Mission: Disney Cruise Lines to WDW: Switching Gears Between the Two
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Atlanta, Georgia, USA

    Mission: Disney Cruise Lines to WDW: Switching Gears Between the Two

    Mission: Disney Cruise Lines to WDW:
    Switching Gears Between the Two

    <announcer voice>
    Oh, a Disney Cruise. The height of luxury and relaxation when it comes to Disney Experiences. But, how to do it?
    <ends announcer voice>

    One of the most convenient ways to do a Disney Cruise (departing from Port Canaveral) is to bookend your Cruise Line experience with a trip to the most Magical Place on Earth, Walt Disney World!

    There are a few ways you can do this, but before I get into the details, lets take a look at some of the advantages.

    1) Relaxing and fun family experience that gets you excited, and also allows you to decompress after your Cruise experience

    2) You get to see Wishes. I mean, come on...what Disney trip is complete without fireworks at the Castle? Even if most of your time will be on the Cruise (and they do fireworks on the Disney Cruise that, for a Cruise format, are rather impressive)

    3) Travel. Yes, Travel. Disney Cruise Line is partnered with Mears (the same company that runs the Disney Magical Express) and offers affordable travel to and from your Disney Resort to Port Canaveral, and back. The cost for this is $69 per person (one way) if you depart from Orlando International Airport (MCO), but only $35 per person (one way) if you depart from a Disney Resort. That's half the price of a ticket right there!

    4) Relaxation on the day of departure. I don't know about you, but after several hours in the car or on a plane, jumping on a bus or taxi from MCO and heading straight to Port Canaveral really isn't high on my list. Also, the earlier you arrive at the ship, the better. The lines are shorter, the chances that you'll have room upgrade options available are greater (yes, you can ask and pay for an on the spot room upgrade at severe discounts, including unbooked concierge staterooms! But, they go quickly). Also, if you are flying in, you don't have to book a super early flight or worry about flight delays or cancellations. If that happens, and you don't have the Trip Insurance, you lost your Disney Cruise (and all the money involved in it).

    5) Flexibility in Flights. Flying in a day early, and flying out a day late not only helps you have a more relaxed travel schedule, but also allows you to be able to shop flight prices to find which one throughout the day has the better rates (or better times for your schedule...no need to drag the kids out of bed at 4a if you can book an 11a flight the day before!).

    6) Peace of mind. Ok, so you may be thinking, why should I use the DCL transit instead of just getting a taxi? Well, unlike hotels, where you can pretty much check in at any time you like (though they won't guarantee a room until after 3p, often they are ready for you even if you arrive in the morning). DCL ships MUST depart port at their scheduled time. This means that if you are late or delayed, even if you call, DCL will NOT hold the ship for you. However, when you use the DCL branded transit, DCL considers you "under their care", and while they may not hold the boat, they will cover your costs if you miss the ship (normally be helping you rebook another cruise at a discount and apply your payments to that, not refund your money! <wink>)

    So, those are the Advantages. Now, Disadvantages? Yes, there are those.


    1) Cost. A Disney Cruise is expensive. WDW, while it has some lower cost options, is likewise expensive. Tacking on even two nights (one before, one after) at a Disney Resort can add hundreds of dollars to your trip budget. Tacking on even more can add thousands (depending on resort and ticketing options). So, if you are trying to do DCL on a budget, this may not work for you.

    2) Cars. If you are renting, rent from Alamo or National. The reason being that you can pick the car up from MCO, but drop it off at the Car Car Center at WDW before your cruise, and after your cruise you can reverse that process. If you are NOT renting, storage of the car is iffy, and up to the resort. Officially, Disney will say your "free parking" at the resort is limited to your stay at said resort. However, they tend to look the other way for DCL visitors who are returning to the resort at the end of their cruise. You'll need to ask at the front desk, but be aware they may not say it's ok. If that happens, you'll want to park the car at MCO in one of the extended lots, or just drive to Port Canaveral yourself, where you will likewise need to find and take advantage of one of the paid parking lots there.

    So, all of that covered. Lets move on.

    How to Book
    There are two ways you can book a Land and Sea experience. You can either go through the Walt Disney Travel Company (the website / phone number) or you can book through DCL. Overseas guests will have options through Virgin and some other choices as well, but these are the two primary ways most Guests will experience it.

    If you book through DCL, they can set up your resort, tickets and Dining Plan through their system. They get room discounts that are really quite impressive. For example, a Pop room for 3 nights after my upcoming Disney Fantasy with a base Disney Dining Plan and 3 day base tickets was around $850. That's...pretty great! A similar trip booked through Disney Travel would have been about $300 more expensive.

    So, why wouldn't you just book through DCL? Well, sometimes you should, sometimes you shouldn't. DCL has a few limitations on the packages that are available to them. For example, you can't get more than the Disney Dining Plan (no Deluxe), you can't use Free Dining Pins, you can't access any Disney Travel discounts (only the DCL ones), and they can't sell you tickets that are for more NIGHTS than your resort reservation (e.g. if you are staying 2 nights, but want 3 days of tickets so that you can go for a half day or something on your last day, they can't sell you that).

    In addition, DCL has a larger down payment and an earlier Paid in Full payment date. While the "bookend" trips on a Surf and Turf won't effect your down payment if added after your down payment but before your Paid in Full date, you will have to pay all of it off by your Paid in Full date. So, for example, my cruise is in mid-August this year, and my pay-off date for the Cruise was May 17. However, the 3 nights before my Cruise, booked through Disney Travel, isn't due until late June. And the 4 nights after the cruise isn't due until early July. If I'd booked these through DCL, I'd have to have paid it all off on May 17.

    Also, booking through DCL removes any options for you to shop renting DVC points to get a classier bookend stay at a Deluxe Resort at a discounted price!

    While this won't impact many (and you should certainly look at it), these are things to consider.

    What to Book
    This is really up to you and your budget, but I'd suggest at least 1 night, if not 2, before and after. There are a few reasons for this.

    If you fly in early, you can spend some time at the park.
    You can book short stays that are special (like Club Level at Contemporary)
    You can get early breakfast the day of departure at your resort (the DCL bus will run from around 9 until noon, and you will be assigned a time, so an early breakfast is easily possible)
    You can spend some time at the Magic Kingdom and the other parks

    Planning is easy, and WDW works closely with DCL and vice versa. However, you will need to inform DCL what hotel you are staying at prior to your arrival. But, that's a simple phone call to take care of.

    The Experience
    The DCL bus (if you do that) will pick you up at your resort sometime after 9p. The night before a packet (similar to a Magical Express packet) will be left in your room and will tell you to leave your checked luggage, with the provided luggage tags, near your front door, and what time your DCL bus will depart. You'll want to take advantage of checked luggage. DCL has similar "carry on" restrictions as a plane does. It's not QUITE as strict, but it's pretty close. This leaves you plenty of time to get breakfast at your resort (but I wouldn't try going to a different location). I did Chef Mickeys on my last trip, and it was a fantastic start to the day.

    The bus may stop at other resorts before departing the WDW resort area.

    The bus plays cartoons and games throughout the hour and a half trip to Port Canaveral, and it drops you off at a special entrance where you pass through security, and then check into the cruise.

    When you return, busses start running as soon as debarking is approved by the Port Authority (which the Captain of the ship will announce, and will happen sometime around 8a). You are encouraged to debark quickly, but they do offer breakfast on the ship if you want to do that before leaving. I'd skip it, as a lot of people do that (or take their time leaving) and you can avoid a lot of the crowds by debarking earlier. And, if you ARE bookending, that means you can get to your resort hotel faster and maybe even squeeze 3/4 of a day out at a theme park!

    A Disney Cruise experience is NOTHING like the Parks. There is no need to stress over ADRs, FP+, and even crowds and lines are virtually non-existent (and are mostly ALL air conditioned!).

    As a result, when you get off the ship, toned, sated and relaxed, getting back into the Theme Park groove is quite difficult. Of course, every family is different, but in my experience with the 8 year old, we actually wanted to chill out around the hotel pool (keeping that relaxed tone we had on the Cruise Ship) rather than rush around the parks.

    Things will stand out more. Lines, crowds, noise...all of these things will be extremely obvious to you. Especially if you do a longer cruise (5 or 7 day) where your body and mind start to get used to the laid back vibe of the cruise and truly relax and enjoy it.

    So, I'd recommend, if you want to hit the Theme Parks hard, do it BEFORE your cruise, not after. That way the cruise is the peak of your trip. Then you can add a short stay at the end.

    New York Cruise Addendum
    Currently, for 2016, DCL has introduced fall cruises that depart from New York City on the Magic. These will go to the Bahamas, but also offer a unique feature...a DAY at WDW as an Excursion option. However, you have to be back to the boat by 11:00p or so, so you most likely won't be able to enjoy the evening shows or Holiday Parties.

    A Disney Cruise is an amazing experience, and I highly recommend any Disney Fan experience it at least once. Doing it with bookended WDW makes the trip an even more amazing and relaxing experience! Sail on!

    B.C. (Before Child) '82, '87 - '95, 2004
    A.D. (After Daughter)
    2010 - 2 weeks @ CBR
    2011 - 3 in DC, 14 @ CBR
    2012 - 3 @ Uni Royal Pacific, 12 @ Pop
    2013 - 3 @ DLR | Contemporary, DCL Fantasy, POFQ
    2015 - 2 in DC, 3 @ Uni Portofino, 3 @ AKL, DCL Fantasy, 4 @ AoA

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Mickey's backyard (Orlando, FL)

    Re: Mission: Disney Cruise Lines to WDW: Switching Gears Between the Two

    I may be in the minority, but I actually prefer DCL to the parks. I find the cruise to be extremely relaxing.

    great report!
    Dream: Feb 12-16, 2012,Fantasy: 20-27, 2012, Dream: Sept 8-12, 2013,Magic: Jan 20-24, 2014,Dream: Sept 14-18, 2015
    TD Moderator

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Atlanta, Georgia, USA

    Re: Mission: Disney Cruise Lines to WDW: Switching Gears Between the Two

    Quote Originally Posted by joanna71985 View Post
    I may be in the minority, but I actually prefer DCL to the parks. I find the cruise to be extremely relaxing.

    great report!

    And, yes, after experiencing it...I...prefer DCL...
    B.C. (Before Child) '82, '87 - '95, 2004
    A.D. (After Daughter)
    2010 - 2 weeks @ CBR
    2011 - 3 in DC, 14 @ CBR
    2012 - 3 @ Uni Royal Pacific, 12 @ Pop
    2013 - 3 @ DLR | Contemporary, DCL Fantasy, POFQ
    2015 - 2 in DC, 3 @ Uni Portofino, 3 @ AKL, DCL Fantasy, 4 @ AoA

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