Disney Cruise

Why are Disney Cruises so Expensive? The Real Reasons

Why are Disney Cruises so expensive? You could book a cruise with other companies for literally half the price of a Disney Cruise, which makes many people wonder why Disney cruises are so costly.

Cruises are not usually my preferred way to travel, but I make an exception for Disney cruises. My daughter was 5 years old by the time we went on our first Disney cruise, but it was by far, the most relaxing trip I ever took as a single parent. It was probably the only trip I took as a single parent where I actually felt relaxed. For this reason, and for the amenities that Disney Cruise Lines (DCL) offers to kids her age and younger, I would definitely sail on a Disney Cruise again.

To exact cost of your Disney Cruise will be based on the time you want to go, how many people in your group, and how many nights. Read my post on the cost of Disney Cruises here.

Otherwise -if you want to find out why they charge so much – read on.

Why are Disney Cruises so Expensive?

1. There are only five ships in total

Until recently, there were four Disney cruise line ships, but a new one has just been added to the family – the Disney Wish. There has been some talk about Disney retiring their oldest ship, the Disney Fantasy, so that may happen in the near future.

For now though, there are five Disney Cruise ships that exist in total: Disney Wish, Disney Dream, Disney Wonder, Disney Magic and Disney Fantasy. Having so few ships means that the demand is high, which inevitably leads to a higher price point.

2. Disney Cruises cater to families with young children

Unlike other cruise lines, Disney cruises are specifically geared toward families with young kids and that has a huge impact on how they plan their cruises,  activities and available amenities. Yes, there are adults without kids who go on Disney cruises on their own (because who doesn’t love Disney?) and other cruise lines of course welcome families as well.

But on a Disney cruise, the experience itself, from the restaurants, activities and events, is intentionally crafted to be a family-friendly experience. You can’t find this on other cruises.

Tiana's place disney wonder
Dinner in Tiana’s Place

This isn’t like a regular cruise where they have nice restaurants and a cool pool deck area. On a Disney cruise, you’re eating in Disney-themed restaurants where the magic from the movie can come to life.

3. The special Disney-theme and the activities that go with it

All cruise ships have activities, but Disney Cruise ships have activities that all of us have an emotional connection to because of our love and nostalgia for their movies and songs. Some of the Disney-themed activities that my daughter and I got to take part in FOR FREE on our Disney cruise included:

  • Meeting Disney characters. Some character experiences, such as the Princess Tea, need to be reserved when you make your booking for the cruise – but they’re still free. There are no fees or reservations required in order to meet Minnie or Mickey, Chip and Dale, Donald or Daisy, Captain Hook or Peter Pan. 
  • Watching a ‘Frozen’ live broadway performance – and it was spectacular – same quality as what I’d pay for a live production in a city.
  • Eating Mickey-mouse shaped icecream bars. You can order these anytime during your cruise, unlimited – included in the price
  • Eating in Disney-themed restaurants. The restaurants you’ll eat dinner in aren’t just regular nice restaurants; they’re Disney-themed. Each ship has its own restaurants, but all of them are based on a certain movie or character, or a Disney-related theme. For insurance, on the Disney Wonder (the one we sailed on) the restaurants were Triton’s, Tiana’s Place and Animator’s Plate. 
  • A deck party with classic Disney characters, such as Daisy, Donald, Goofy, Mickey and Minnie. There was music, dancing and fireworks
  • Pirates of the Carribean event. All guests were given Pirate’s Disney-themed bandanas and encouraged to ‘dress like a pirate’ (some guests went really all out (we didn’t.)
Meeting Belle
My daughter took a picture of me with Minnie

The types of parties, events and themes will vary depending on which cruise ship you sail on, and the time of year that you sail at – but these are the types of special Disney stuff that DCL offers that you can’t get from other cruises.

4. Disney Cruise Line’s commitment to ‘family friendly’ means that there are no casinos on the ship.

Other cruise lines will make money off of you spending money in their casinos. Since Disney is committed to maintaining a family-friendly experience on their cruise lines, they don’t have casinos.

5. Free coffee and non-alcoholic beverages and ice cream, all day long

Water, juice, tea, coffee and soft-drinks (provided they’re from a fountain) are free and unlimited, all day. So are the Mickey-mouse shaped ice cream bars. The only drinks that will cost extra are if you order it from a can or bottle – this will incur a surcharge. But as long as its from the fountain, its included in your cost.

Cocktail on Disney Cruise
My cocktail, which I paid extra for

6. Quality childcare options for kids ages 6 months – 17 years old

Most kid’s clubs at resorts and on cruises tend to start at around 4+ years old, but Disney Cruises offers childcare options for kids as young as 6 months old.

The childcare for babies and non-potty trained toddlers isn’t free, but it’s partially subsidized because the extra money you pay for it is cheap compared to how much that would cost you elsewhere.

It’s A Small World Nursery

  • Ages 6 months old to 3 years old
  • Cost is $9.00/hour per child and $8.00/hour for each additional sibling. This is fairly cheap as far as childcare costs go. 
  • You reserve these times and must do so as much in advance as possible, as the space is limited. It’s A Small World requires a minimum of four hours advance notice.
  • Disney characters occasionally visit the club throughout the day to interact with the kids (this isn’t something that could happen on any other ship)

Disney’s Oceaneer’s Club

  • Ages 3 -12 (must be fully potty-trained)
  • The Oceaneer’s Club has open house hours where people can visit as a family. So if your toddler is too young to be checked in during the day, you can still visit the Oceaneer’s Club and give your younger toddler a chance to play there
  • Unlike Its a Small World nursery, the Oceaner’s Club is unlimited and FREE, and no reservations are needed  
  • Like Its a Small World, meals are included
  • Disney characters occasionally visit the club throughout the day to interact with the kids

In addition to the childcare options, there is also supervised fun for older children. Edge for tweens (ages 11-14) and Vibe for teenagers (ages 14-17). During these breaks when children are being cared for, adults can get a much-needed break and a chance to enjoy amenities on the ship.

7. You get to enjoy Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay

You can visit all kinds of islands on cruise ships, but very few of these cruise lines have access to their own private island like Disney does. Castaway Cay is a mostly untouched island that Disney rents from the Bahamas.

Castaway Cay is beautiful, unpopulated and safe. Its also decorated to look as though its a shipwreck location. As guests of the Disney Cruise , you know that you’re the only ones that get to admire the picturesque sandy beaches and turquoise waters. (Of course, visiting Disney’s exclusive island only applies to their Caribbean cruises.)

Note: Not ALL Disney Cruises stop at Castaway Cay, but the ones that do tend to be a little bit more expensive than the ones that don’t. In general, Disney Cruises sailing from Florida and head to the Caribbean are more expensive than anywhere else in the world.

Castaway Cay
Castaway Cay

8. You can leave the ship or participate in a Disney Port Adventures while your children are in childcare

Most cruise lines do NOT allow you to leave the ship while your children are in the kid’s clubs. They can be in the kid’s club while you’re on the ship, but if you leave the ship, then they must come with you.

Disney however, does allow you to leave the ship while your kids are in childcare. You inform the place where your child will be staying (either It’s a Small World, or the Oceaneer’s Club) where you’ll be, and they give you a pager that allows you to be reached in the event that there’s an issue.

Disney Cruise
Our ship, the Disney Wonder!

Some parents may choose just to walk around Nassau, or whichever area the ship is docked at. Or, you could participate in a Port Adventure while knowing your little one is safely cared for.

9.  Organized, well thought-out meal arrangements

What I liked about Disney’s added touch was that they make dinner seating plans and seat you with people you may have things in common with. For example, my 5-year-old and I were seated with another single mom with a similar-aged son and some grandparents who were taking their daughter on the cruise. This way, my daughter had company in the other kids, and I had some adult companionship as well.

kid's meal at Animator's Plate on the Disney Wonder
My daughter’s kid’s meal at Animator’s Plate on the Disney Wonder

In addition, you have the same wait staff for all the meals. This allows them to get to know you and your family. It also helps if you have any dietary restrictions, that same person will be familiar with them.

10. Delicious food, that caters to dietary preferences

I personally found all of the food served on the Disney Cruises, whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner or snacks, delicious. Disney Cruises accommodate allergies, vegan, vegetarian, dairy free, no sugar added, halal, kosher and lighter note offerings at no extra cost.

You submit these requests up to three days before embarkation. Requests for halal and kosher need to be submitted five weeks before your sail date.

I was following a strict vegan diet at the time of my cruise, and I was very impressed with the lengths that DCL went to accommodate me. 

Vegan meal on Disney cruise
My vegan meal on Castaway Cay

They had completely separate vegan meal options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and honestly – they were all tasty and well done. When we stopped at Castaway Cay, a dairy-free brand of ice cream was brought out to the beach for me.

**Keep in mind: Disney Cruise Lines say they cannot ‘guarantee’ that their food is completely allergen-free, as their food depends on food-labelling and they do not have allergy-friendly kitchens and can’t guarantee a completely allergen-friendly meal. 

11. Adult-only areas on the ship

On a Disney Cruise, not only can you get a break from your own kids – but from kids all together. There’s an adult-only restaurant, bar and an adult-only pool on ship. There are also some adult-themed events, such as bingo.

I didn’t go to the restaurant, but I visited the pool briefly. It was relaxing to enjoy the hot tub, under the stars. I also sat in a bar to have a drink with the other single mom I met on the ship.

12. Disney Cruises support parents with babies and toddlers

Parents with babies and toddlers receive a lot of support on a Disney cruise, more so than they would anywhere else. You can request the following items in your stateroom, free of charge: diaper disposal units, bottle warmers, bottle sterilizers, playpens, formula, baby food and portable cribs (which your stateroom host(ess) can set up or take down for you.) You can even let your stateroom hostess know when your baby or toddler’s nap times are, and they can remember when to have the portable crib set up and when to take it down.

If you express the need for a high chair at meal times, then it will be waiting at your dinner table when you arrive for dinner. In addition, the chef will prepare food specifically for your baby if they aren’t eating solid foods -pureed banana, butternut squash, you name it!

So basically, the special Disney theme, the unique family experience and supply and demand is a big part of why Disney cruises are so expensive.

To sum it, here is what you get for the price on a Disney Cruise:

Included in the cost of your cruise is:

  • Accommodation
  • Port fees 
  • All breakfasts, lunches and dinners
  • Icecream
  • Soft drinks on tap
  • Coffee
  • 24-hour room service
  • Kids Clubs for ages 3 and up
  • Character meet and greets
  • Disney-themed restaurants, parties, shows, events and meet and greets
  • Swimming pools for (potty trained) ages 3 and up
  • Housekeeping
  • A visit to Disney’s exclusive, private island Castaway Cay (Caribbean cruises only)
We were sad to leave the Disney cruise!

Here is what you’ll have to pay extra for on a Disney cruise:

  • Airfare
  • Childcare for children under 3 
  • Salon and spa services
  • Soft drinks from a can, or bottled water
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Specialty coffees
  • Port adventures
  • Gratuities (these can really add up, so prepare for that)

Conclusion: Why are Disney Cruises so expensive?

Disney Cruises aren’t cheap, but they cater to families and young kids in a way that other cruise lines don’t. They also have a limited number of ships and sailing dates, which increases the overall demand.

The special Disney theme makes it possible for them to add a magic experience that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else. We hope this answers your question, ‘Why are Disney cruises so expensive?’