Disney Cruise Line

A Royal Caribbean primer for the Disney Cruise Line fan in sticker shock

In:
14Apr2016

Disney Cruise Line released its Summer 2017 itineraries this week and many Disney Cruise Line fans very surprised by the pricing they found.

With this kind of sticker shock, there are some fans who have come to a similar conclusion as Dave.

If you are someone considering an alternative cruise that is just as fun, relaxing and far less costly as a Disney Cruise, Royal Caribbean is a great choice.  

That being said, we understand there is trepidation about changing cruise lines and leaving the warm embrace of the Mouse.  We are here to tell you that there's nothing to worry about and that a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation is very similar to a Disney Cruise (minus that price tag).

Here is our guide to how you can learn to stop worrying and love the Crown and Anchor.

Step 1: Disney and Royal Caribbean offer similar experiences

Before one can consider a Royal Caribbean cruise, I think it is important to understand that both Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean offer very similar experiences.

Both cruise lines are mass-market cruise lines that target family travel.

Both cruise lines embrace a strategy of building cruise ships that offer guests a lot to do onboard.

Both cruise lines have plenty for kids, parents, adults, grandparents and everyone of all ages to do and see.

In my experience, many ardent Disney Cruise Line fans have cruised Disney Cruise Line solely and a DCL cruise was their first cruising experience.  Give Disney credit, they are great at marketing their products and getting those new to cruising to give their cruise line a try simply because of the name recognition.

Believe it or not, I like the product Disney Cruise Line offers but like you, I also see this, frankly, crazy pricing Disney Cruise Line has and it is why we cruise with Royal Caribbean.

The first step in giving Royal Caribbean a try is to believe me when I say there are things Disney does better and there are things Royal Caribbean does better, but the bottom line is the experiences are more similar than they are different.

Step 2: Looking at what Royal Caribbean offers (besides price)

While price is a big deal, no one should book a cruise purely on cost factor alone. If that were the case, this blog post should be focusing on some other cruise line options.

Royal Caribbean has 24 (soon to be 25 next month) ships in its fleet and there are a few areas of the cruise experience Royal Caribbean greatly distinguishes itself from Disney Cruise Line.

Itinerary variety

Disney Cruise Line only has 4 ships in its fleet today, so it can only offer so many itineraries.  Royal Caribbean's fleet size means you can take cruises from Florida, Europe, Galveston, Baltimore, Alaska, New York, Australia, China and many more destinations for most of the year.

While Disney serves many of those areas too, they do so only occasionally and in many cases, there is not much variety in itineraries offered.

With Royal Caribbean, you can opt to explore more of the world via a cruise ship or visit your favorite spots again and again.

Ship features

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships are built to be meccas of onboard entertainment.

Royal Caribbean cruise ships may offer Broadway shows, ice skating, surf simulators, rock climbing walls, DreamWorks entertainment, multiple pools and much more.

Royal Caribbean ships offer adults-only pools, a wide variety of specialty restaurants, unlimited alcohol and drink packages, and a casino.

Many Disney Cruise Line fans that try Royal Caribbean often comment about the wide variety of stuff to do while onboard.

Step 3: Kids, kids and kids

Earlier in this post, Disney's brand recognition was cited as a reason why many choose to cruise with Disney Cruise Line in the first place, but children are also a big factor.

I get it, Disney and kids are nearly synonymous with each other and many parents are concerned how could any other cruise line compare to what Disney offers for kids.

While Disney does a great job with kids and kids programming, Royal Caribbean has stepped up their children's programming in recent years and it is much closer to what Disney offers than you may think.

Royal Caribbean offers complimentary programming for kids in its Adventure Ocean program, as well as teens in their own area.

The dedicated space for kids and breadth of programming has expanded greatly with each new ship class and for parents looking to cruise with children, the child care facilities on Freedom, Quantum and Oasis class ships should offer excellent choices.

Royal Caribbean also features on nearly all of its ships a nursery option, which for an additional hourly cost, can provide day care for children 6 to 36 months old.

Beyond child care, there is lots for kids to do onboard a Royal Caribbean ship.  Mini golf, ice skating, surf simulator, sports decks, video games, aqua parks and soon water slides are just a few of the options available.

In the Cruise Compass, guests can enjoy even more opportunities for activities throughout the day.

Step 4: (Thinking, considering & pondering) Making the jump

I hope by this point in this post you are thinking along the lines of, "I understand there is a huge price difference and the two cruise lines aren't really that different from each other."

If so, ask yourself this question next, "Why am I paying so much more for a Disney cruise?"

Answering this question may be the linchpin in the proverbial decision axle that convinces you to consider taking a Royal Caribbean cruise.

I think it would be foolish to assume every Disney Cruise Line fan that tries Royal Caribbean would be instant super fans and never look back, but I also believe (based on mine and others experience) that there is a good chance that making the switch would still result in a fun family vacation.

Look at the various options available to you in a Royal Caribbean cruise and consider the various itineraries and ships that might match up with what you are considering.

I often remind people considering Royal Caribbean for the first time, odds are they will still have a satisfying vacation on Royal Caribbean and they will either come around to cruise more with Royal Caribbean or opt to stay with the mouse.  In either case, it will be a good learning experience.

At the risk of shameless self promotion, here are some more resources on this blog to help guide you with what Royal Caribbean offers and what might be of interest to you

Have you cruised with Disney and Royal Caribbean? Share your thoughts on how they compare in our comments!

5 ways Royal Caribbean is different than Disney Cruise Line

In:
18Sep2015

When it comes to picking a cruise, often folks will consider different cruise lines in their decision of the right cruise for them.  We often receive questions about how Royal Caribbean compares to other cruise lines, especially Disney Cruise Line.

It is a natural comparison since both cruise lines target families and both cruise lines sail out of the same ports.  We wrote an extensive comparison between the two lines but today we have the top 5 ways Royal Caribbean is different than Royal Caribbean.  

If you are considering cruising on Royal Caribbean instead of Disney Cruise Line, here are some reasons why it makes sense.

5. Big emphasis on onboard activities

Royal Caribbean has focused on offering more and more onboard activities on its cruise ships over the years, with an emphasis on activities with a "WOW" factor.

Royal Caribbean ships have an ice skating rink, FlowRider surf simulator, mini-golf, rock climbing wall, sports court, bumper cars, sky diving simulator, X-Box gaming room and that is just scratching the surface.

At night, Royal Caribbean really pours it on with Broadway shows, game shows, trivia, comedians and more.

While Disney Cruise Line does offer things to onboard its ships, Royal Caribbean seems to offer a lot more on its cruise ships.  The Disney Tourist Blog put it best, "On our cruise, 'After Hours' was pretty much a ghost town every night after 11 p.m."

4. Many more specialty dining choices

Royal Caribbean has really invested heavily in specialty restaurants over the last couple of years and that means you will find many more dining options onboard a Royal Caribbean ship.

Granted, these specialty restaurants have an additional cost but so do Disney Cruise Line's specialty restaurants. The difference is often Royal Caribbean ships offer much more variety in the scope of specialty dining offerings.

If you relish in trying different cuisines and having a greater variety of selection, a Royal Caribbean cruise can offer you a lot to choose from.

3. Many more itineraries

This comes down to simple math, Disney Cruise Line only has 4 ships in its fleet so the itineraries offered are limited but Royal Caribbean has 23 ships in its fleet, so this means you can cruise to places all over the world nearly year-round.

Royal Caribbean has cruises to the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, China, Southeast Asia, Australia and more. And many of those itineraries are available for a larger portion of the year.    

Disney Cruise Line does serve some of these areas but in far less frequency, so for those looking for a cruise to somewhere beyond the usual, odds are there will be more to choose from on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

IN-DEPTH DISCUSSION BETWEEN ROYAL CARIBBEAN & DISNEY CRUISE LINE

2. Mega ships

Disney Cruise Line boasts the size of its Dream class ships, but their ships are no where near as large as Royal Caribbean's ships.

The Dream class comes in at 129,690 GT and a passenger capacity of 2,500 passengers at double occupancy.  On the flip side, Royal Caribbean has ships like the Oasis class that is 225,282 GT and can handle 5,400 passengers at double occupancy.

Then there's the Freedom, Quantum and Voyager class ships that are all significantly larger than anything Disney Cruise Line offers.

Size is not everything, but with a larger ship you get more to do onboard for kids, teens and adults.  These larger ships include so much to see and do onboard, having access to it all makes a big difference.

1. Price

Perhaps no difference between these two cruise lines is as pronounced as the price.

Disney Cruise Line charges a premium for its brand name, but on average, a Royal Caribbean cruise will cost you significantly less for a very similar experience.

I conducted a few checks for prices between the cruise lines to illustrate the differences.  I tried to pick sailings on the same date and same or nearby ports with the same stateroom category at the lowest price I could find.

These prices were accurate as of the date this blog post was posted.

Disney Fantasy 7-night Western Caribbean (April 2, 2016) - Verandah (11A): $4,683.38
Freedom of the Seas 7-night Eastern Caribbean (April 3, 2016) - Balcony (E3): $3,194.32

Disney Fantasy 7-night Eastern Caribbean (July 16, 2016) - Inside (11C): $4,791.00
Allure of the Seas 7-night Eastern Caribbean (July 17, 2016) - Inside (N): $2,536.06

Disney Wonder 7-night Alaska Cruise Itinerary A (August 1, 2016) - Verandah (07A): $6,851.38
Explorer of the Seas 7-Night Alaska Sawyer Glacier Cruise (August 5, 2016) - Balcony (E3): $4,334.02

Disney Magic 12-night British Isles Cruise Itinerary A from Dover, UK (June 5, 2016) - Verandah (07A): $13,185.56
Navigator of the Seas 10-night Canaries Cruise from Southampton, UK (June 6, 2016) - Balcony (D3): $4,325.12

Disney Magic 7-night Western Mediterranean Cruise Itinerary B (August 27, 2016) - Verandah (07A): $4,922.80
Harmony of the Seas 7 Night Western Mediterranean Cruise (August 28, 2016) - Balcony (D8): $3,976.98

As you can see, the price difference between the two cruise lines is often thousands of dollars.  

You can tout all the things you can get on Disney Cruise Line gives you for free that Royal Caribbean may charge you for but I think most cases, the price difference more than makes up the difference.

Having sailed both cruise lines extensively, I can tell you that both cruise lines offer a very similar experience: great dining, terrific crew and fun onboard.  So why pay so much more for one over the other?

First time cruisers: Comparing Royal Caribbean to Disney Cruise Line

In:
22Dec2014

For many families, they have to pick the right cruise for their vacation and there's no doubt two of the titans of the family cruise market are Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line.  We get so many questions about this topic that we wanted to look at how they compare to each other.

It should be noted right away that picking a cruise line over another is quite subjective and there's always going to be differing opinions on this, but we try to remain as objective as possible.

What Royal Caribbean does well

Royal Caribbean has a few "core competencies" where it generally exceeds at and these are areas that if important to you, could sway your opinion

Latest and greatest

If you want to cruise on the newest cruise ships with the latest uber-cool cruise ship innovations, then Royal Caribbean is the line for you.  They build new ships quite regularly, with another four cruise ships on order as of this blog post.

Besides bragging rights, these new ships offer the latest in cruise ship trends as well as the very best in accommodations, dining, technology and entertainment.  We love older ships but there's no beating a brand new ship for what it offers.

World wide itineraries

From the Far East, to Australia to the Middle East, Europe and Alaska, there's lots of Royal Caribbean ships sailing these waters throughout the year.   Its ships sail to every continent except Antarctica on cruises ranging from three nights to 18 nights.

Because Royal Caribbean has a substantially larger fleet than Disney, Royal Caribbean has been focusing on serving the international markets to expand its market share and that's resulted in a lot of itinerary variety to choose from.  Often, there's a Royal Caribbean ship in one of these major regions in addition to the well-represented North American cruise corridor.

When you're looking for something more than another cruise to the Bahamas, it's hard to beat what Royal Caribbean offers.

Unlimited alcohol packages

Simply put, you can get reasonably priced unlimited alcohol packages on Royal Caribbean ships that give you a fixed price for your onboard consumption.  

Adults will be able to know in advance how much this cost will be and even pre-pay it to help break up the cost of the trip.  While we personally find the unlimited drink packages to be more than what we need, many adults enjoy the convenience of the packages.

LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST EPISODE COMPARING ROYAL CARIBBEAN TO DISNEY CRUISE LINE

What Disney Cruise Line does well

If you're wondering what Disney Cruise Line does better than most, here's a quick rundown of our experience.

Overall dining experience

Excluding specialty restaurants, we think Disney Cruise Line's complimentary restaurants are quite well planned. Guests get to try a different restaurant each night with the same wait staff "following" them around between restaurants.

In addition, the restaurants on Disney Cruise Line are not just rooms with food.  Each restaurant has a unique look and feel to it and they stand out in terms of their atmosphere.

For sailing of 4-nights or more there are different themed menus. So, even though you eat in the same dining room again you'd have a different dinner. At times they are themed to the region for example Mediterranean or Taste of Alaska.

Free soda

If soft drinks are your thing, there's no beating the complimentary soda available on Disney Cruise Line.  

Royal Caribbean charges per soda or offers beverage packages that cover them, but on Disney Cruise Line offers unlimited fountain soda, regular coffee, tea and water.  

For kids and those that just love a good Coke, it's a big cost savings when you consider how much Royal Caribbean would charge to drink the same amount onboard their ships.

Stateroom size and offerings

Since it's inception, Disney Cruise Line has offered more space and options in its staterooms than anyone else in the cruise industry,

While Royal Caribbean has narrowed the gap in recent years with its newer ships, Disney Cruise Line offers more square footage and bathtubs in the majority of staterooms.

Inside staterooms on the Disney Dream (one of Disney Cruise Line's newest ships) have square footage of 169 square feet, whereas on Oasis of the Seas inside staterooms begin at 150 square feet).

Blurred Lines: How the two compare in other areas

Both cruise lines do a lot of things well and it's harder to pick a winner among the two without getting into some real personal opinions.

Entertainment

Disney came into the cruise space with its well known ability to create compelling shows.  Disney puts on a lot of stage shows that garner rave reviews and they also offer character meets with Mickey, Minine and many other characters and princesses.

Disney Cruise Line also offers fireworks at sea, whereas Royal Caribbean does not.

Royal Caribbean has really upped its game in recent years.  Many Royal Caribbean ships feature Broadway shows such as Cats, Mamma Mia, Chicago and more.  Royal Caribbean has also partnered with DreamWorks Animation to offer just as many character meets, film showings and general character interactions as Disney.

For adults, Royal Caribbean's entertainment may be a stronger choice given their shows gravitate to them more so than children and there's also a greater variety of shows to choose from.  In addition, Broadway shows are of a higher caliber display than Disney's shorter shows based on their films.

Activities

You will find plenty of onboard activities for both cruise lines.  Bingo games, dance lessons, demonstrations, tours and more can be found on both cruise lines.  Both lines also offer swimming pools, sports courts, spas, gyms, shows, bars and entertainment lounges.

Royal Caribbean offers ice-skating rinks, rock climbing walls, surf simulators, mini-golf, movie theaters and a lot more.  Oh and did we mention there are no casinos on Disney Cruise Line?

Disney Cruise Line offers a water coaster, water play areas for kids, and slides in their pools.  There's also scavenger hunts, trivia, tasting classes, and more on Disney Cruise Line.

Child Care

Both cruise lines offer child care included in the price of the cruise.  

Both lines offer kids clubs for children, young teens and teens.  In general, Royal Caribbean's clubs are more structured in terms of their daily routine but Disney Cruise Line has a more "open" policy to their child care programs, that encourage the children to explore and try what they find interesting.

Both lines do have nursery options that have a per-hour cost.  

Private islands

Both cruise lines have private islands the cruise line operates that offer a very well-maintained and beautiful destination.  With good weather, it's hard to really which is more beautiful than the other (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?).

Disney Cruise Line has Castaway Cay in the Bahamas that is widely regarded as a beautiful island with lots to do for adults and children.  We also find the beach sand to be softer and less rocky than Royal Caribbean's.  

On Castaway Cay you will find 5k races, great snorkeling, and a private beaches for adults.

Royal Caribbean has two private islands, Labadee in Haiti and CocoCay in the Bahamas.  Both islands are gorgeous and a great place for a beach day.  Given their respective locations, western and eastern Caribbean itineraries usually include a stop at one.

Labadee also offers an aqua park, zip line and roller coaster for an additional cost.  CocoCay is more basic in its offerings and also requires tendering to get to the island.

The crew

Both crews do an admirable job at keeping their guests happy.  From customer service, to wait staff to the people that turn down your bed, both cruise lines work hard to keep guests smiling.

Disney has built a reputation over many decades for a hard working staff that is always looking to improve.  From its theme park origins, the Disney Cruise Line crew members want to make your cruise better and offer tremendous service.

Royal Caribbean's crew is just as good, with their service always looking to "WOW" its guests.  For the crew, wow is more than a marketing slogan, it's the group mantra.  You will find smiling faces and a can-do attitude onboard Royal Caribbean that is always asking how can they make your cruise better. 

The X-Factor: Cost

There is a big difference between Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean that is hard to ignore and that is the cruise fare price.

Royal Caribbean is usually considerably cheaper in cruise fare compared to Disney Cruise Line.  In a study by the Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean's prices were on average 60-70% less than Disney for very similar cruise experiences.

To put this in perspective, seven-night eastern Caribbean cruises out of Port Canaveral in the second half of 2015 were over $7200 for an inside cabin (depending on date) compared to Royal Caribbean's prices of about $2200 - $3000.  That's a lot of money.

We are the first to admit the onboard experience of a Disney Cruise and a Royal Caribbean cruise are very similar, so it's hard to justify the prices Disney Cruise Line charges for their product.

Summary

After reading all of this, you have to start deciding which aspects of your cruise vacation are more important to you to pick the right choice.

Given the fact this blog is centered around Royal Caribbean cruising, it's obvious where our allegiance lays but it's important to recognize what the competition does well too.  Royal Caribbean is far from perfect and when you look at the right cruise for you, it's always important to have as much information as possible.

In a nutshell, Disney Cruise Line offers a wonderful product with lots of entertainment and plenty for the kids.  Royal Caribbean counters with phenomenal ships, lots of options to choose from at a great value.

I also wanted to give a big thanks to Scott from Disney Cruise Line Blog for making sure I was fair to Disney Cruise Line in this post.  Check out his blog for some really good coverage of all things DCL.