Discovering the Disney Cruise Line Difference

Disney Fantasy (photo: Jason Leppert)

Discovering the Disney Difference

by Jason Leppert

If you’ve never sailed aboard the Disney Cruise Line, you’re truly missing out on a spectacular cruise vacation. Do yourself a favor and put aside any perception of a fleet grossly overrun with children as that’s surely an exaggerated one, and be reminded that while the line’s cruise cost is above average, you definitely get what you pay for in spades. Discover the joys in store exclusively onboard a Disney cruise.

The Disney Cruise Line at its core represents the quintessential Disney experience and thus the overall jewel of the brand – an evaluation coming from a lifelong Disney fanboy who has enjoyed the company’s properties internationally. Even if you’re not a Disney fan, there’s no denying that Disney’s dedication to creativity applied to ocean cruising results in a top notch travel experience on all levels.

Entertainment for All

The AquaDuck water coaster. (photo: Jason Leppert)

Disney refers to what sets the line apart from the competition as ‘Disney differentiators,’ and there are many of them, the most apparent of which is entertainment. While other lines have successfully partnered up with outside entertainment properties, only Disney can boast the synergy that comes from an in-house library of timeless stories and characters.

As you would expect, the cruise line has costumed characters onboard just like at its shoreside theme parks. Except, the passenger to character ratio – to coin a new ship measurement – is far fewer here than for guests in the parks, allowing for easier and quicker access to your favorites. And let’s face it, traditional shipboard photo stations are made considerably more fun when Mickey and Minnie are around, in nautical attire no less.

The production and movie theaters on the Disney ships are state-of-the-art and house the best shows on a cruise I’ve ever seen. The extensive use of the venues to their fullest potential with elaborate staging and expert audio and visuals astounds, but even more than that, it’s Disney’s signature storytelling and performances featuring a cast of instantly recognizable characters that impress.

Fireworks at sea, only on Disney! (photo: Jason Leppert)

What’s more, Disney also screens its catalog and first-run films onboard including premieres that coincide with their counterparts in the States, but the real stunner is the only fireworks show at sea. On the top decks once a cruise, the ships launch pyrotechnics into the sky in an elaborate and colorful display that really is magical in such a unique oceanic setting.

Also, the main reason you don’t have to be troubled by an abundance of kids onboard is because they are given nearly an entire deck to themselves with plenty of great spaces to keep them fully entertained. Due to so many children’s facilities – including those just for teens and tweens – the only shipboard omission in the Disney fleet is a casino which is surprisingly not missed by the adults since they get their very own exclusive ship spaces.

Dining and Staterooms

Animator’s Palate (photo: Jason Leppert)

Disney also cleverly introduced rotational dining where each evening you are assigned a new restaurant, one of three distinctly themed venues, but rather than being passed off to a different wait staff with each dining room, your familiar waiter and assistant waiter rotate with you. This is great for kids to keep their attention as well as adults who appreciate the beautiful nuances of each restaurant.

Another clever offering are the available split bathrooms in the staterooms with a sink and shower separate from another sink and toilet. This great innovation lets families get situated for their day much more conveniently and with added privacy.

On Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy

Of course, the two newest ships in the fleet, being considerably larger, offer their own share of exclusives not found on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. The most significant addition on these ships is the thrilling AquaDuck water coaster on the top deck. This water slide not only has exciting dips and turns but also uphill climbs, all in a transparent tube that looks over the ocean.

Animator’s Palate is one of the rotational dining rooms offered on all four ships in the fleet, but on the Dream and the Fantasy, they’ve integrated the shoreside Turtle Talk with Crush attraction into the restaurant where the titular turtle has an amusing conversation with all the diners as you enjoy your meal.

These ships also feature Magical Portholes for the inside staterooms – digital viewports to the horizon outside the ship with playful characters superimposed. The Enchanted Art onboard showcases interactive displays that animate when you approach them, and many of the pieces are also part of the Midship Detective Agency scavenger hunt that transforms the art into interactive elements for each game.

The AquaLab. (photo: Jason Leppert

Exclusive to Disney Fantasy

On just the Disney Fantasy – with her focus on longer seven-night voyages – the Muppets are onboard for a bonus Midship Detective Agency game. The only Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at sea is also found on the Fantasy. At this retail experience, girls can get made up as princesses and boys, on one of the days, can get done up as pirates. And the AquaDuck receives the extra AquaLab water play area for all ages to playfully ‘control’ the functions of the water coaster while getting duly soaked in the process.

(photo: Disney Cruise Line)

While Animator’s Palate is home to Crush on both the Dream and the Fantasy, only on the Fantasy does this restaurant have Animation Magic to look forward to on one of the nights. This fantastic show invites you to draw your own character on your placemat before seeing your character animated alongside Disney’s beloved characters on screen later in the evening. It’s a hoot to see your drawings come to life via Disney’s wizardry.

So as you can no doubt tell, you do get plenty of bang for your added buck onboard the Disney Cruise Line, and there is much to behold during each voyage. I myself will next be joining a seven-night California Coastal cruise on the Disney Wonder on September 16, 2012. This particular sailing is one of four showcasing Pixar and will even have John Lasseter onboard. I invite you to follow my live voyage review over at

Also for more information on the new Disney Fantasy, you can read my extensive written review here ( and watch my video review here (


At 28 years of age, Jason Leppert is a cruise expert with 48 sailings under his belt and a fresh, youthful perspective on the industry. He has been cruising since before he was even two years old thanks to his parents’ shared passion for traveling and their desire to experience all journeys together as a family.

Before starting (, his own cruise travel website, Jason was a regular contributing editor at CruiseMates and has been featured in the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper. Viking River Cruises also quoted one of his reviews in the line’s 2013 voyages brochure.



Mike Faust

Mike Faust is an avid world traveler, often found traversing city streets in Asia and Europe rather than his home city of Boca Raton. Mike has touched down in 39 countries, set sail on 35 cruises, and flown over 400,000 lifetime miles.