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

Sam I Am

 

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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7 Night Disney Cruise

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Monday Dec 15, 2014 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel

Disney Cruise 2015

This was our 5th Disney cruise and was my favorite so far There were so many magical moments and it was completely relaxing. The cruise was on the Fantasy and went to Castaway Cay, San Juan and St Marten.  I will just try to touch on the highlights of our trip

On The Ship

Claire, 10 at the time, was still in Club. She did not spend as much time in club as she had on previous trips. I think she felt a little old for it. We got permission for her to go to Edge with Cobey but she didn’t want to do it. Event though she didn’t enjoy club as much as she did on other cruises, she had a great time on the ship. She enjoyed watching movies, the shows,  swimming and she read a lot. Cobey on the other time spent a lot of time at the edge but also enjoyed the movies.  I had a seaweed wrap and massage which was delightful. I really enjoyed the shows and spent a lot of time read.

Porthole We had had rooms with balconies, inside rooms,and portholes. For our family, we never used the balcony and  Claire loves reading in the porthole so that is our preferred room. We love that Disney Cruise rooms have two bathrooms one with a sink and toilet and  one with sink and shower. Also, the rooms have great storage for a small space.

Food

????????One of Cobey’s favorite things about a cruise is eating.  He is a very adventurous eater. It is great he can try so many different things. I think the food is overall very good and sometimes great.   Bruce and I ate once at Palo.  You have to pay extra to eat at Palo and Remy. I always say I am not going to go back. I have never had a bad experience but just don’t think it is that much better for the money. Then I see all the rave reviews and I always go back to see what I am missing. Well after this time, I am not going back. (Someone please remind me.) The food was good, not great, but the one thing I didn’t like is now for the first course you have to get up and go to this buffet  where you point to what you want and they put it on your plate. I hate buffets and I certainly not paying extra for it.

 

 

Shows

Elsa Making it Snow

The quality of shows are so much better than on  other ships.  We loved Aladdin and  Dreams. The first night show is just okay so if you go the first night and don’t like it then don’t give up. You should go back for sure. We skipped the pirate show this time but we really have enjoyed it in the past. They had a special Christmas one in the lobby where Santa came and the highlight was Elsa making it snow. We always love the Farewell Party in the lobby  because you can see lots of characters in a short amount of time.

Characters

Photo bombed by Goofy

Sword Fight With Captain HookI always worry that this will be the trip that Claire will not want to see the characters but she was still interested. Cobey will take a few but overall he is not interested and hasn’t been in years. They have changed the princess gathering and you now get a free ticket from guest services. So when you get on the trip ask about tickets. This made the line very short and nice. W also got a ticket to see Elsa and Ana. Claire loved seeing them. One magical moment was when we were photo bombed by goofy when we were trying to get a photo for our Christmas card. Another one was when Claire had a sword fight with Captain Hook.

 

 

Royal Court Tea

Royal Court Tea

Royal Court Tea

This was extra and quite pricey but so worth the money. This was Claire’s favorite thing on the ship and probably mine too. Maybe even more than my seaweed wrap.  I may do a separate  blog in more detail about this alone. For now, it was a show, many gifts, great food and being treated like royalty all wrapped in one. She got a doll, a very nice scrapbook/autograph book, a music box, and a charm bracelet with charms from each princess.  Each princess came to each table and had photos with each child.  It was truly magical.

 

St Maarten

St Marten

????????We did the Tour of Two Flags. This was a tour of both sides of the island. It had a little history of the island and took you to different spots. It was disappointing and I wish we had just hired a taxi and done it on our own. This has never been my favorite island so that may have been part of it. The best part by far was the Italian gelato at Carousel Gelateria Bar which was delicious but I didn’t need a tour guide for that. Claire had fun on the carousel but  she is still talking about the key lime gelato.

 

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Horseback Riding  El Yunque National Rainforest

Claire

 

The boys were suppose to go diving but their tour was cancelled. They ended up touring the fort and of course eating. Claire and I had a great excursion horseback riding.  It was in the rain forest which was beautiful. The best part was the stop for at swim at the river. The guides showed Claire how the Native Americans made paint from the rocks in the river and they painted her face. We also had almonds straight from the tree. They showed us a magical leaf that held water and turned silver when wet. These “extras” are what made this excursion so special. I hope to be able to do the excursion again when we go back in January 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

Castaway Cay

 

Claire and Me Parasailing

We all went parasailing and it was awesome.  It was highlight of the trip for sure. When we were high up in the air, Claire said this is the best Disney Cruise ever. And I have to agree it was the best Disney Cruise ever. It will be hard to beat..

 

 

 

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Disney Cruise to Canada

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Monday Jun 25, 2012 Under Uncategorized

We took a five-night cruise from New York City on Disney Magic. This was our fourth Disney Cruise and our first non-Caribbean cruise. We had stops in Halifax and St. Johns. Overall, we had a good experience. The kids spend a lot of time in club. We allowed Cobey to check in and out of club himself, which made things a little easier. He did not care anything about the characters and only took a photo with them when we made him.   He was excited about the food and often ate off the adult menu. He tried lots of new food like Duck and Lamb. He was very adventurous.  I had problems getting a good gluten free meal, which was very disappointing.  I had steak two nights and both night I felt like I was eating a Golden Corral steak or worse.  The two nights I had fish where excellent.  I felt the food was better on Royal Caribbean. The service was okay. It was much better than on the Disney Dream .   Our assistant waiter seemed to have problems getting us drinks in a timely manner.  It was sometimes after our food and we often had to ask for refills. The headwaiter seemed better and the kids loved the magic tricks he did.  The kids went swimming one afternoon and they were the only ones in the pool because it was freezing outside and so rough that it was a wave pool.

 

In Halifax, my friend Elizabeth and I took the top ten attractions. Halifax was not that impressive of a town. It did not have the charm or beauty of other cities that I have been too. We had a tour of the public gardens, which was nice, and the view from Citadel was okay. The tour got better when we went to Peggy’s Cove. It is a very picturesque town where we had a Clam Chowder lunch and time to explore. I thought the best part of the tour was the last top, which was the Titanic Graveyard. It was very interesting to hear all the stories and our tour guide did a great job. Cobey and Bruce went to Citadel to be soldier for the day. Cobey had to sign enlistment papers, dress in uniform and march. He had a great time and thought the excursion was wonderful. Bruce dropped Cobey off at the ship and picked up Claire. They went to the Maritime Museum where they saw chairs from the Titanic and other artifacts. They also went to the gardens and saw the view from Citadel. Everyone ended up having a great day.

 Of the two ports of call, I really enjoyed New Brunswick, They welcomed the women with roses when they get off the ship. They really do make you feel like you are wanted there and not a bothersome tourist. Claire and I went to a tea with Alice in Wonderland. It was a little pricey but after all was said and done it was worth it and my favorite excursion. We first toured some gardens, which included a maze, petting and feeding medicine and a ladybug release. Claire really enjoyed placing the ladybugs on the roses. We then went to the area where they had kid size houses and the kids ran around and played while we waited for lunch. The lunch was tea sandwiches, scones and brownies. It was the best gluten free lunch that I had. Alice and the rabbit came out for pictures and signatures. It was really was the perfect setting. After the garden, we had a short shopping time in a nearby town of Anderson. It was a quaint town by the water. We found a cute little shop where Claire bought  a knitted mermaid and dolphin. I could have spend more time is this small little town.  While the girls were on their excursion the boys went on a kayak trip up the St John’s river. They kayaked up a smooth part of the river but were able to see a fossil bed in the cliffs that had been exposed by the river and also an eagle’s nest.  Back on the beach they had a mussel and lobster lunch with rhubarb pie for dessert.  They eat their lobster cold there which was a bit of a different experience.   On the way, the boys saw the Reversing Rapids.  The difference between low and high tide in this area is three stories this results in incoming tide pushing the river back upstream.  When the tide goes out all that water going back out to sea with the regular river flow results in class 6 rapids.

One of the highlights of the trip  by far was purchasing the entire Brave costume including wig and then leaving it on Claire’s bed.  She was so excited when she saw it. The next night they showed the Brave movie at midnight and Claire was dressed for the occasion. She looked awesome. The characters made over her and some of the cruise guests asked to have their photo with her. It was a wonderful evening.  Overall, we had a wonderful trip. It was the first Disney cruise that we did not book a future cruise.  We are planning on going with Carolina Homeschoolers on an Alaska cruise next year on Royal.  We decided we would wait and see how that goes. The kids really wanted to do Disney Fantasy so we will see.

 

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