Disney cruise vs Carnival

Need some tips/advice. Thinking about doing a cruise for spring break. Obviously, it’s a busy time of year and prices are at a premium. We live in NC and it would be myself, DW and DS10 and DS6. We could do a 4-night Disney cruise for about $5600 in an oceanview room or a 7-night Disney cruise for about $7600. Both are out of Port Canaveral. Miami isn’t much cheaper and would require a flight or a much longer drive, so we will definitely go out of Port Canaveral if we go.

I know you can’t really compare them, but I found a Carnival cruise out of Charleston, SC (only 5 hour drive versus 8-9) for 6 nights for about $3300.

I’ve never been on a cruise and I would prefer to spend the extra money and do Disney, but my wife thinks the difference is too big. I’ve never done a cruise, but am worried that there won’t be as much to do for my kids on the Carnival cruise, whereas the Disney will be perfect for them.

Anyone have any suggestions or thoughts?

4000 dollars is a really big difference. Too big to shrug away amigo. I am sure that Disney cruises are more fabulous than carnival but I am also sure they have a million things to do for your kiddos. That’s what they do and 4000 is a hefty sum. Can you find out more about carnival activities beforehand?

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@clonghurst I’ve been on several Carnival Cruises and have always had a wonderful time! I don’t have children but my nieces and nephews were on a couple of those trips and they always seemed to enjoy themselves. The last time I was on a cruise was in 2013 and so haven’t yet experienced this: https://www.carnival.com/onboard/seuss-at-sea
If you have a cruise budget, most meals and certain beverages are included in your stateroom price but shipboard photos, shop items, and shore excursions are extra.

Go with Disney, they really are the best. I would rather do 4 nights on the amazing Dream than 7 on any other line. In fact we tried, we went on the Dream in 2015 (4 night cruise) and then tried Royal Caribbean for half the cost for 7 nights the following year. We were very disappointed. Everything was twice as good on DCL, the food, the service, the shows, the characters, the fireworks, the rooms (they are the only line with split bathrooms and normal size showers. On RC there was no room to even turn in the shower, I have never been so claustrophobic in my life!) There is a reason DCL is so much more than the other lines, I would compare it to going to WDW for a week versus taking the same vacation at a 6 Flags. I promise, you will not regret choosing Disney. Your kids will have the time of their lives, as will you and your wife. If you really want to save money, book through Costco, you will get a gift card for booking with them.

If you really cannot stomach Disney prices, I would at least look at a mid level cruise line. Carnival has had a lot of issues and does not have the best reviews. Just last week this was in the news:

And there is also this:

Not to scare you, but better to be informed about what you are potentially getting. Everyone I know who has been on DCL thinks it it worth the extra money. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

I did a trip report that includes our time on the Dream, if you are interested. It is sandwiched in between WDW and UOR so it is a very long report, sorry.

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My wife came back from a girls weekend and found out one of her friends booked a Disney cruise for next fall, so that helps. Meeting with a travel agent tomorrow. I know WDW and UOR inside and out, but am pretty ignorant about cruises, so definitely going to get help with that. Leaning towards the 4 nighter, but may make one more pitch for the 7 nighter, since it’s only about $1700 more for 3 more nights. That seems like a bargain!

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We just got back from our first ever cruise, a 4-night on the Dream. Similar family: me, DW, DS7, DD9.

Everything about the cruise itself was fabulous; the verandah really helped the room feel more spacious, the split bathrooms were small but not “cramped”, the ship always felt clean and in good working order, the food was good, and the kids club was exceptional. Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, was gorgeous.

I have no frame of reference re: other cruise lines, but I felt like I was paying for and receiving a premium experience with Disney.

The “Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line” (written by this site’s own Len Testa) contains a comparison of DCL versus other cruise lines. IIRC, my takeaway was that there’s a significant difference in quality between Carnival and Disney, but that Royal Caribbean provides a more comparable experience (to Disney) with a little less of a price premium.

Our cruise dinner mates were repeat cruisers and agreed with that comparison. They weren’t terribly impressed with Carnival but had had a great time on Royal Caribbean. They didn’t seem convinced that Disney was worth the price premium but they also didn’t take advantage of the kids club, so IMHO they were missing out on one of the best parts of the ship.

My advice, as someone w/ a similar family makeup and knowing what I know now, would be to skip Carnival and do your research re: DCL vs RC. If you’re not an unabashed card-carrying Disney fanatic and drinker of the kool-aid then consider doing RC first. If you like cruising, try DCL next. If you’re big Disney fans already, and you can afford DCL, you won’t regret going.

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I agree with @sethpetryjohnson. If you are looking for a less pricey but overall still quality cruise I would go with Royal Caribbean over Carnival. Carnival is certainly a more budget friendly option but I do believe it to be a situation of “you get what you pay for”.

I know that there are 100 people who have had fabulous cruises for every 1 person who hated it (actually the number is probably a lot higher but you get the point) but personally I would be leery of ever cruising with Carnival. There have just been too many horror stories.

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