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Comparing a Walt Disney World Vacation with a Disney Cruise: A Disney Destinations Planning Article

by Lori Ketcherside, PassPorter Guest Contributor
Last modified 01-14-2016

Whether you hit Disney on the surf or turf, did you ever wonder whether there’s a big difference between the two vacations? Will switching it up still feel like a “Disney” vacation or does the magic get lost in translation?

Last week as my six-year-old wrote her first compare/contrast paragraph (on Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line of course!) I realized that in many ways they are sibling experiences. While they both share Uncle Walt’s smile and storytelling, each grew into a very unique vacation.

Ten Ways Walt Disney World and Disney Cruises are Exactly the Same (and TOTALLY Different)

10. Characters
Mickey and the fab five, the Disney Jr. characters, Stitch, the princesses, pirates and even the Frozen friends appear! While random character encounters, particularly with the big cheese, have disappeared on land, on the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) they happen with a startling regularity. To the point that kids will do a wave a keep walking the opposite way down the hall because they’ve seen so many characters that day. Though times to see and meet the characters onboard are plentiful, the variety of characters available is usually limited compared to Walt Disney World (WDW). If you’re in search of a meet and greet with Pocahontas, Mulan, or Snow White you may be out of luck as they are often busy visiting Walt Disney World. In either case, you want to pick up a ticket (through Guest Services at DCL, FastPass+ at WDW) to meet the Frozen Friends.

9. Interactive Experiences
Disney recently blossomed into an interactive explorer’s dream. With adventures ranging from Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure, Jedi Training Academy and the Wilderness Explorers at Walt Disney World and the Midship Detective Agency, Jedi Training - Experience the Force and Anna’s Chocolate Chase on Disney Cruise Line, you’re sure to find something exciting for the whole family.

8. Those Special Cast Members
While all cast members bring their own touches to their roles, every trip I run across at least one person who is practically perfect in every way. This is why we always smile and nod when people ask if we’re going to Disney “again.”

7. See the World
Fancy breakfast in a Parisian Patisserie, the rest of your morning meeting dolphins, lunch in the Mexican twilight, an afternoon exploring Germany and dinner in Morocco next to an enchanted lagoon? Epcot is your best bet. The Kidcot Fun stops offer stamps and coloring activities. (They even have souvenir passport books available for purchase.) If you want to tour the eternal city, swim with dolphins in the Caribbean and enjoy a Mexican twilight over the open sea, Disney Cruise Line is more your speed. You want a real passport book rather than the Epcot World Showcase passport.

6. Adults Only Dining
Victoria and Albert’s, Walt Disney World’s premiere dining experience earned the AAA Five Diamond Award every year since 2000. The food, service and surroundings are superb. My kids would be happier spending an evening in the Sandcastle Club and although you are extremely unlikely to see children in this establishment, they do allow guest age ten and up to dine Palo and Remy both strictly enforce an eighteen and up age limit, as do many of the lounges on Disney Cruise Line during the evening hours. Much like their land based counter parts, the Oceaneer Club keeps my children happy and engaged long after I’m ready to go to bed.

5. Relaxation
Ah…to be holding down a lounger with the only care in the world remembering to reapply your sunscreen. Walt Disney World offers many different pools and water parks to suit a variety of vacationers. Sand bottom pools more your style? Stormalong Bay, exclusively for Disney’s Beach Club Resort guests might be the waterpark for you. Or there’s always Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay for the perfect toes-in-the-sand-hammock-umbrella-drink-paradise getaway. Then head back on the ship to be gently rocked to sleep as your ship heads back home.

4. Snacks
Whether you’re a Mickey Bar fan, soft pretzels or prefer all you can eat soft serve, DCL includes your snacks in the cost of your cruise. Packaged candies and popcorns cost similar amounts to at Walt Disney World. If you’re looking specifically for Mickey shaped pretzels, churros or Dole Whip floats, you’ll need to head off to Walt Disney World.

3. Entertainment
If you love Disney spectacles (and if you read PassPorter, there’s a pretty good chance you might) then Finding Nemo: The Musical, Illuminations and Festival of Fantasy top your must do list at Walt Disney World. Disney Dreams: An Enchanted Classic (and several other stunning stage shows) fill this niche at sea. While the Pirates in the Caribbean Deck Party offers the best fireworks at sea, Walt Disney World has the best fireworks in the world. The deck parties offer something similar to the kinetic nature of the parades, but on a much smaller scale (no floats). There are far better odds of getting to dance with Minnie or Pluto during the deck parties than during a parade.

2. Rides
DCL features fun and quirky waterslides that differ from ship to ship. Exciting port adventures can be found for everything from zip lines, hikes and swimming with stingrays, if you’re into thrill seeking. You could see it as having no rides. Or the ship, in and of itself can be viewed as the longest continuously running most interactive ride ever developed by Disney. Walt Disney World offers every imaginable ride from a gentle soar through the air with Dumbo to escaping a yeti through the twists and turns of Mount Everest. And my children’s perennial favorite, the monorail. In both vacations, height restrictions (and for many of the port adventures, age restrictions) are strictly enforced for children’s safety.

1. Pixie Dust
The extra attention to detail that leaves each day seeming magical? That, I am happy to say is alive and well whether you vacation takes you to land or sea.

About the Author: Lori is a Christian, wife, mother of two, vegan, Texan, allergy expert in training, bookworm, runner, terrible-though-enthusiastic photographer, new homeschooler, and all around pixie dust nut! Even though she sunburns indoors on a cloudy day, she finds her #DisneySide at sea aboard the Disney Cruise Line! If you need to find her, check in with her blog, Adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere. - See more at:

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Updated 01-14-2016

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