Is A Disney Cruise Worth the Money?

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Sunday Mar 27, 2016 Under Claire, Cobey, Crusies, Disney Cruise, Kid's Corner, Travel

Carnival EcstasyIt was NOT planned this way but we have been fortunate to go on two cruises this year. In January, we went on a Seven Day Disney Cruise out of Puerto Rico on the Wonder that was fabulous. It had been booked for over a year.  In November, my brother decided to get married on a cruise which caused two things to occur. One, we booked a Carnival Cruise which we would probably would have not done. Two, we booked a cruise two months after another cruise.  Last week, we went on a Seven Day Carnival Cruise out of Charleston on the Ecstasy. We have been on several Disney Cruises. I have been on several Royal Caribbean Cruises, including one to Alaska with the kids.  I have been on one Carnival previously but it was a long time ago. Having the two cruises so close together gave me the real opportunity to compare the two cruise lines.  Both ships were older ships. The Ecstasy is seven years older (1991) and a little smaller  (about 350 guests or 130 feet in length).  I think the ships are similar enough to be a fair comparison. I will have another post with more details about a cruise wedding but I have had many questions about is Disney worth the extra money and this post will mainly focus on that issue.

Cabin – Disney Wins

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Disney rooms are arranged for families! The smallest inside cabin for Carnival  is 160 square feet and Disney is 185 square feet. Our cabin was 170 square feet. Disney has figured out how to get more out of a smaller space.  Our Carnival cabin was an inside cabin and it felt tight for the three of us. Cobey’s bed was on the floor and Claire had to walk over it to get to the bathroom. Cobey said it was comfortable but it was inconvenient. We had a small chair that was more in the way than used because it barely fit. There was enough space to put away all of our clothes but it would have been hard with four people. The bathroom was a nice size. Disney manages to put a small couch in each of their rooms. The couch turns into one bed and one comes from the ceiling. It is a great way to optimize space. Most of their rooms also have two separate bathroom areas. One area with a shower/tub and a sink and the other with a toilet and sink.  I can’t tell you how nice this is when getting ready for dinner. Our room for Disney was 215  square feet but felt twice as big. When you look for a cabin, layout is key. My guess is that Carnival has figured this out and some of their newer ships have a better layout but for this comparison hands down Disney wins.

They also win with cabin service.  Disney offers cabin service twice a day. They put the beds away in the morning and then back out in the evening. This is really nice so you can use the couch during the day.  On Carnival we had to choose either morning or evening.  I also think Disney did a slightly better job cleaning. They both did a great job with the towel animals that Claire loves. Claire missed the chocolate on the bed. The return guest gift is also better on Disney. On Disney it is usually a bag with something inside it. Our last cruise was a tote with a photo album. Another cruise was a backpack with water bottle. On Carnival, I got a bottle of water and my brother got a lapel pin.

Food – Carnival Wins

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Cobey back from Midnight Mexican Buffet

Food is the most important thing on a cruise to Cobey so I am going to go with his opinion the most. We all thought the quality of the food was about the same except for the burgers. The burgers were better on Carnival. The burgers were dry on Disney and I complained I could never get a good burger the last trip. The food at the wedding was the wonderful.  The quality is about the same.  You will never go hungry on either trip.  Cobey liked Carnival better because of the variety. He likes to try new things. On this trip he got his lamb, duck and lobster which he always enjoys but he also got ox tongue and boiled frog legs. Disney has four course meals while Carnival has three. Disney has Appetizer, Soup/Salad, Entree and Desert. Carnival doesn’t have Soup/Salad separate. I really don’t think this matters because you can order multiple and we often did. Cobey ordered 3 Apps, 2 Entrees and 2 Deserts often. He got his money’s worth in food for sure.  He also loved the Midnight Mexican buffet.  We didn’t order room service on the Carnival because we never found the menu and the one time I called everything I ordered cost money so I gave up.  The other downside of Carnival is soft drinks are NOT included. You have to pay per soda or purchase a soda plan. For seven days for a family of four the soda plan would be $170 whereas soda is included on Disney.  Claire was the only one that got the plan this trip. Overall though the win goes to Carnival for food.

Kid’s Club – Disney

Cobey did not even try his Kid’s Club this time but he barely did the Disney one last trip. He would rather read or watch movies. Claire did try the Kid’s Club for Carnival and I looked at the list for both age groups.  There is no comparison, Disney by a long shot has a better program. For starters, Claire’s club was mostly in a conference room, yes the conference room. I guess they were suppose to be having a board meeting.  I guess they tried with the programming but can you really compare Giant Jinga with Boot Camp with Toy Story Soldiers or Wax Museum  with Dancing with Snow White or Would You Rather with a Pajama Party with Goofy. You get my point!  At night you have to start paying for the club which REALLY bothers me. You don’t pay on Disney unless you have someone in nursery less than three. Royal Caribbean was the same way.  They listed decoupage box as an activity and when Claire went it was coloring on a box. Disney on the other hand had some nice crafts last time we went. When they said tiles it was really made out of tiles.    As my kids get older this becomes less important but Club was the highlight of the trip for ALL parties while they were young.

Excursions – Carnival 

Claire Dolphin Swim

I think the actual excursions offered seem very similar. There have been some special excursions on Disney that are very special and unique. We had a tea with Alice in Wonderland in a garden in Canada and that was an awesome excursion. But overall I think they are similar. I am giving a slight edge to Carnival on this one because they offer a price guarantee and they were so easy to work with. I got to watch the Dolphin Swim with Claire and Stingray with Cobey and Claire without paying. They also had a great variety of options at different price points.

 

 

Atmosphere – Disney

I was worried about the party atmosphere on the ship. I can only speak to what I experienced on this ship and I was pleasantly surprised.  Yes, I had to explain what a beer bong was to Cobey and there were a few drunk people here and there but overall it was fine. Claire loved the dancing at dinner every night and the over all fun atmosphere on Carnival, but we both missed rotating dining rooms like we did on Disney.  The part that bothered me the most was the smoking in the middle of the ship in a main thoroughfare and that is why I give the edge to Disney. Disney allows smoking but I don’t ever remember seeing it so it must not be in a main thoroughfare. This may be better on other ships with different design.  Overall, Carnival is fun but Disney is Magical. We have so many truly magical moments from our five Disney cruises.

Photography – Disney

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This may not matter to some but I love photos on cruises. I love going to all the different backgrounds and getting tons of pictures and coming home with a stack. Claire loves posing for photos. Carnival did have lots of backgrounds probably more than Disney so that was nice. The lady who did the wedding was superb and I loved her but beyond that the photograph was pretty bad. Most of the staff seemed very unhappy and not to like kids.  Claire usually loves to take photos but really didn’t want to on this cruise.  The ship still had the old system where you had to search for your photo on the wall.  Even though this is an old ship they could have updated the system like they have on Magic. I had a stack of our photos together – did I mention that I had to search for them and they lost them. There are no packages and the prices are high. Instead of a package you get free gifts after a certain number of photo. I say keep your free gift and give me a packages. I also like that I can take the disc home with all the photos and decide after the cruise which ones that I prefer.

Entertainment – Disney

Claire Sword Fighting Captain Hook

There is so no comparison to entertainment. Disney is top notch with Broadway level performances each night. I have not found anything on Carnival or Royal Caribbean to compare. Disney has a movie theater on every ship and shows recently released movies throughout the entire day. We go to at least one movie a day, sometimes multiple. They also had much better movies on the TV in your room. During this trip they had  only had one family movie per day and the same movie played for two days. I hear on some ships they do have a movie theater but you have to pay a fee, on Disney it is free. On many of our Disney trips we got to see the movie BEFORE it came out in theaters. The musicians and comedians are comparable.  Disney does not have a casino so if that is important to you then that is a factor. Disney does have Bingo but I am not sure they have it as often. I also enjoyed the Art Auction this trip which they have on Disney put I have never attended. Carnival had a ton of trivia contest and we went to a few that was fun. Disney has a wonderful Pirate Night on all of their ships with characters, shows and fireworks.  It is the only ship that does fireworks. Everyone dresses up and it is so much. Claire having a sword fight with Captain Hook is one of my favorite members.  But overall you just can’t beat Disney entertainment.

Themed Meal on the Ship – Carnival

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l can’t believed I am giving the each to Carnival for this one but for value Carnival wins. The Green Eggs and Hams breakfast was only five dollars a person. You got photos with three characters a great fun menu for breakfast and great decorations. Claire and I did a Royal Court Tea on Disney’s Fantasy which was wonderful with a lot of gifts but it was over $100 to attend. This breakfast was economical with great food and fun. We all enjoyed it.

Private Island- Disney

Carnival has Half Moon Cay and Disney has Castaway Cay. Both are beautiful beaches with beautiful water.  I am giving a slight edge to Disney because of the adult only beaches with the hammocks, the character statues in the water you can snorkel and see, the huge play pirate ship in the water for the kids to play on and parasailing. We went parasailing for the first time at Disney’s Castaway and it was fabulous. On Half Moon Cay the kids did swimming with the rays which was better after other locations.

So what it comes down to is it worth. If you have kids 10 and under there is no question Disney is worth every penny if you can afford it. Even for us, our kids will be at least 14 and 12 by the next time we cruise, I would love to go on another Disney cruise.  Did I have a great time on Carnival? Yes! Would I go again? Yes! I would probably get a bigger room and compare prices and weigh options. We are running out of itineraries with Disney. It is easy to see why Disney cost more and I think it is worth the extra money especially for families with young kids and people who love Disney. And no, Carnival is not Disney but it doesn’t have to be because it doesn’t have the price tag.

 

 

 

 

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Alaskan Cruise

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Friday May 24, 2013 Under Claire, Cobey, Crusies, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel

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Jimmy and ClaireWe booked an Alaskan trip thru Carolina Homeschoolers that included a seven night cruise and then a five night land tour. This was not our first cruise on Royal Caribbean but the first with the kids. Overall, the cruise itself was okay but it was not Disney. The kids club was not open all the time to Claire’s disappointment. There were not as many activities for kid or  even shows to watch on TV. I was disappointed I could not get all our photos digitally. We had to pick ten. The kids would ask why this or that and we would say “because it is NOT Disney”. After this cruise, we will stick with Disney for family cruises at least for awhile.

The things that saved the cruise were Cobey being able to play with the Hill boys, Jimmy our assistant waiter who was awesome with the kids and our table mats. The first night we sat down. I didn’t think our table mats were happy. They looked like they were thinking great we got stuck with the only kids in the place but Claire and Cobey soon won them over and we had a great time. There was one couple who did move tables and decided not to sit with us. Jimmy was awesome with the kids and did origami every night and on formal night he did balloon art. Claire loved Jimmy and told him he belonged on the Disney Cruise. Overall, we had a good trip but we kept thinking it would have been even better if we were on Disney.

 

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First Port- Ketchikan

This was my least favorite port but it could have been the weather or the fact Cobey was sick. It could have also been that I had to explain to Claire what a prostitute was after walking down Creek Street. We were worried that Cobey might be sick for the trip but after one day and night in bed he was fine. We did the Lumberjack Show for our excursion that day and it was corny but fun. We planned to take the bus to some totem poles but we skipped that because of Cobey and the rain.

Lumberjack Show

 

Port- Icy Strait Point 

We did a combination tour of Hoonah Sightseeing and aTribal Dance. We had a wonderful tour guide who was a Native Tingit and we learned a lot about the  culture. The best part of the sightseeing part was seeing a totem pole and mural project in process. The tribal dance was fun and the kids even got me on the dance floor. After our tour, we shopped and walk around. It was really beautiful.

Icy Strait Point Tribal Dance

 

Port- Juneau 

We were suppose to do a combination Mendenhall Glacier, Whale Watching and Salmon Bake. The Salmon Bake was cancelled because of the choppy seas we could not get to it. We first stop was the glacier which was interesting but not fabulous. I am glad we went but not sure I would go back. The whale watching was amazing. We saw Orcas and Humpbacks. By far the best part was we saw a male Orca breech which is so rare even the crew was excited. It will be one of our most memorable moments of the trip. After the excursion, we did a little shopping in port and that was when Claire really got into collecting all the free stuff in the coupon book.

Male Orca BreechMendenhall Glacier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Port- Skagway

We had such a great time the day before we did not know we could top it but the Dog Sledding Summer Camp came close. Even Cobey who did not much want to go on this one loved it. We had debated on this or the Dog Sledding on the glacier but this one was much much cheaper and we decided to go for the summer camp. We had the best tour guide who was a musher and so appreciative of us being there. Cobey loved it because we rode up to the camp in a military vehicle. Claire and he got chosen to ride in the cab which they loved. We had a blast riding in the wheeled cart as the dogs pulled us. On the way down, we got to stop at a beautiful overlook. Back at the bottom we learned more about the dogs and got to hold them. It was a great morning. We got backin town in time for a little shopping and then back to the ship.

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Port- Hubbard Glacier 

This was the only time I wish we had a balcony room. We could have sat on our balcony and viewed the glacier. I admit that I only saw it for a moment when I took Claire to find Bruce. Cobey and I pretty much slept thru it but if you have seen one glacier you have seen them all. Right?

Hubbard Glacier Hubbard Glacier

 

 

 

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Disney Dream Cruise

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Saturday May 7, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Crusies, Kid's Corner, Travel

We just got back last night from a cruise on the new Disney Dream. We went with our good friends-  the Carrolls on the four night cruise with stops at Nassau and Castaway Cay. This was our third Disney Cruise so we had high expectations. Some were meet and some where not.

First things to know before you go. They are still doing the Pirate night even bigger and better than before so bring your kids pirate costumes for added fun. If you have a little girl don’t forget her favorite princess costume, it makes the photos even better. They still have a formal night but now says optional. I would say overall people dressed more casual than previous cruises. I would say pack with what you want to wear and comfortable in. We will continue to dress up because I love to have photos made and don’t dress up normally so I like to on a cruise. We saw someone bringing in a case of water and a cooler. I will check the rules before we go next time because that could save some money.

The design of the ship is wonderful. They have thought of every inch and it is absolutely beautiful. I loved the curved hallway to our stateroom and the stateroom seemed to have more storage which is a great for a small space. We decided to try the room without a verandah this time and got an outside room with a porthole. It ended up being a great choice. The porthole is huge and the kids loved sitting in it. They actually fought over a time or two. We were second floor mid ship in a fairly inexpensive room and we loved our location. We were very convenient to everything. I would book the same if we were doing it again.

One of the highlights of the cruise was the excursion the kids and I took in Nassau. Bruce went diving and he said it was one of his better dives. We went on the Junkanoo Museum and Fort Tour. I picked it because the kids love forts and history. The Junkanoo Museum and tour was by far the best part. We went into a small house full of very elaborate costumes made from paper for the parade. We were told about the history of the Junkanoo. The tour guide was passionate and interesting. You can learn more about the history here:  http://www.bahamasgateway.com/junkanoo.htm. We then moved into another room where we got to use bells, whistles and drums. The kids loved it. Everyone got to taste three soft drinks that are made for Junkanoo. As we left we got to try on some Junkanoo. Check out the photos in the photo gallery. We then went to two different forts. The first one had a tour guide more interesting in tips than giving us information. The second tour guide was pretty good. The kids liked the story behind Queen Anne’s Staircase.

The service in the dining room was very disappointing.  The first night was terrible. We got our drinks after our first course and the service was overall slow. It did get a little better but our head server did not seem to understand English well enough to get request sometimes. One time our friends where handed a stateroom card that was not theres. They did not interactive with us like on previous cruises. This was not isolated case. I talked to other guest who had been on Disney before and all I spoke with said service was not as good. It seems the transition to the bigger boat has been a hard one. The food was excellent and they bent over backward to get meet my gluten-free diet.

The kids now get a GPS tracking band when they get on the ship. This was different from our previous cruises. The kids areas were designed different. They had the club and the lab that were linked in the back by a eating room. The kids could move from one area to the other freely.  My son loved driving the ship in the simulator. My daughter loved the dress up area. It seemed a little more chaotic to me than the smaller ship but that could have been just the sheer number of kids. The kids still loved it and spent lots of time there.

We were excited to see more characters on this cruise than previously on Wonder and Magic. I don’t know if this is a change across the board or just on the new ship. Some of the characters we did not see on previous cruises were the Incredibles, Woody, Jessie, Buzz, Ariel and Tiana.

I also loved the new option of buying all your photo on CD. It is a great deal for a family like ours that takes lots of photos.

The adult area with several lounges and a night club was very nicely designed. It was dead the times we went during our cruise. The spa seemed much more spacious. The treatment room I was in was huge. I had a seaweed wrap and massage. The treatment was wonderful. My only disappointed was the shower’s drain in the spa locker room had so much hair that it was blocked. Really grossed me out!

The Aquaduck which is the slide that goes over the ocean was a bit of a let down for me. You can’t really tell you are over the water and it is pretty slow. It was fun but I would not wait it a 30 min or longer line to ride it. The kids had fun riding it. My advice is to go during off times  like my son rode five times in row on the last evening after dinner. If you don’t plan to go ashore during port that is another great time. If you get on board early, head straight for it and you may not have a long line.

Claire and Bruce went to the Anyone Can Cook program and they both loved it. Claire loves all the cooking shows so I thought she would enjoy it.  Cobey enjoyed the Detective Adventure Games. They are really cool – kind of like Magic Quest with a different theme. We loved watching movies at the pool screen and in the movie theater. We saw Villains and Disney Dream. Both were great shows. There was so much on the ship that we did not get to like the good putt putt golf.

Overall, it was a great cruise and we booked another cruise for next year. We will be trying out the new route from New York to Canada. Can’t Wait!

 

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