What is the Best Disney Cruise Ship? The Ultimate Guide to Itineraries, Dining and Entertainment

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The best Disney Cruise ship, Sail Away Deck Party on Disney Wish

If you’re considering taking a Disney cruise and wondering what’s the best Disney cruise ship, here’s some good news: You can’t go wrong with picking one of the five – soon to be six – ships that Disney has in service.

The Disney Magic started it all in 1998. The Disney Wonder joined the fleet the following year. Disney doubled their fleet size with the addition of the Disney Dream (2011) and the Disney Fantasy (2012}. Then there were five, with the addition of the Disney Wish on July 14, 2022.

The Disney Treasure will set sail in 2024, bringing the fleet to six ships, with the potential to bring that number to seven, with the addition of what’s currently the Global Dream, which Disney purchased from Genting Hong Kong at the end of 2022. Information on the remodel/renaming of the 280,000 gross ton ship is being kept under wraps.

The best Disney Cruise ship, Disney Wish decor
Disney Cruise Line has five ships, all with distinctive decor. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Disney Cruise Sister Ships

The Disney Wonder is the sister ship of the Disney Magic, and the Disney Dream is the sister Ship of the Disney Fantasy. This means the ships are nearly identical in layout, although some of the theming is different.

The new Disney Wish is unique and has a different layout than the other four ships. It’s expected the Disney Treasure will mirror the Disney Wish.

The Wonder and the Magic are often referred to as Classic Ships. The Dream and Fantasy are often referred to as Dream Class ships, and the new Wish and Treasure are Triton Class ships.

The best Disney Cruise ship, Disney Cruise terminal, Port Canaveral
Disney cruises sail from ports all over the world. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Sailing From Ports Worldwide

Disney Cruises sail from all over the world. Cruises departing from U.S. ports include Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Port Canaveral, Galveston, New Orleans, New York City, and San Diego. Select cruises also depart from Honolulu and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

International ports include Barcelona, Rome, Southampton, Vancouver, and the recently added New Zealand and Australian ports, including Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

Since there are only five ships, the routes change each season, and the ships move around and reposition. Look into one of Disney’s repositioning cruises for a unique – and longer – cruise. One ship will move from the Caribbean to Europe for summer cruises from Barcelona and Southampton, which results in a (roughly) two-week transatlantic cruise. When ships move from the port of San Diego back to the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean, repositioning cruises pass through the Panama Canal.

The best Disney Cruise ship, Beach at Castaway Cay
Most cruises from Port Canaveral sail to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Disney Cruise Line Itineraries

If you want to sail with Disney, you’ll find everything from two-night cruises to 15-night cruises. The two-night cruises are in Australia and New Zealand, and Baja Mexico cruises from San Diego.

If you’re interested in a Caribbean Cruise or a cruise to the Bahamas, you’ll find everything from three-night to seven-night cruises leaving from Galveston, New Orleans, and the Florida Ports.

Alaska cruises are seasonal, leaving during the summer from Vancouver. There’s usually one ship in Europe for the summer, sailing Mediterranean routes from Barcelona and to the Norwegian fjords from Southampton.

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The best Disney Cruise ship, Mt Rustmore at Castaway Cay
One of the most popular photo spots at Castaway Cay is Mount Rustmore. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Do You Want to Choose Your Itinerary Based on the Ship or the Itinerary?

You usually can’t do both unless the stars just magically line up for you, which is possible. If you want to cruise to the Bahamas on the Disney Wonder, you might have a wait ahead of you since the Wonder is currently going back and forth between Hawaii and Australia. However, if you just want to go to the Bahamas, you have many choices at any time.

If the Wonder is on your bucket list, you might have to wait awhile or travel far to reach the ship. After she’s done with the trans-Pacific cruises, she’s on to Alaska for summer cruises. New routes and schedules are typically released about 18 months in advance, but this isn’t an absolute, so watch the Disney Cruise Line website or ask a travel agent to monitor the releases if you’re set on a particular route, ship, or a combination of both.

The best Disney Cruise ship, Castaway Cay Lunch
One of the perks of going to Castaway Cay is that lunch is included. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Private Island Paradise – Times Two!

Bahamas sailings and select Caribbean sailings go to Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay. Castaway Cay is popular because it’s a gorgeous slice of paradise and a no-cost or low-cost excursion.

The pristine beaches with chairs, umbrellas, and towel service are included in the cost of your cruise. A BBQ lunch buffet complete with sodas and soft-serve ice cream is also included. Additional for-a-fee activities are available, such as paddle boarding, snorkel gear and bike rental, and massages on the beach, but it’s possible to have a spend-free day at Castaway Cay. There’s also an adults-only beach, Serenity Bay, which lives up to its name.

Disney is opening up a second island beach club location near Eleuthera, Lighthouse Point, in the summer of 2024.

The best Disney Cruise ship, Spiderman Worlds of Marvel
Most of the dinner show at World of Marvel is digital, hosted by Ant-Man and The Wasp, but there’s a surprise in-person appearance at the end. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Best Main Dining Room Dining Experiences

All Disney Cruise ships have rotational dining, which means passengers will rotate through three different dining rooms during their cruise. The serving staff rotates with the guests, which is a concept unique to Disney Cruise Line.

The main dining rooms on the Classic and Dream Class ships are very similar. The Magic, Wonder, Dream, and Fantasy all have an Animator’s Palate, a whimsical experience where animated characters come to life. All have a fairytale-themed restaurant near the ship’s atrium. The Magic has Lumiere’s, the Dream has Royal Palace, the Wonder has Triton’s, and the Fantasy has the Royal Court. The menu is the same or very similar at all of these restaurants.

The Magic and Wonder both have princess-themed restaurants with entertainment. On the Magic, it’s Rapunzel’s Royal Table; on the Wonder, it’s Tiana’s Place. Both of these venues have menus that are aligned with the theme. The Dream and Fantasy both have Enchanted Garden, a Versailles-inspired dining room.

Dining on the new Disney Wish

Disney’s newest ship has taken the main dining room game up a notch with all-new restaurants. The Wish’s main dining rooms are World of Marvel, a futuristic Avenger-themed restaurant with a show that’s mostly digital with a live component at the end, Arendelle: a Frozen Dining Adventure, and 1923, which is named for the year Walt Disney Studios was established.

Worlds of Marvel serves a varied menu with the names of the dishes giving nods to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Arendelle has Nordic-inspired food, and 1923 has sophisticated but approachable California cuisine.

Adult Dining on Disney Cruise Line

All ships offer one or two adult dining experiences that aren’t included in the cost of the cruise. The Magic, Wonder, Dream, and Fantasy all have Palo. Palo serves brunch and dinner and focuses on Northern Italian-inspired cuisine.

The Dream and the Fantasy both have Remy, an upscale French restaurant named for the rat in Ratatouille. Remy serves dinner, brunch, and a dessert experience.

The Disney Wish Switches It Up Again

Things are done differently on the Wish as with the main dining rooms. The Wish has Palo Steakhouse, which, as the name suggests, is more steak-focused but still Northern Italian-inspired. Brunch and dinner are both available.

Instead of Remy, the Wish has  Enchanté by Chef Arnaud Lallement. Instead of Ratatouille theming, Enchanté is Beauty and the Beast themed. I haven’t had the opportunity to eat at Enchanté – yet – but reviews indicate the pricing and experience are very similar to Remy.

Best Disney Cruise Ship Water Slide

Each of the five ships in the Disney Cruise Line fleet has some type of waterslide. The Dream and the Fantasy have the AquaDuck, a slide where riders sit in an inflatable raft, whiz around the ship in an acrylic tube, and are treated to ocean views and a bird’s eye view of the pool deck.

The Magic has the AquaDunk, a body slide that shoots riders in a clear tube extending over the ship’s side. The rider gets in position then the floor disappears from under them, making this a fast and thrilling ride.

The slide on board the Wonder might be perceived as a letdown after the thrills described above. There is a slide called the Twist n’ Spout, which is a 250-foot twisty body slide. The height requirement to ride the Twist n’ Spout is 38” whereas the height requirement to ride the AquaDunk and AquaDuck slides is 48”. That alone gives you an idea of how the thrill levels compare.

The New AquaMouse

The AquaMouse is a water coaster type of slide similar to the AquaDuck, but there is a pre-show of sorts where riders travel up an incline conveyor belt while Disney animated cartoons, complete with well-timed squirts of water, play on the walls. The slide is mostly enclosed, including one area where the tube swings out over the side of the ship, giving the rider the sense that they’re careening off into the ocean. The height requirement is 48” to ride alone.

The best Disney Cruise ship, Star Wars area on Disney Wish Oceaneer Club
All of the kid’s clubs on board Disney cruises are great but the Wish is definitely out in front. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Disney Cruise Ship Kids Clubs

Kids’ activities are included on each of the five ships. All ships the following:

  • Oceaneer Club – Ages 3-12
  • Edge tween club – Ages 11-13
  • Vibe teen club – Ages 14-17

Each ship also has a Small World Nursery for babies six months and older and other tots under age three. The nursery isn’t included in the price of the cruise, and reservations are required.

My kids have been in the Oceaeer Club on the Wonder, Magic, Dream, and Wish, and Edge on the Magic, Dream, and Wish. The Wish wins hands-down for best Oceaneer Club. Although the kid’s clubs are pretty cool on all of the ships, the Wish takes it to the next level with interactive Star Wars and Marvel Superhero Academy areas. All Oceaneer Clubs have a play area for art projects and unstructured play, as well as movies and special character meet and greets that are exclusive to the kid’s clubs.

I think Vibe on the Wish and the Magic are equally cool and that the coolest Edge is on the Wish. However, I have two 13-year-old sons who insist Edge on the Magic is the best. It’s small and dark and seems almost like an afterthought, but the experts have spoken.

Best Disney Cruise Staterooms

We’ve sailed on all the ships except the Disney Fantasy and stayed in everything from inside staterooms to one-bedroom concierge suites. My family has been happy with all of our accommodations and found negligible differences in stateroom quality across the classic ships and the Dream.

We had a small maintenance issue in a stateroom on the Magic, which is showing signs of wear and tear and is due for some refurbishment. This didn’t interfere with our enjoyment of the ship overall. The Disney Wish is the newest and shiniest. The staterooms feel larger, there’s a bigger television set, and robes are standard issue, which they aren’t on the other Disney ships. The Wish also has a ton of USB outlets built into the room, unlike the other ships, which were built during an era when USB ports weren’t such a necessity.

If going by the stateroom alone, I’d say the Wish wins out of all the other Disney Cruise Line ships. However, I don’t recommend choosing a cruise because of the quality of the stateroom because you won’t spend that much time there. Even though the Wish’s staterooms are nicer, the others are above average in comfort and amenities.

Best Shows and Entertainment

All of the ships had a Walt Disney Theater where three Broadway quality shows will be shown. Longer cruises have other entertainment, such as comedy acts and illusionists. The four older ships have the Buena Vista Theater, which show first run movies and other Disney movies.

Shows on the Wish

The Wish has the Walt Disney Theater but instead of the Buena Vista Theater, they have two small movie theaters, the Wonder Land Cinema and the Never Land Cinema. The shows on the Wish are a new version of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Seas the Adventure, a Disney Cruise Line exclusive show about first mate Goofy following his dreams.

Other Shows on Disney Cruise Line

The current lineup of shows on the other Disney Ships are as follows:

  • Disney Magic: Tangled the Musical, Disney Dreams: An Enchanted Classic, and Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story.  
  • Disney Wonder: The Golden Mickeys, Frozen, and Disney Dreams.
  • Disney Dream:  Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, and Disney’s Believe.
  • Disney Fantasy: Aladdin, Disney’s Believe, and Frozen.

All shows are about 50 minutes long, and there are two shows each evening.

The best Disney Cruise ship, Pirate Deck Party on Disney Wish
The Wish has two pirate parties. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

Best Pirate Night

Select itineraries have pirate night, which includes Disney characters dressed up as pirates, pirate-themed entertainment, and menus and fireworks at sea. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, or Goofy in their pirate garb is really cute, and you won’t see that anywhere else except on a Disney Cruise.

The Wish wins for best pirate night. A pirate dance party with Mickey and friends early in the evening, around 7:00 pm, lasts about 15 minutes. There’s a second celebration later, around 10:00 pm, called the Pirate Rockin’ Parlay Party, which features 30 minutes of a rowdy pirate band playing 80’s rock music. The Pirate Rockin’ Parlay Party ends with fireworks at sea.

Best Theme Park + Cruise Combination

Sometimes known as a land and sea vacation, the proximity of Port Canaveral to Walt Disney World makes combining two Disney vacations fairly easy. There’s even Disney transport from the Walt Disney World Resorts and Orlando International Airport.

If you’re interested in this type of vacation, you won’t find a shortage of cruises sailing from Port Canaveral, and I recommend you pick the one that aligns with your preferred dates versus trying to choose the best Disney cruise ship. They’re all pretty great, and if you select a cruise that sails to Castaway Cay (most cruises out of Port Canaveral do), it’s a double win.

So, What’s the Best Disney Cruise Ship?

It depends on who you ask. Disney Cruise Line definitely pulled out all the stops with the Disney Wish. It’s shiny and new with the most bells and whistles, but does that make it the best? My favorite has always been the Disney Wonder. It was my first Disney Cruise, so there’s probably some nostalgia going on there. I like the smaller ships’ layouts the best, and I think Tiana’s Place has the best food.

The best is in the eye of the beholder.

Jill Robbins is a freelance writer covering lifestyle, travel, health, and commerce. Her writing has appeared in SheKnows, HuffPost, Tripsavvy, Insider, AARP, and other publications. Jill lives in San Antonio with her husband and two youngest kids, although she’s usually somewhere else. You can find out what Jill is up to by reading her blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals.
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