plans to deploy a second ship in Australia over the upcoming wave season, with Carnival Splendor already locked in to start sailing from October 2. 

A Carnival Cruise Line representative confirmed with Cruise Passenger that the second ship will operate out of Brisibane.

“Carnival Cruise Line remains committed to its operations in Australia as a two ship-market. Queenslanders will have the opportunity to experience the fun of a Carnival cruise from their home state, and we’ll have some additional details to share on this soon.”

Meanwhile Disney Vice President of Marketing & Sales International Jeff Van Laneveld, the line could soon be headed to Australia for the first time.

Mr Van Laneveld told Cruise Weekly: ““Australia and New Zealand are big cruise markets with a strong affinity for Disney, so naturally that’s going to be a big focus for us going forward.

“We will need to expand beyond our current itineraries and markets.”

Disney currently has four cruise ships with two more set to arrive in 2024 and 2025 respectively. 

Most of the fleet cruises in the Caribbean and Bahamas, but there are also deployments in Mexico and Alaska, as well Disney Dream which is set to visit Europe in 2023. 

While info is still scarce, Mr Van Laneveld’s comments arrive at an interesting time, with Disney Fanatic recently reporting that Disney Cruise Line had registered in Australia and speculated that Disney may homeport a ship in Sydney. This is strengthened that the lines desire to sail in Australia has been documented for over 10 years.

With plenty of frantic family fun seemingly heading our way, here’s a comparison between the kind of entertainment and amusement you can expect on each line.

The kids club

Nothing gets you into vacation mode quicker than dropping the kids off and being free to roam the ship yourself.

One of Disney’s best attractions for kids is Disney’s Oceaneer Lab, which allows kids all through ages three to 12 to hang out together, perfect for keeping siblings together. The kids can get up to everything from science labs and workshops to letting their silly sides shine all kinds of games and activities. They’ll also of course get character experiences with their Disney favourites, with experiences like the Marvel Super Hero Academy.

For those slightly older, they can hang out at Edge, with daily activities across sport, crafts, games and movies, designed specifically for tweens.

Then for the teens, they move up to Vibe, where they can expect everything from dance parties and karaoke in an area with a nightclub feel. 

Carnival splits up the children a bit more precisely, with those from two to five, six to eight and nine to 11, all getting slightly different activities, although all are ocean-themed in their own different ways. Carnival also has Night Owls, which gives young kids the chance to get some holiday excitement and stay up until midnight, also giving the parents a chance to enjoy the ships nightlife. 

Carnival also has Circle “C” for 12 to 14 year olds, with dance parties, outdoor movies and games aplenty, as well as Club 02, for teens from 15 to 17 to hang out whether it’s video games, karaoke, sports or anything else.

Activities 

Carnival packs more than 45 activities on board, with plenty to keep the kids thrilled all day and exhausted come night time. 

If you’ve got some sun shining it’s the perfect time to hit Carnival Waterworks with a range of different waterslides and water-activities, as well as swimming pools or board for kids who love to splash around. After that you can move on to trying your luck at mini-golf, playing some basketball and if you want a rush, take skyride and pedal on a suspended bike over the ocean.

Then moving indoors you’ve got thrills like movies at the IMAX and all the games of Warehouse Arcade.

One of the biggest attractions for kids on a Disney cruise is running into their favourite disney characters all over the ship, but that’s not where the funds ends. There’s plenty of splashing to be had at the various pools, as well the waterslides and water coasters at Aquaduck. 

There’s also the D Lounge, where children can join their parents for singing, dancing, games and live entertainment. Then you’ve also got basketball, mini golf, sports simulations and more at Goofy’s Sport Deck on Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.

What’s for the adults?

The activities on Carnival cruise are almost too abundant to name, with plenty of fun to be had beyond watching the little ones run around. Aside from the many bars and parties onboard, you can also slow down the pace with wellness treatments and retreats, you can partake in wine tastings, visit a comedy club, relax by the pool, check out live shows and also get up to any sports and recreation that you fancy yourself. 

Adults on a Disney cruise will also have their pick of bars and lounges, as well as some options for wellness treatments. You probably won’t get as much of a party energy as you will on Carnival but there will definitely still be opportunities for live music and a nightclub feel.

Food and drink

A big difference between the two lines is flexibility in eating, those cruising with Carnival you can choose between setting yourself a fixed dining time and place or simply eat wherever available each night, whereas Disney has a rotating schedule that will give you a set time and table each night. 

However, Disney’s dining experience is a bit more imaginative than standard dining, with Disney characters and colourful waiters outfits creating an experience. 

Despite this, in terms of the food itself, Carnival has far more options for dining with everything from Guy Fieri burgers to Mongolian Wok or authentic Indian at the Masala Tiger. 

Disney includes soft drinks and juices as part of its price, whereas on Carnival you’ll have to purchase a drinks package for these or pay as you go. 

Accommodation

Both lines offer particularly spacious accommodation, although Disney stands out in that all its rooms are family friendly, with blackout curtains to divide rooms and pull-down bunks for kids.

Carnival has some adjoining rooms that are perfect for families and some Carnival ships have the Family Harbour cabins, which are spruced up and made fun for kids and families.

Disney also adds whimsical elements to its accommodation with surprise character visits, LED portholes and more.

Overall

In terms of pure numbers of things to do, eat and see, it’s hard to beat a Carnival Cruise with the range of activities and facilities. However, Disney offers a more whimsical and spontaneous experience, with magic around every corner and an attention-to-detail that interweaves the soul of Disney into every aspect of cruise life. 

Disney likely edges Carnival in its kids club offerings, but as far as nightlife and variety in entertainment go, you can’t beat Carnival. 

While one might be better for your family, you can’t go wrong with either and hopefully it’s not too long before we have Disney sailing in Australian waters.

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