Cruises Disney Cruises USA

Disney Smackdown-Cruise vs. Theme Parks

California Adventure

When it comes to Disney, I adore just about everything. My house, after all, even has a Disney-themed room (in a tasteful kind of way, remind me sometime to post some pictures of it). But what about Disney-themed vacations? Cruise? Theme parks? Which is better? Which is more your kind of “scene”? If you’re a Disney novice but always wanted to go on some type of Disney vacation, then this post is for you.

Disney Smackdown-Cruise vs. Theme Parks

Disney Cruise

Best for families, couples, individuals wanting a stress-free, minimal hassle vacation, travelers desiring a budget friendly trip

Families: If there was ever a type of vacation that would be perfect for families, a cruise would be it. The ship does it all-your accommodations, meals, activities-it’s all right there. Families can board the ship together, still have “family time,” but then each of the respective family members can do their own thing, whether the kids want to hang out in one of the age appropriate youth clubs (there are three total, one for younger kids, one for tweens, and a third for teens), dad wants to hit the gym or mom wants to relax at the sauna. There’s even the “It’s a Small World Nursery” which provides daycare for those sailing guests under the age of three. Unlike at a theme park where families often have to do everything together, on a cruise ship with everything self-contained, it’s an entirely different spectrum. It’s also the perfect vacation for extended families or even family reunions; groups often receive a discount and it seems like a great way to be amongst your family.

Disney Smackdown-Cruise vs. Theme Parks

Fun at any age

Couples: I always laugh at how ignorant some people are when it comes to Disney. They hear the name and immediately cringe, fearing a vacation overrun with crying children and angry and irritable parents. What they don’t know is that on a cruise ship, Disney works very hard to ensure that couples, those individuals without children, still get a first-class and deluxe experience. On all four of its ships, there is Palo, the adults only restaurant serving Northern Italian fare, and on its two newest ships (the Dream and the Fantasy), there is also Remy, a French restaurant (named after the adorable mouse from the Pixar movie Ratatouille), in which guests are served a tasting menu and also treated to special touches like a table side trolley for cheese service. (One of the two chefs to create the menu is from a Michelin 3-star restaurant just outside of Reims, France-that’s how deluxe a dining experience it is.) There’s also the Quiet Cove pool area which is reserved for guests 18 and older, not to mention a bevy of nightclubs and lounges including one that being a traveler is my personal favorite, Skyline. Its walls transform into different skylines from around the world. And then one of my favorite things about a Disney cruise-stops at its private island, Castaway Cay, but more importantly, visits to Serenity Bay, which is its adults only beach section. In short, couples can go on a Disney cruise and be rewarded with just as classy an experience as they would get on a Holland America cruise ship.

Disney Smackdown-Cruise vs. Theme Parks

Does this look like the food that kids would eat?

Individuals wanting a stress-free, minimal hassle vacation

I can’t say this enough but as vacations go, cruises really are a relaxing and minimal detail kind of trip. The biggest decision you are faced with while on a cruise is deciding what to do. Pool? Hot tub? Movie? Show? Countless details have already been taken care of by the time you board and every member of the family can really do his or her thing without one person being forced to do something they don’t want to. And with how seamless a process Disney wants to make it for its guests, prior to sailing you are sent tags for your luggage. Once you check your bags at your home airport, you will not see them again until they arrive at your stateroom. Disney’s presence in the Orlando Airport is so major that they even have their own separate baggage claim area so once your bags are removed from your flight, they are not “processed” with everyone else’s. So if you literally want to just get off your flight and “start your vacation” without those extra meddlesome details, you truly can.

Disney Smackdown-Cruise vs. Theme Parks

Kick back & relax

Travelers desiring a budget friendly trip

I won’t lie, compared to other cruise lines, Disney is expensive. But, if your heart is set on a Disney cruise, you can figure that excluding gratuities, you don’t necessarily have to spend a single penny during your cruise. By the time you board your ship, it will already have been all paid for, so in terms of having a budget friendly trip, you could truly have that. Minus alcohol, all food and drinks are included, and one of the areas that I feel Disney cruises do best in is their food.

Disney Smackdown-Cruise vs. Theme Parks

Disney Theme Parks

Best for families, those wanting on-the-go activity, individuals yearning for the “all out” Disney experience

Families: Yes, families can go to a Disney theme park and have a wonderful time. As a child I visited Disney World numerous times with my family including a trip to Disneyland when I was all of five. I know that I come from a pretty normal family, and we always had an utterly wonderful time and all of us (well, perhaps excluding my mom) were always sad to leave.  I mention this because never were there any meltdowns, tantrums, etc like those sometimes exhibited by other park guests. As my brother and I got older, we would often do our own thing, riding on the “scary” rides our parents didn’t necessarily want to. A theme park vacation is undoubtedly easier when children are older, yet I feel that it is the type of trip a family should go on at least once. It’s a place you should want you children to experience because truly, there is nothing like it (I’m referring to the thrill of seeing your beloved characters and riding the rides, not necessarily the long lines and pricey food and merchandise).

Disney Smackdown-Cruise vs. Theme Parks

Those wanting on-the-go activity: Two years ago I visited Disneyland. Excluding the day I spent at Disneyland Paris in 2010, I hadn’t done a “theme park trip” in years. I had forgotten how physically taxing it can be. Granted, I visited on a holiday weekend, compounded by the fact that Disneyland is located in a heavily populated area which translates to people easily visiting for the day, but both theme parks were mobbed all the time. There was very rarely free space for walking around and lines (even for churros!) were always incredibly long. And the thing about theme park trips is that unless you’re staying right on site, it’s often difficult to go back to your hotel and rest without burning a lot of time in the interim.  But if you simply adore going on the rides, seeing characters, and don’t mind standing in line for just about anything, a theme park trip is definitely for you.

Disney Smackdown-Cruise vs. Theme Parks

Yes, a Disney park vacation is as dizzying as a ride on the Teacups

Individuals yearning for the “all out” Disney experience: I love Disney cruises but if you were ever to compare the amount of Disney you have on a cruise versus what you experience in a park, well the truth is they wouldn’t compare. Although I feel that Disney still does a terrific job in giving cruise guests an authentic, all-out Disney experience, there aren’t any rides, live shows other than in the evenings, and only a small number of shops. I also found that there are also differences between its two older ships and its two newer ships. For instance, I was very disappointed when the characters of Anna and Elsa were not on my most recent Disney cruise on the Magic, one of its older ships, but were on its newer two. Obviously at any of the Disney theme parks this wouldn’t be an issue.

Disney Smackdown-Cruise vs. Theme Parks

The verdict?

I’m someone who could enjoy both a Disney cruise AND a Disney theme park experience. However, I know there are some individuals who would only ever consider doing one or the other. I’ve been longing to return to Disney World since it’s been over a decade that I was last there and know how much it has changed since then, and yet on days when I’m tired and burnt out from stuff, the idea of a Disney cruise seems much more agreeable, especially when I picture the beautiful views of Castaway Cay’s Serenity Bay. All in all, it really boils down to the type of experience you’re looking for.

Disney Smackdown-Cruise vs. Theme Parks

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Robert Hooke
    May 30, 2016 at 12:55 am

    Hey, great share….

    My kids are great admirers of everything that is “Disney themed “. They have such huge Disney wallpapers all over the room. Foe their next vacation I am surely going to take them to Disney Cruise to have some fun.

    Thanks for sharing this post. Keep sharing more….


    • Reply
      May 31, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      Thanks Robert. Hope you and your kids get to enjoy a Disney cruise one day. They’re definitely a one of a kind experience 🙂

  • Reply
    August 19, 2017 at 12:01 am

    What a great post! We had had the chance to visit both and they were fun, fun, fun! Disney does everything wonderful down to the smallest detail. No wonder they call it the happiest place on Earth. It would be impossible for us to choose a favorite…they both have so much to offer!

    • Reply
      September 12, 2017 at 9:26 pm

      Thanks Natalie! I would definitely love to visit Disney World again as an adult, especially a foodie inclined one and really try out the amazing food scene found at the parks. And you’re right, there’s no detail that Disney overlooks. Personally, I love the cruises, there’s just something about being out on the ocean 🙂

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.