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Disney World vs Disney Cruise: Which is better?

Updated: Jun 24

Disney is an incredibly magical experience, no matter which route you take. However, visiting the theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort is a completely different experience than choosing to sail on a Disney Cruise! As such, this blog post will encompass the main differences between the two Disney experiences.

Location


Cinderella's Castle at the Walt Disney World Resort

The Walt Disney World Resort is on land, so you do not have to worry much about being on a floating vessel, and if you do end up on a boat at Disney World, it is for a short time, and you can typically avoid it. 

On the other hand, a Disney Cruise is spent on a ship cruising through the ocean, although you do have port days where you will get the opportunity to explore different islands or countries.

Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship

If you are afraid of the ocean or ships, a Disney Cruise may not be the best choice. However, if you experience seasickness, you can still enjoy a Disney Cruise by bringing motion sickness remedies to help manage it.

Getting to Each Location


For a Walt Disney World vacation, you have to drive or fly to Central Florida. There is no getting around this requirement.

A hand holding a florida sticker with a dolphin, palm trees, and sun on it

However, for a Disney Cruise, you have multiple departure options, some of which may be within driving distance, offering more flexibility and potentially lower costs.

Here is a list of cruise ports that Disney Cruise Lines sail from throughout the year:

Auckland, New Zealand
Barcelona, Spain
Brisbane, Australia
Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
Copenhagen, Denmark
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Galveston, Texas
Honolulu, Hawai'i
Melbourne, Australia
New Orleans, Louisiana
New York, New York
San Diego, California
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Southampton, England
Sydney, Australia
Vancouver, Canada

Lodging


Disney's Hollywood Tower of Terror Hotel at Hollywood Studios

If you are not local to Disney World, you need overnight accommodation. Options include staying at a Disney World Resort, a hotel outside Disney property, or a Vrbo or Airbnb listing.

Moreover, where you stay is dictated by your budget. For lower costs, consider a Value Disney resort. However, if these are still too expensive, you may need to explore hotels outside the Disney property or Airbnb listings.

If you have a larger budget, look into one of Disney's beautiful Deluxe resorts. Alternatively, you can also explore high-end options outside the Disney property, like the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes or the huge mansion houses on Airbnb with an arcade and movie room.

Princess and the Frog inspired inside stateroom on the Disney Wish

In contrast, on a Disney Cruise, your stateroom is included in your cruise fare. Your only decision is selecting the type of cabin: Interior, Ocean View, Balcony, Suite, or Concierge. This simplifies the lodging aspect of your vacation planning and can potentially save on additional costs.

Food



At Disney World, you buy your food a la carte. However, if you choose to stay at a resort, you can purchase a Disney Dining Plan, where you pay for your food ahead of time and then have food credits for meals, drinks, and snacks throughout your stay. 

The good thing about Disney World is that you can bring outside food to your hotel and the parks. With careful planning, you do not need to eat inside the parks and can explore dining options outside the Disney bubble.

4 box combo of chicken fingers with double fries and texas toast with a coke from Raising Cane's

US 192, located just south of Disney World, offers plenty of food options like Raising Cane's, Del Taco, KFC, Texas Roadhouse, Lazy Dog, Portillo's, and more. There is something for everyone along that road. Additionally, there is a Publix and Walmart where you can purchase deli items and other food supplies.


On a Disney Cruise, your food is included in your cruise fare. You only have to worry about where you want to eat! Disney Cruises has many complimentary food options to choose from. These options include sit-down breakfast and lunch, the buffet, the quick service locations, and the rotational dining restaurants for dinner. 

There are also specialty restaurants on board, such as Palo, Enchanté, and Remy, which come at an additional cost, but dining there is optional.

Disney Castaway Cay balls with Mickey, Pluto, Donald, and Goofy's faces on it

When you visit Disney's private island, Disney's Castaway Cay, and the new Disney's Lookout Cay, you can enjoy complimentary barbeques, as they are included in your cruise fare.

Additionally, at other ports of call, you can enjoy the local cuisine. However, if you are budget-conscious or prefer to spend your time exploring, you can eat on the ship before disembarking and after returning. This way, you can maximize both your time and your savings.

Transportation during your Trip


Monorail passing through EPCOT with gorgeous flowers below

If you are visiting Disney World and do not have a vehicle, your options for lodging and dining may be more limited. The good thing about staying on Disney property is that all Disney Resorts have free transportation into and out of the parks and Disney Springs. 

The various forms of transportation available while on Disney property include buses, the Skyliner, boats, and walking pathways. Additionally, you can use services like Uber or Lyft to travel anywhere, whether you are staying on or off Disney property.

Moreover, some hotels outside the Disney bubble offer shuttle services into and from the parks, either complimentary or for a surcharge. Relating to food, you can also use DoorDash, GrubHub, or Uber Eats while staying at the Disney resorts. Sometimes, these delivery services can be more cost-effective than eating at the Disney parks or resorts.

Disney Cruise Line vehicle used at Castaway Cay to transport the Disney characters

On a Disney Cruise, there are minimal transportation needs throughout your voyage. You only need to consider transportation when on the different ports of call. 

You can often address this by booking shore excursions that include transportation. For instance, if you are in Nassau, Bahamas, and are doing the Baha Mar excursion through Disney Cruise Line's Port Adventures, that includes transportation to and from the water park and lunch at the water park!

Experience and Entertainment



At Disney World, you have various entertainment options across four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios, as well as two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. 

Additionally, Disney Springs offers a vibrant entertainment and shopping district, and there is also mini-golf, regular golf, and numerous Disney resorts and restaurants.

DLT! with Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen

Within the parks, you will find live entertainment, shows, parades, meet and greets with your favorite Disney characters, rides and roller coasters for all ages and interests, and so much more! You can also indulge in character dining experiences with Mickey Mouse, the Beast, Snow White, Chip and Dale, and many others inside the parks and at the resorts.

DLT! with Daisy Duck at Disney's Castaway Cay

On a Disney Cruise vacation, you will also have the opportunity to meet different characters, including Marvel characters, who are not available at Disney World! They also have various daily activities and a few Broadway productions for your nighttime entertainment.

These daily activities include arts and crafts, trivia, game shows, and newly released Disney movies. There is always something to do on board at any time of the day. Although different from Disney World, Disney Cruise Line also offers character dining experiences in their rotational dining.

Pace



You can set your own pace for either Disney vacation you choose. However, a Walt Disney World Resort vacation is typically a fast-paced experience, where you try to catch every ride, show, and character meet-and-greet. Plus, there is a lot of walking at the parks, between parks, and at the resorts, which can easily lead to exhaustion.

In contrast, you can take a Disney Cruise Line vacation as slow or as fast as you want since there are fewer rides to go on, less waiting for character meet and greets, and more time to relax!

Pool deck - you can see funnel vision, part of the Aqua Mouse, the other water slide, pool chairs, and a little bit of a pool

For instance, you can spend an entire day lounging by the pool, watching movies on the big screen, and taking breaks only for meals. Or you can bounce around from activity to activity to stay busy all day!

Moreover, if you book a balcony room, you can start your day slowly by enjoying the breathtaking ocean views from your private deck. Then ease into the day with a morning stretch session at the gym and a warm beverage at the Adults Only Quiet Cove Cafe onboard the Disney Wish.

This flexibility allows for a more leisurely and restful vacation experience compared to the often hectic pace of Disney World.

Seasonal Considerations 


Woody at the entrance at Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios

Since Disney World is in Florida, you might want to avoid planning your family vacation there during the summer. The heat and humidity can be intense, often accompanied by frequent thunderstorms.

The good thing about Florida thunderstorms is that they typically do not last long. However, you will want to come prepared with misting fans, cooling towels, reusable water bottles, and ponchos if you visit during the warmer months of the year.

Serenity Bay, adults-only area at Disney's Castaway Cay

On the contrary, this time of the year is perfect for a Caribbean Disney cruise! The warm weather will pair well with the water slides, pools, and ocean water. Plus, if it rains, there are plenty of indoor entertainment options on the ship, and you can move around the vessel without getting wet.

Additionally, it is also an ideal time for an Alaskan Disney cruise. Despite Alaska's reputation for cold weather, summer brings milder temperatures, making it a delightful season to set sail and explore the breathtaking scenery.

Disney Wish from Snorkeling Lagoon in Castaway Cay

Consider planning your Disney park days during the cooler months to make the most of your outdoor experience! While it may still be warm and occasionally rainy, it is generally more comfortable than visiting during the hotter months from mid-June to September.

Conversely, January to February is not the best time for a Disney cruise. The weather tends to be chilly, even in the Caribbean, making it less enjoyable for activities like water slides, pool lounging, and beach outings.

The Bottom Line - Disney World vs Disney Cruise: Which is better?


Haunted Mansion at Disney's Magic Kingdom Park

As we reach the end, you might be wondering about the cost differences. In short, if you are flying into Disney World and staying at their resorts, you can likely find a Disney Cruise that matches the cost of your Disney World trip, and vice versa.

However, choosing between the two should not solely depend on which one is cheaper. Instead, in the planning process, establish a budget, decide on the type of vacation you prefer, and then explore pricing options accordingly.

For a rough estimate of Disney Cruise costs, check out my blog post, How much does a Disney Cruise cost? Pricing and More! Additionally, consider enlisting the help of a Disney travel agent to find the best deal and assist you in booking your trip!

The Disney Magic cruise ship sailing in the ocean

Furthermore, regardless of whether you choose a Disney World trip or set sail on a Disney Cruise, you are guaranteed to encounter plenty of magical experiences to treasure.

Deciding which Disney trip is better depends on the above factors and what you want from your experience! For instance, if you live in Galveston, Texas, and can only travel during the summer, consider booking a cruise on the Disney Magic!

On the other hand, if you live in Atlanta, Georgia, and want to experience the theme park magic during a school break, grab your theme park tickets and head to Disney World!

Nighttime fireworks at Magic Kingdom Park

There is no definitive answer on which Disney experience is better as they are both unique experiences, and you should try each at least once. Furthermore, I hope you found this comparison guide helpful in understanding how to choose the right Disney trip for you!

So, what are you thinking? Are you going on a Disney World adventure, or will you set sail on a Disney Cruise? Let me know in the comments below!

Not sure what to pack for a Disney cruise?



Check out my blog post, Disney Cruise Line Packing List with Printable. The article breaks down what you need for a Disney Cruise and why. You will also find Amazon links to purchase most of the items and a downloadable checklist.

Do you just want the checklist emailed to you?


Preview of the Free Printable Packing List for a Disney Cruise created by Dale, Let's Travel! LLC

Fill out this form with your first name and email address below to receive the link for a downloadable PDF version of this listing that you can print out and treat as a checklist.


Want to know what to pack in your Disney Park Bag?



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*This article is not sponsored by Disney, any of the above mentioned locations, or their affiliates.*

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