11 Major Differences Between Disney Cruise Ships | Comparing Disney's Cruise Ships Magic and Wonder to the Fantasy and Dream, Mickey Mouse, Animator's Palate, diapersonaplane, diapers on a plane, creating family memories, traveling with kids, family travel

Imagine every wish you’ve ever dreamed on a shooting star was granted. That’s what it’s like to sail on one of Disney’s Cruise Ships! It’s a trip of a lifetime, and offers an incredible and unique experience for everyone!

To date, Disney has four ships sailing on the seven seas. They are the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder, and her larger sister ships, the Disney Fantasy and the Disney Dream

If you’ve ever wanted to take a cruise with Disney, you’ve had to decide between her four different ships. You can’t go wrong no matter which vessel you choose, and honestly, the destinations will matter more than the individual nuances of each ship. 

But there are definitely reasons to pick one ship over the other. This article compares all four of the Disney Cruise Ships and covers the 11 big differences between Disney Cruise Ships you need to know.

11 Big Differences
on Disney Cruise Ships You Need to Know
Comparing Disney Cruise Ships

We’re eagerly awaiting when Disney debuts her three brand new ships slated to venture out on open water starting in 2022! The Disney Wish was just announced! We’ll definitely be there!

We’ve hit every single Disney Park across the globe, why not sail on every single Disney Cruise Ship in the fleet as well? Fine, call us obsessed.

1. Entrance

The first difference between the smaller and larger Disney ships you’ll note is when you first step foot inside. The entrance is insanely grand on every Disney Ship, but even more so on the larger ships.

True, everything on Disney Cruise Ships, and Disney is general, is about a truly immersive experience and attention to detail – but cruising with Disney takes it up a notch.

The idea behind a Disney Cruise started with reentering the golden age of cruising which also includes vast winding staircases and giant elaborate chandeliers. No expense is spared.

Comparing Entrances on the Disney Cruise Ships
Grand Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship Entrance

2. Size

Everything on Disney’s bigger ships is well, bigger. This only makes sense considering how many more passengers the larger ships can accommodate. The Disney Dream & Disney Fantasy can carry up to 4,000 passengers, while the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder can carry up to 2,700. Then add another 1400+ castmembers.

The new cruise ships will be even bigger.

This is the first major difference between the Disney Cruise ships, and you’ll notice it everywhere you go.

On the Disney Fantasy and the Disney Dream everything is huge, from the lobby to the restaurants to the lounges to the pool deck. Size matters.  

3. Animator’s Palate

Speaking of restaurants, each ship has their own unique trio of dining experiences, but one thing they all have in common is Animator’s Palate.

On the larger ships, in Animator’s Palate you’ll get a direct window to the East Australian Current. This window is noticeably missing from the smaller ships.

During dinner, guests can watch the moonfish create shapes and guess what they are! Little kids will want to shout their answers loud, because the moonfish won’t reassemble into a new shape until someone makes the correct guess!

This is live action fun for all, and definitely earns a mark for the bigger ships. 

Not to mention, Crush will chat it up with your family all dinner long. Just like Turtle Talk with Crush at the Disney Parks, he’ll strike up a conversation and even interrupt you if you aren’t paying attention to him.

11 Major Differences Between Disney Cruise Ships at Animator's Palette
I’m going to guess a swordfish?

4. Cabanas Buffet on Disney Cruise Ships

Another major difference between the two Disney Cruise vessels, also relating to food, has to do with the buffet Cabanas. It is never open on the larger ships!

Whereas on the smaller ships, Cabanas will stay open until 4 or 5pm, it is always closed by 2pm on the Fantasy. If you are a family that loves to lounge up by the pool all day, with Cabanas just a jaunt away, this is a huge disappointment. 

The same could be said for Flo’s Cafe.

Out of the four service restaurant windows on the larger ships, you can generally only find one open come post dinner. On the smaller ships, Pete’s Broiler Bites is always serving up a mean pizza, burger, or shawarma late at night. 

Disney Cruise Buffet Cabana's Mural
Awesome Mural on the Disney Fantasy in Cabanas

And where the heck is all the cocktail food in the adult lounges after the kids go to bed? We couldn’t find a single cocktail weenie or celery stick after 10pm on the Disney Fantasy.

We don’t have two rooms just because of occupancy requirements, we have two rooms on a Disney Cruise ship because of the cocktail weenies! That is definitely a strike against the larger vessels. The smaller ships get our vote when it comes to late night snacks!

5. Room Service

Since you can’t get as much food in the public areas of the ship, you might feel resigned to ordering Room Service.

When it comes to Room Service on Disney Cruise sister ships the Magic and the Wonder it leaves a little to be desired. That’s putting it nicely.

Not only does room service not want to fulfill your request, once they do take your order they don’t want you to include more than one item and will hang up on you before you get a second word in. 

Room Service on Disney Cruise Ships
Hopefully they didn’t spit in my food

Conversely, the Room Service on the Disney Fantasy was the complete opposite experience! They couldn’t have been more friendly or more accommodating and kept asking us if we wanted anything else.

Well yes, since you keep asking, how about all the food?

6. Alcohol

What can you get, if you can’t get food on the bigger Disney ships? Alcohol. There is a huge emphasis on alcohol on the larger Disney Cruise ships.

There is a bar in the grand entrance. There is a hidden bar around the corner from the nephew’s splash pad. The top deck of the ship is one giant bar. The middle of the pool deck has a bar.

One of the major differences between Disney Cruise ships is that on the smaller ships, you can still definitely get alcohol, you’ll just have to take a few sober steps in between access to drinks.

7. Pools on a Disney Cruise

Curiously, the one thing that is bigger on the smaller ships are the pools.

Every Disney cruise has multiple pools. At the very least you’ll find a main pool, and then two smaller kids pools shaped like one of the fab 5.

On the smaller ships, the main pool is a standard rectangle shape. The smaller ships have a lot more space to swim and provide a lot more fun doing it.

On the larger ships, they’ve decreased the swimming size of the main pool by cutting an oval out of the rectangle shape. Not only is the square footage of swimming space decreased, but also the number of swimmers. This doesn’t make a lot of sense considering the ship can accommodate 1,300 more guests! 

Disney Cruise Pools: AquaDuck
AquaDuck and Funnel Vision Disney Cruise

Also, another huge difference between Disney Cruise ships? No hot tubs in the main pool area on the bigger ships! If you want to sit in a hot tub you’ve got to ditch the kids and go to the adult only pool.

Not cool. Mom and Dad should be able to lounge in the hot tub while the kids create mayhem in the cold pool. Stick to the smaller ships if this is your preference. The Magic and the Wonder offer two hot tubs directly in front of the main pool area.

There isn’t anywhere close by the pool on the bigger Disney Cruise ships to watch the kids comfortably. Not to mention, because the pools are smaller, another giant adult in the pool just simply takes up more space.

8. Pool Slides

Then there are the pool slides. Every single one of Disney’s ships has the signature yellow slide. It’s fast, it’s fun, and almost everyone can ride it. 

And it’s great, but the best cruise water coaster Disney offers is the AquaDunk! On this awesome ride you are literally dropped from the top deck into the slide as the floor beneath you gives way. It’s incredible!

Only the Disney Magic has this fantastic slide! 

Instead, the larger Disney ships have the AquaDuck: a tube water coaster. It starts from the top deck and makes a loop around the entire perimeter of the ship. It is a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not exactly what you’d call thrilling. 

Disney Cruise Pools and AquaDunk
AquaDunk on the Disney Magic and Funnel Vision

The major differences between the Disney Cruise ships when it comes to pool slides, is that the AquaDunk has them all beat. In this category, the point goes to the smaller ships (or ship, in this case). 

9. Theaters on Disney Cruise Ships

We are back to comparing sizes when it comes to Disney Cruise theaters. The bigger ships are waaaay bigger, and waaaay better.

There is tons more room both in terms of seating, and how much space you get per seat.

This goes for both the Buena Vista Theater (movies) and the Walt Disney Theater (shows). The smaller Disney Cruise ships have just one floor of seating, but the larger ships are comprised of two decks of seating, including upper and side balconies.

On the smaller ships, no matter how short you are, your knees will still be touching the seat in front of you. With an award winning Broadway show to look forward to every single night of your cruise, this leaves a lot to be desired on the smaller Disney Cruise ships. 

Buena Vista Theater with Disney Cruise Movies
Buena Vista Theater on the Disney Fantasy

10. Staterooms

In order to make everything bigger on the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy, they had to make something smaller. That something smaller is your stateroom. Disney staterooms are still one of the largest in the business, but there are quite a few differences between the smaller and larger Disney ships.

  • Size of Rooms
  • Size of Shower & Tubs
  • Furniture
  • Room Features

The rooms are condensed on the bigger vessels.

The smaller ships staterooms allow for more walkable space between the walls and the beds, and an extra set of standing drawers in the sitting area. A little bit of space in a cruise cabin makes a big difference. 

Disney Cruise stateroom: Comparing Disney Ships
The full montagu

When it comes to the bathrooms, the smaller ships also have shallower tubs. Our 20 month old barely had enough water to cover her body.

Whereas on the larger ships the tubs offer a standard depth.

Conversely, on the bigger ships your head will be touching the ceiling when you shower. This is not the case on the smaller ships. If you ask me personally, I’d rather have a tub for my baby to shower in because…

Family Hint: I can actually head up to the spa to shower for free in a much larger and quite luxurious shower no matter the ship.  

Another point for the larger ships is the magnetic doors between adjoining rooms that provide ease in keeping the door propped open. This is exactly how we noticed the lack of width, since on the smaller ships we had to use a garbage can to hold open the door.

The last difference between Disney Cruise ships staterooms is that the lights don’t automatically work. You must insert your Key to the World card to turn on the lights on the larger ships. That, or a plastic grocery store membership card will work too.

11. Kids Clubs on Disney Cruise Ships

It was a huge bummer to find out Andy’s Room in the Oceaneer Club on the larger ships doesn’t have a slinky slide! How did that get past the genius imagineers? The distinct lack of a Kids Club playground was an obvious oversight on the larger ships! 

Plus, no secret passageway between the Lab and the Club on the larger ships. You can still roam between the two clubs without exiting, but you’ll find a giant craft room between the two instead of a covert tunnel with one way mirror windows.

Disney Cruise Kids Clubs, Andy's Room, Slinky Slide
Slinky slide in Andy’s Room on the smaller ships only

Our Pick for the Best Disney Cruise Ship

The Disney Magic.

For one, the Magic is smaller. With a maximum occupancy of 2,700 the experience is much more intimate. You start to recognize your fellow sailors, and can even get to know a few friends in the process.

Secondly, the Magic has the Aquadunk!

On top of that, it’s easy to navigate, the ice cream flavors are more varied and change out every day, and the staterooms are bigger! Plus, it was on the Disney Magic that we crossed off our ultimate buck list item: Pompeii, Italy!

For Kids: Kids Clubs! Eye Scream Machines! Disney Characters!

One thing that remains constant? The midship elevators. You can never hitch a ride in one of these without fighting for your life regardless of which ship you are on.

What We Learned: There really is such a thing as the best vacation ever.

Be sure to check out our ship guides for the Disney Magic the Disney Wonder, and the Disney Fantasy! They have everything you need to know about each restaurant, how to make the most of visiting characters during your trip, and how to spend the perfect day on Castaway Cay

Nap-Time Version: Everything you need to know to decide which Disney Cruise Ship is right for you! Comparing the 11 biggest differences between Disney Cruise Ships!

Comparing Disney Cruise Ships with everything you need to know to make a decision about which ship is right for your family!
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