Sunday, August 19, 2012

Disney Vacation - Parks VS Cruise

Disney Vacation – Parks VS Cruise

So you want to do a Disney vacation but you don’t know if a Disney Park or Disney Cruise vacation is for you. Let me try to help with some information about both to help you choose the one that is best for you and your family/group.

Both a Disney Park and a Disney Cruise vacation are wonderful and neither is to be missed by a true Disney fan. They are different types of experiences. A Disney Park vacation is high energy and constant motion. A park vacation takes a lot of planning and scheduling what you will do (where to eat and what park to see) from day to day. You can find lots of things that cost extra at the parks. Whereas a Disney Cruise vacation is, in my opinion much more relaxed and laid back. You can do as much or as little as you wish. There are few surprise expenses on a Disney Cruise and you can budget easily for them if you plan ahead. Both have fantastic Disney Service and high quality.

Going to a Disney Park and staying at a Disney Hotel you will be surrounded by Disney 100% of the time. The majority of the music, decorations and entertainment is Disney themed and often loud. Over all at the parks the noise level is high and the colors bright and cheery. It is very stimulating and sometimes overly stimulating. It is hard to get away from the stimulation and find a quiet place to gather yourself.

On a Disney Cruise Ship there is a touch of Disney everywhere you look but unless it is in an area designed for the children it is overall subtle. You can always find a quiet place to sit and relax on a Disney Ship. This is especially nice for people that have problem with excessive stimulation. People with ADHD or Autism can find a quiet place to gather themselves.

At a Disney Park you get up and your time is your own, unless you made reservations for meals or special events. You run from ride to ride, show to show and in some cases park to park to experience all there is to see. I know I felt overwhelmed trying to figure out how to see every ride and show I had on my “must do list.” It was hard to know what to do because there was no overall schedule for everything going on.
On a Disney Cruise you have the ship to explore. Yes, even the “smaller” of the Disney ships are huge, 10-14 decks and close to a half mile long. There is a lot to see and do but unlike the parks it is all in one place. You are given a schedule the night before that lets you know what activities are going on the next day. You can then decide what you want to do or skip. The schedule is set up so you can see what there is for each member of your group. Many of the adult areas have nothing Disney in them if you wish to get away from character overload.

At the parks, in general families stay together. Unless the parents split up, pay extra for a few hours of child care or bring grandma/aunt or a family friend along to give them a break parents spend 24 hours a day with the kids. You can’t leave them in the hotel room or let them run around the park alone, unless they are teens that are trustworthy.
Each Disney Cruise ship has almost an entire deck dedicated to children. You can check your child (age 3+) in early in the morning or any time during the day and go off for some adult time. The kids will be entertained, fed and have the time of their lives with their favorite Disney characters. You will have a Wave Phone that your child or the Children center crew can call you on at any time if your child needs you. The kids can stay until late at night and I heard many parents saying how hard it was to get their kids to leave the kids area to go to bed or spend family time. There is even a nursery for the under 3 year olds that you can pay an hourly fee to have them watch your child so you can have some mom and dad time.

At the parks the hotels have pools but they are all family pools. You go as a family and swim together and if you do not have your children along you get to listen to the children of the other guests as you try to relax in the sun or swim.

All the Disney ships have three pools for the guests. One is just for the little kids with a waterslide for them. (Always wished I could do that slide! I’m so happy they now have the Aqua Duck on the two new ships for everyone to enjoy!) There are also water play areas near the Mickey Pool that the little ones can splash in. Parents can sit in chairs next to the pool watching their kids play or splash along with them. There is the Family Pool (Called either Goofy’s or Donald’s pool, depending on the ship you are on). Here you can jump in and swim around to your heart’s content with or without your child while Disney Movies and other things such as a virtual bridge tour play on the FunnelVision Screen for your entertainment. Want some quiet time away from the kiddos? Get the kids into the children’s program and head over to the Quiet Cove Adult Pool for a swim or relaxing soak in the hot tubs. You can sit in the sun and sip your favorite tropical drink.
At a Disney Park you have to plan your meals. Especially at WDW ADRs have become a must (Not so much so at DLR). You schedule your park hopping, rides and other entertainment around your dinning reservations. Where you eat, what you eat and the cost is up to you. Often you have one meal in a sit down and snack it or quick service the rest of the day.

On the Disney Cruise your evening meals are in one of the three main dining rooms. Disney Cruise ships have rotational dining. You move from one restaurant to another and your servers follow you. You have to do no more than look at your Key to the World (room key) to know what order you rotate restaurants and what time you eat. You always eat dinner at the same time and at the same table number. Breakfast and lunch are up to you. You can eat in your cabin, in any of the three main restaurants, the buffet at the back of the ship or one of the quick service locations in the pool area. You can skip the main dining you and choose one of the other options for diner as well. You can also stop into any of the lounges/bars for a bite at well. Most of the food and drinks you get on the ship are included in the price of the cruise. Only liquor, specialty drinks and food or drink ordered at a lounge/bar cost extra. You can choose to have brunch, high tea or dinner at one of the Adult restaurants (Palo’s on all four ships and Remy’s on the Dream & Fantasy). The Adult only dining options cost extra. The cost for the Adult Dining ranges from around $10 to $75. Simple rule of thumb, if they ask for your Key to the World when you order you will be charged. If in doubt, ask before ordering something if it will cost extra.

Here is something else to think about. Once you are on the ship over 90% of the food offered and all entertainment is included in the price you already paid. There are fewer “extra costs” unless you want liquor, Port Adventures (you can prepay for PAs), Spa/Salon treatments or one of the few entertainment choices that do cost (Wine or Beer tasting for example cost about $15 per person). Tours, evening shows, movies (new and classic) and even a character breakfast (7 nights and longer cruises only) are included in your cruise price. With the food/drink that costs extra you can choose to not get the items that cost and stick with what is included. I promise it is by no means skimpy or lower quality. The extra is the liquor or specialty drinks mostly along with soda (free at meals and the soda fountain all the time) in lounges or delivered to your cabin.
Unless you get a Dinning Plan for WDW (not available at DLR) you pay for your meals as you go. There are many diner shows and extra entertainment options at WDW that cost extra.

If you have a (GASP say it is not so!) non-Disney fan spouse that does not enjoy more than a short time immersed in Disney Atmosphere then I suggest a Disney Cruise. You can have as little or as much Disney as you wish while your spouse enjoys the spa, hot tub, sports bar or maybe one of the Disney Art of Entertaining “classes.” They can skip the character breakfast and you can enjoy the characters to your heart’s content while your spouse sleeps in or enjoys the gym.

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