Cruise Passenger reported in June that Disney was coming Down Under. This week the line confirmed the news, sparking a renewed tussle between Disney, Carnival’s so-called Fun Ships and Royal Caribbean’s giant playgrounds on the water.
Royal Caribbean sailed with 1,000,000 pre-pandemic and claimed it was 10 per cent of its cruisers. Apply that Australia’s 1.2 million cruisers in 2019, and you have 120,000 cruise-keen kids looking for a cabin. it’s a big market.
Cruise Passenger’s kids cruise comparison is here
The arrival of Disney we rekindle a debate about how much it costs to cruise with kids. Working out how much cruise lines charge for the children is not easy. With prices ranging from free to the full adult fare, and with rules that frequently change, it’s difficult to work out.
So what’s the attraction of Disney?
Des Lee, an Australian cruiser since 2002 who has taken to the seas with P&O, Princess, CruiseWest and Disney, has the inside scoop on everything you should expect on a Disney Cruise.
Mr Lee sailed on a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise on Disney Fantasy and came home with rave reviews to share.
The first thing Mr Lee makes clear is to expect a totally unique and immersive experience.
“No one does theming like Disney. Anyone who is familiar with their theme parks will notice the same attention to detail in the theming – it’s consistent, coherent and done to an exacting standard…Almost every wall, room and ornament is Disney themed, but in a classy, understated way.”
Mr Lee says its simple: if you love Disney, then expect the cruise to be a magical experience for you.
“I think if you are a Disney fan, you will love a Disney cruise. The theming is so strong and consistent that you will never run out of things to see and do. The entertainment is top notch, and the main theatre shows are excellent as you would expect from a company that specialises in entertainment.
“The ship decor is elegant and very “classic” in feel compared to some of the modern mega-ships. It also feels like they do less of the hard-sell on extra-pay restaurants and experiences. The shops all sell exclusive DCL gear, which is popular with Disney fans, similar to their theme parks.”
Much of the hype surrounding Disney’s arrival to Australia is their reputation for offering thrilling experiences for children and Mr Lee says his kids had nothing short of a blast.
“We had our two kids with us, 2 and 7 at the time. The DCL kids clubs are incredible and very high tech, employing RFID bracelets for security and location functionality, even back in 2015. The character experiences and the activities like Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique are ideal for younger kids too. The Disney cruises offer free unlimited soda via a self service machine on the pool deck, and there’s no casino so it’s extremely family-friendly.”
Mr Lee says the main dining room is a continuation of the Disney immersion.
“Disney Cruise Line’s main dining room is done in a very cool way. There are multiple themed restaurants on the ship, and instead of being allocated to a single dining room, you rotate through the different dining rooms, along with your servers. Each offers a different experience, for example, some have special lighting that changes throughout the course of your meal, or a character or high tech experience like the animated characters in the Animators Palette dining room.
“Because you rotate through, there’s always something new to see each night, while retaining some consistency in service because your serving team moves with you each night.”
Mr Lee even highlights one particular dining experience that stuck with him. “Our meal at Remy [a Disney specialty restaurant] is perhaps the best meal I’ve ever had in my life.”
As far as whether it’s worth jumping onboard for the inaugural season, Mr Lee says you’ll get value for your money as long as your focus is on the Disney Experience.
“To my mind, you are paying mostly for the on-board experience and the Disney theming, and if your focus is the ports on the itinerary or you are not a big Disney fan, the DCL cruises will not be appealing, considering the cost.
“For these people, a cruise on another line might offer much better value, and an experience more in line with their preferences.”
Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean: Who offers what for kids?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Enthralling kids is the top of Royal Caribbeans priorities with activities starting for those as young as six to 36 months old in the Royal Tots program.
- Those three to five will join the Aquanauts, with science experiments and exciting play time awaiting.
- Older kids will find themselves enjoying other sections on the ship such as the teen lounge, with planned age-appropriate activities running constantly to keep any signs of boredom at bay. They’ll even have the teen disco to meet other travellers and move to some music.
- If there’s a shining star in your children it can be polished at the Adventure Ocean Theatre, with circus shows, talent shows and even a pirate show going on to bring out the kids performative sides.
- Royal Caribbean is of course known for its endless activities, expect adrenaline to spike and smiles to spread wide as bigger kids enjoy the RipCord, skydiving simulator, rock-climbing wall and so much more. You can also catch some 3D movies, watch people wipeout on the FlowRider, test your mettle at the mini-golf course and so much more with a carousel, ice skating, sports courts, a video arcade, table tennis, laser tag, a trapeze school, zip lines and more all part of the package.