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Celebrity vs. Disney Cruise Line: Cruise Differences Families Need to Know

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Looking for an upscale kid-friendly cruise line for a family vacation? Two of the most common cruise lines that many families consider are Celebrity Cruises and Disney Cruise Line. In 2023, my family sailed aboard both and got a lot of questions about how the two experiences stacked up against each other.

While both cruise lines delivered similar high quality family vacation experiences we loved, we definitely noticed some key differences. DCL excelled in some specific areas, while Celebrity was stronger in others. Depending on what part of the vacation experience matters most to you, these differences may be crucial to identifying what cruise line will work best for your family.

Celebrity vs Disney Cruise Line

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Our Family’s Recent Disney and Celebrity Cruise Vacations

Before I dive into the differences we observed between the two cruise lines, here’s a quick rundown of the specific cruises we took. Cruise experiences can differ a lot depending on the ship, itinerary, and time of year you are sailing. So I think it’s important to understand the specific parameters we experienced aboard both lines. My kids were 14 and 9 at the time we took both trips.

Our most recent sailing aboard Disney Cruise Line was in April 2023 on the Disney Wonder. This 5 night Disney Cruise departed from San Diego and went to several ports in Mexico’s Baja California. The cruise was during Easter weekend, so it was filled to capacity with families on spring break trips.

Disney Cruise Line Family in Port of Call in Cabo San Lucas
Our DCL stop in Cabo San Lucas.

We had also cruised DCL before when my youngest was a toddler, taking a short three night cruise from Port Canaveral in Florida to Castaway Cay.

Our Celebrity cruise experience was a sailing in late July and early August 2023 aboard the Celebrity Solstice. The 7 night cruise departed from Seattle and went to three ports of call in Alaska plus a quick stop in Victoria, British Columbia. It’s worth noting that the ship had more families (including a lot of multigenerational groups) aboard than many Celebrity itineraries do because of the time of year and the destination.

Celebrity Cruise Shore Excursion Mendenhall Glacier Alaska
At the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska on our 2023 Celebrity Cruise.

My husband and I also sailed Celebrity (on the Celebrity Constellation) once before. That trip was a 10 night European itinerary in the Baltic Sea and Scandinavia just before my oldest was born.

Here are the key differences families need to keep in mind when comparing Disney Cruise Line vs. Celebrity Cruises.

Celebrity vs. Disney Ships & Itineraries

Disney Wonder Top Deck Funnel Pool and Waterslide
Disney Wonder pool deck.
  • What Celebrity Does Best: More ships in more locations with more options for departure dates
  • What Disney Does Best: Largely focused on family-friendly destinations and cruise lengths that fit family schedules
  • Winner: Celebrity

So how do Disney Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises stack up against one another in terms of ships and destinations offered? As you might guess if you have some basic knowledge of the cruise industry, Celebrity is a larger cruise line than Disney, with more ships in more locations. Its larger size gives families far more choices and flexibility.

Ship Classes and Names

Celebrity currently has 16 ships in its fleet, compared to Disney’s 5 (soon to be 6). Celebrity’s four ship classes and current ships are:

  • Millennium class (oldest class): Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Summit
  • Solstice class (what we sailed): Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Silhouette, Celebrity Reflection
  • Edge class (newest and largest ships): Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Apex, Celebrity Beyond, Celebrity Ascent
  • Xpedition class (very small specialty ships that cruise only in the Galapagos): Celebrity Xpedition, Celebrity Xploration, Celebrity Flora

Disney’s current fleet consists of:

  • Magic class (what we sailed, oldest class): Disney Magic, Disney Wonder
  • Dream class: Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy
  • Wish class (newest and largest ships): Disney Wish, Disney Treasure (debuting December 2024)

Roughly speaking, the ships in each of the three non-speciality classes are pretty close to the same size. Celebrity’s smallest Millennium class and Disney’s smallest Magic class ships both have capacities of just over 2000 passengers. Disney’s largest Wish class can hold up to 4000 passengers at full capacity, making it just a bit larger than Celebrity’s largest Edge class (around 3200 passengers). It’s worth noting though that neither line has any mega ships in its fleet like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, or Carnival.

Destinations and Ports-of-Call

Celebrity Constellation in Oslo, Norway
Celebrity Constellation in Oslo, Norway.

Where the cruise lines diverge even more is the itineraries they offer. Disney Cruise Line offers the majority of its sailings in and around the Caribbean, Mexico, and the Bahamas. Most of these cruises depart from Florida ports like Port Canaveral and Miami, with a few sailings from Galveston, Texas and New Orleans.

Disney also has one ship positioned in Europe for part of the year in addition to sailing from San Diego to the Mexican Riviera and from Vancouver to Alaska. And for the first time ever in 2023, one Disney ship crossed the Pacific to offer Australian cruises as well. Most Disney cruise itineraries are 3-7 days in length, although there are a few longer sailings especially when a ship is repositioning to another region.

Because Celebrity is a much larger cruise line, it has ships positioned in many more locations around the world. There are multiple Celebrity ships across six continents. The cruise line offers a number of longer and unique cruise itineraries in more far flung destinations like Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America. The line also has many more itineraries all over Europe. Of course, Celebrity also offers many 3-7 night itineraries on familiar family-friendly routes in the Caribbean and to other North American ports of call.

While some of the destinations Celebrity serves (especially on the longer itineraries) probably won’t be a fit for the average American family, a lot of families may find Disney’s options too sparse or limiting. We thought the greater number of cruise offerings on Celebrity is ultimately more valuable for families who may be constrained by rigid school schedules. It can be hard to find a cruise that departs on just the right day in just the right place and for just the right length of time to match school holidays!

One of the reasons we actually landed on Celebrity for our Alaska cruise was because Disney simply didn’t have an Alaska sailing that matched well with the narrow window of time we had (between the end of summer camp for one of my kids and school starting). In contrast to Disney’s single ship in Alaska for summer sailings, Celebrity had three ships in the Alaska area we were able to choose among.

So while Disney offers almost exclusively itineraries that will appeal to family travelers, Celebrity is just more convenient for a lot of people a lot of the time.

Disney vs. Celebrity Cruise Cabins

  • What Celebrity Does Best: Above-bed storage, curved bed increasing maneuverability in room, spacious bathroom
  • What Disney Does Best: Split bathroom with two sinks, better bunk beds, curtain to separate kids’ and parents’ spaces in the cabin, more useful storage, accommodations for families of 5
  • Winner: Disney

Cruise cabins are known for being super tiny, even for couples and singles. So families have to really think hard about whether such tight quarters will fit their vacation needs.

For families of three or four, both DCL and Celebrity’s cabins ultimately delivered a solid in-room experience. That said, Disney’s room design has a few thoughtful features added with families in mind that delivered the better cabin overall.

Our family of four squeezed into just one stateroom on both cruises. On DCL, we booked a deluxe oceanview room with a large porthole on the 6th deck. On Celebrity, we had a slightly nicer room category – a deluxe veranda cabin on the 8th deck with a larger-than-standard balcony. The Celebrity room was a bit smaller at 192 square feet vs. Disney’s 214 square feet in those room categories. Because we also had a balcony on Celebrity, however, it didn’t really feel substantially smaller to us.

Beds and Cabin Layout

Disney Wonder DCL Oceanview cruise cabin
Disney Wonder oceanview stateroom.
Celebrity Solstice Veranda Cabin
Celebrity Veranda Cabin that sleeps 4.

Both cabins had a large queen bed in the middle of the room for parents. They also had a couch by the cabin’s window that converted into a bunk bed for two kids. I liked that the main bed on Celebrity was slightly curved at the end for easier maneuvering around it in the cabin, but taller guests might miss the legroom. Both beds had ample space underneath that we used to store two large suitcases as well as two roll-aboards.

Everyone in the family agreed that the bunk beds on Disney were ultimately better. The lower bunk on Celebrity wasn’t a full twin bed size, making it a bit of a tight squeeze for my 14 year old daughter. She was able to make it work, but it might not be comfortable for older or taller teens for longer sailings.

DCL vs Celebrity Bunk Beds
Disney’s bottom bunk (on the left) was a little more spacious than Celebrity’s (on the right).

We also appreciated that Disney’s cabins have a large light-blocking curtain that separates the kids’ part of the room from the main room area. Now that my kids are older, they often stay up as late as we do, but this curtain is crucial for families with younger kids with earlier bedtimes. The curtain helps provide a quiet and dark place to fall asleep.

Bathroom Configuration

Disney Cruise Line Split Bathroom Sink and Toilet on Disney Wonder
First part of a Disney Cruise Line split bathroom with sink and toilet.
Disney Cruise Line Split Bathroom Shower and Sink
Second part of a DCL split bathroom with shower/tub combo and a second sink.

Disney has a unique and consistent bathroom layout in regular cabins across all of its ships, created specifically for families in mind. The bathroom is split and actually spans two separate rooms. The first room (as you enter the cabin from the hallway) has a sink and a toilet with some wall storage. The other room has an additional sink and tub/shower combination.

Celebrity’s bathrooms are more variable depending on the ship, but are almost universally in a single room without this split design. I recommend watching YouTube room tour videos to investigate the layout for your specific ship and room class to make sure the configuration will work for your family.

Celebrity Solstice Cruise Cabin Bathroom
Bathroom in a veranda cabin on the Celebrity Solstice.

Our bathroom aboard the Celebrity Solstice was quite spacious as far as cruise ship bathrooms go. It had a single sink with a fair amount of counter space, a toilet, a large shower, and a tall cabinet for storage. It was actually large enough for two people to get ready in at once, but the shower-only configuration might be a negative for families with younger kids. Some Celebrity ships do have small tubs available in some room types, but you will have to work harder to find them and likely will have to upgrade to a suite.

Disney’s split layout – and the second sink that came with it – was marginally a little bit more convenient but the spaciousness of the Celebrity bathroom made up most of that difference.

Storage & Closet Space

Disney Wonder cruise cabin desk and storage
Much more drawer and dresser storage in a Disney Cruise Line stateroom.

Unpacking clothes for everyone in the family into the small drawers, closets, and storage spaces of a cruise ship cabin is not an easy feat. The storage is where Celebrity and Disney were noticeably different. Disney’s cabins simply have more storage, and more smartly designed spaces for families to unpack.

Our Celebrity cruise was two nights longer than our Disney cruise and also went to colder ports-of-call that required us to pack bulkier items. So to be fair, we had more to unpack aboard Celebrity. But even if we had been able to travel lighter, we still thought Celebrity didn’t have as much or as usable storage space as Disney did.

Celebrity Solstice Cruise Cabin
Celebrity has overbed and closet storage, but is lacking a full size dresser.

Both cabins had a large closet with some shelving above a hanging bar with small racks for shoes below. And both had a few drawers in the desk area of the room by the kids’ bunk bed area. Additionally, each cabin had small shelves or drawers in the bedside tables on either side of the queen bed.

Disney’s cabins also had a tall dresser with multiple additional drawers in it that our cabin on Celebrity didn’t have. Instead, our Celebrity stateroom had two large cabinets above the headboard of the bed. We used these to store bulkier less used items like fleeces and snow pants, but these cabinets were not super accessible for everything else we needed more regularly.

Trips With Tykes Tip: We brought these magnetic hooks for our cabin walls (yes, walls on most cruise lines are metal!), which we used to hang up light jackets and other items for more storage space.

Cabin Video Tours

Want to see all these cabin details for yourself? Here are short room tours I filmed in both of our cruise cabins on Celebrity and Disney.

Disney Wonder Room Tour (Cabin 6520)

Celebrity Solstice Room Tour (Cabin 8162)

Rooms for Larger Families

While both rooms worked for my family of four, what about families with three kids instead of two? Where Disney also excels as far as cruise cabins go is in actually having cabins that sleep up to 5 people. They are limited in number, expensive, and sell out quickly a lot of the time, but at least DCL has them.

Celebrity can’t sleep 5 in a single room, but it’s worth noting that the cruise line does have a number of connecting cabins. The price differential between DCL and Celebrity (more on that later…) means that families may actually be able to get two rooms on some Celebrity sailings for less than the cost of a single cabin on DCL. Larger families or families with older kids who just don’t want to pile into a single room anymore may find this option intriguing.

Food and Dining on Celebrity vs. Disney Cruise Line

  • What Celebrity Does Best: Higher quality food overall, longer buffet hours, more dining flexibility
  • What Disney Does Best: More theming and entertainment built into meal time, fewer dining upcharges
  • Winner: Celebrity

Cruises are known for food, offering everything from poolside burgers and fries to decadent buffets and specialty restaurants with pricey fine dining. Both cruise lines had high quality cuisine – and lots of it!

That said, Celebrity and Disney do dining quite a bit differently. My family all agreed that Celebrity’s setup gave us more flexibility and more choice, and Celebrity’s food was on balance better than Disney’s in most venues.

Dinner & Main Dining Restaurants

Tianas Place Restaurants on Disney Wonder
Tiana’s Place – one of three main dining rooms on the Disney Wonder.

In the evenings, Disney Cruise Line still offers pretty traditional included cruise dining, with two seatings for the dinner hour. Most DCL ships have three dining rooms – each with a different Disney theme – and guests rotate between these different restaurants each night of a cruise along with their assigned wait staff.

Most Celebrity ships, in contrast, have only a single larger main dining room for included seated dinners (note: newer Edge class ships have four smaller main dining rooms instead). Guests can opt for one of two timed traditional seatings or can choose Celebrity Select Anytime dining, which is what our family chose.

Baked Alaska in Grand Epernay Dining Room on Celebrity Cruises
Baked Alaska in the main Celebrity dining room – a cruise classic!

We theoretically preferred the flexibility of Celebrity’s Anytime dining, but found that it didn’t quite deliver all that flexibility in practice. Unless we arrived to dine on the early or late side (roughly corresponding to the assigned seatings), we had to wait quite awhile for an open table. Once we figured that out, though, it was nice to be able to dine early on some evenings and late on others, especially given the variable port schedule of most Alaska cruises.

It did get a little monotonous eating in the same dining room night after night aboard Celebrity, so Disney scores points for moving guests through multiple venues. Additionally, Disney definitely has a more entertaining experiences at dinner, with mini-shows (like the jazz music at Tiana’s Place or the cartoons at Animator’s Palate) built into some of the dinner offerings.

But the food was just better in the main dining room on Celebrity. Additionally (and a bit surprisingly), Celebrity even had sufficient choices for kids to compete with DCL’s kids menu as well.

Casual Dining Restaurants

Disney Cruise Line Cabanas Buffet
Cabanas buffet on DCL.

Both Celebrity and Disney also have a number of less formal dining options as well. The largest of these on both ships is the casual buffet. On most Disney ships, this restaurant is called Cabanas. On our Celebrity ship, the buffet was called the Oceanview Cafe.

There simply was no comparison between the two buffet experiences. Celebrity’s was much larger with a substantially wider variety of culinary choices – even on a fairly similar sized ship. And Celebrity’s was open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night snacks. Disney’s serves only breakfast and lunch.

The buffet on Celebrity gave us so much more flexibility, especially on a few port days when we might not have been able to make a set dinner time. And it was especially nice on a longer cruise not to have to get cleaned up for a fancier dinner every evening.

Celebrity Cruise Buffet
Much larger buffet on Celebrity.

We also enjoyed the poolside quick service restaurants on both cruise lines. Here, Disney had a little more variety that my kids enjoyed (pizza on demand can’t be beat!) but the quality was at a similar level.

Specialty Dining

Disney Cruise Line Palo Restaurant Appetizer
Seafood appetizer at Palo aboard the Disney Wonder.

Both cruise lines had enough food options in the included price of the cruise that many guests won’t need or want to pay anything more. But sometimes guests want a more unique dining experience on a vacation, and cruise lines have some speciality restaurants on board for that.

Disney cruises have one or two specialty restaurants depending on the ship (Palo plus Remy or Enchanté on some ships) where guests can pay an upcharge for a fine dining experience. These are adults-only restaurants and do feel truly optional.

Celebrity Cruises usually have multiple specialty dining restaurants and the model is definitely to entice many more guests into a few more of these upgrades. On our ship, there were four specialty restaurants with different cuisines and decor. Kids are welcome at most, but often adults enjoy these meals without kids in tow.

Celebrity Cruise Line Tuscan Grille
Tuscan Grill on the Celebrity Solstice.

My husband and I had one parents-only dinner on each cruise and were blown away by each. Definitely money well spent! We ate at Palo on the Disney Wonder and dined and Tuscan Grill on the Celebrity Solstice. Prices were similar (although Celebrity does have some more expensive options too). The Palo upcharge for the two of us was $158.33 with tip and our total bill at Tuscan Grill was $132 (we each had a drink each at each meal, if I remember correctly).

We also ate one evening at the sushi restaurant on the Celebrity Solstice with our whole family and thought it was a relative value.

Entertainment & On Board Activities

Celebrity Cruise Evening Show
Evening musical revue on a Celebrity cruise.
  • What Celebrity Does Best: DIY activity spaces, more nightlife
  • What Disney Does Best: More activities focused on kids, higher quality shows
  • Winner: Disney

A lot of guests take cruises to have non-stop things to do when they aren’t in port, and we definitely kept busy doing a wide variety of activities on board both Disney and Celebrity.

As you might imagine, the entertainment on Disney Cruise Line is highly influenced by Disney’s intellectual property. There are character meet-and-greets and dance parties, evening shows are based on Disney stories, and even activities like trivia and karaoke often have a Disney theme. There are a few adults-only spaces in the mix, like an adult pool and the English pub, where parents can escape a bit.

Disney Cruise Line Chip n Dale Character Meet and Greet
Character meet and greets on Disney Cruise Line.

Celebrity has a lot of activities that are family-friendly but definitely isn’t as kid-centric. When our kids weren’t in the kids clubs (more on that below), there was more for them on Disney to watch and do. Evening shows on Celebrity were pretty traditional cruise fare – a musical revue two nights, a magician, and some tribute acts. To be sure, they were higher quality performances than I’ve seen on less expensive cruise lines, but they weren’t quite as engaging for the kids as an Olaf puppet and full cast of Frozen singing “Let it Go!”

That said, we did really enjoy that our Celebrity ship had several ping pong tables, a small putting green, and a lawn to watch outdoor movies. And of course, Celebrity has more nightlife and a casino for adults – an offering that Disney ships purposefully lack.

Celebrity Cruise Line Bocce on Grass Lawn
Bocce and movies on Celebrity’s real grass lawn.

Celebrity and Disney Kids & Teen Clubs

  • What Celebrity Does Best: Bigger spaces for teens to hang out, smaller groups for younger kids
  • What Disney Does Best: Longer and more flexible hours, staff better at engaging teens, offerings for babies and toddlers
  • Winner: Closer to call than you might imagine, but Disney

Both Celebrity and Disney Cruise Line have robust kids and teen programs aboard all of their ships that are included in the price of the cruise. Since we have one in elementary school and one teen, our family was able to experience both the regular kids club and the teen clubs on both lines.

I was certain that Disney’s kids offerings were going to be light years better than any other cruise line, but we were pleasantly surprised that Celebrity’s programs gave Disney a run for its money in a lot of ways. That said, Disney ultimately has more flexibility and coverage – especially for younger kids – which gives it the edge.

Kids Clubs

Disney Cruise Line Oceaneer Club
Kids club – Oceaneer Club – on Disney Cruise Line.

Disney offers two interconnected kids clubs, the Oceaneer Lab and Oceaneer Club. When we sailed, these clubs accepted kids ages 3-12, but Disney very recently revised its rules and now will only allow 3-10 year olds in these spaces. (For what it’s worth, Disney loses a few points from me in implementing this change.)

Disney Cruise Line Oceaneer Club Slinky Dog Slide
Play areas in Disney’s Oceaneer Club.

Parents can drop kids off nearly any time of day, from morning until pretty late into the night. There are no advance reservations or time limits required. Cast members lead activities, Disney characters drop in for visits, and kids can use video games or wear themselves out on an indoor playground.

Celebrity’s kids club serves kids ages 3-12. Called Camp at Sea, Celebrity divides the club into separate smaller spaces for different age ranges, keeping 3-5 year olds in one group (Shipmates), 6-9 year olds in another (Cadets), and 10-12 year olds in the final grouping (Captains).

Celebrity Cruise Line Camp at Sea Kids Club
Camp at Sea Cadets space on the Celebrity Solstice.

Celebrity has set session blocks of three hours long: one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evenings. Each session has a unique theme with counselors leading different activities. At lunchtime and the early dinner hour, Celebrity’s clubs are usually closed. For families who want additional kids club coverage (especially later at night), the club charges an additional fee but I don’t think I saw anyone on our sailing avail themselves of the paid option.

Because our sailing had so many more kids aboard than usual, Celebrity split the usual 3 hour sessions into 1.5 hour sessions to accommodate more kids, much to our initial dismay. These shorter sessions are obviously not long enough for parents to enjoy a spa visit or a nice dinner out! We quickly found that the club was more flexible than initially communicated, and our son was able to stay for longer blocks of time as long as we checked in to confirm there was available space.

One minor but helpful thing I loved about Disney Cruise Line is that they allow kids ages 8 and up, with parental permission, to check themselves in and out of the kids club. Celebrity doesn’t permit this option until age 10, which meant we had to go in person to pick my 9 year old son (two months shy of his 10th birthday) up – a bit of an inconvenience.

Surprisingly, our son actually chose to spend more time in the kids club on Celebrity, despite it not being as large or as flashy as Disney’s. Celebrity’s counselors were quite excellent at engaging the kids and having structured activities for them. In contrast, DCL’s clubs are so large that they can be a bit of a free-for-all, which may be harder for younger or more sensitive kids.

Teen Clubs

Celebrity Cruise Line Teen Club
Celebrity’s teen club.

Disney also has two additional clubs for tweens and teens: Edge and Vibe. Edge is for tweens and younger teens ages 11-14 and Vibe is for 14-17 year olds. Kids one year younger can be admitted to the club (10 year olds for Edge and 13 year olds for Vibe) with parental permission. The clubs are filled with video and board games and couches for hanging out and are staffed with Disney cast members who facilitate group activities.

Celebrity offers a single teen club for all passengers ages 13-17. The space was quite large on our ship and had video games, a foosball table, and a ping pong table.

My daughter enjoyed both clubs and made friends on each sailing, but thought the staff aboard Disney was more skilled at wrangling and engaging her peers. Celebrity’s teen club staff seemed to find a way to close the club up early every evening of the cruise, even when there were teens present, which we found a little disappointing.

Nursery & Babysitting for Babies and Toddlers

its a small world Nursery Disney Cruise Line
it’s a small world Nursery on Disney Cruise Line.

Our kids are bigger now, but what about if you have little ones? For families with babies and toddlers, Disney also has a nursery for the youngest kids. Kids 6 months through 3 years old are eligible (3 year olds who are potty trained can choose between the nursery or the Oceaneer Club/Lab).

Unlike the kids and teen clubs, the nursery charges a fee, but it’s quite reasonable at $9/hr. My son went to the “it’s a small world” nursery on our prior Disney cruise when he was 3 and found it a welcome respite from the non-stop high energy of the kids clubs.

If you have kids younger than 3 and want a break on your cruise, Celebrity probably isn’t the cruise line for you, as there is no nursery equivalent. Celebrity does offer limited babysitting services, but only for guests in suite accommodations for an extra fee.

Other DCL vs. Celebrity Amenities and Incidentals

A few other minor points of comparison stood out to me that are worth a mention as well that don’t quite fit into the major categories above. Here are a couple of additional Celebrity and Disney differences to keep in mind.

Shore Excursions

Family on Skagway Alaska Celebrity Cruise at White Pass Railway
Cruise shore excursion on the White Pass Railway in Skagway, Alaska.
  • Winner: Disney

Most major cruise lines offer shore excursions in any given port-of-call, usually contracting with the same sets of vendors to offer a similar slate of tours. Many cruise passengers prefer to book shore excursions through their ship for streamlined logistics like being about to debark the ship first and not being left behind if an excursion returns late to port. As you might imagine, cruise lines mark up the prices of excursions booked through them.

We are very much DIY people when it comes to shore excursions, so we actually didn’t take any booked through Disney or Celebrity. We did take a number of organized excursions that we booked directly with vendors instead. Naturally, we did extensive price comparisons of all of the options available to us.

We noticed that Disney doesn’t mark up the cost of its shore excursions that much compared to buying them directly from vendors yourself. So if you prefer the certainty of booking with your cruise line, you’ll likely get a solid value with Disney (but always price compare, of course).

In contrast, Celebrity’s markups were substantial – sometimes more than double the rate the vendors were charging. Celebrity often runs sales that will bring these excursion costs down, making some – but not all – of the excursions more price-competitive. A lot of the passengers on our cruise booked their excursions during a major Memorial Day sale. If a sale isn’t available to you, however, you likely will save significant money by skipping Celebrity’s shore excursion desk and doing the legwork yourself.

Wi-Fi

  • Winner: Celebrity

While some passengers enjoy disconnecting on a cruise, many guests need to be able to stay in touch with work or loved ones back home. Having reliable and affordable Wi-Fi is increasingly a cruise necessity. And only one of the two cruise lines we sailed (Celebrity!) was able to get that job done for us.

On Celebrity, we purchased two unlimited premium plans (for my husband and me) totaling $293 when we pre-purchased during a Memorial Day 40% off sale. We didn’t have to micromanage data limits and found the service to be pretty reliable with only occasional slowness or failure to connect. We also found that other devices could share those plans, although only one device could be logged in at a time, so we were able to give some online time to my teen daughter as well for no extra cost.

In contrast, the Wi-Fi aboard our Disney Wonder sailing was nearly unusable. First, it often didn’t work at all or was far too slow to even text or upload a single photo or load a simple website. Second, at the time we sailed, it had to be purchased by the MB, requiring a very user-unfriendly special logoff process each and every time. Thankfully, all Disney ships now offer unlimited plans as of 2024, but it’s clear that Disney is just several years behind a lot of other lines on the tech frontier. (See this guide to 2024 Disney Cruise Wi-Fi for all the current details.)

Cruise Line App

  • Winner: Too close to call

Both DCL and Celebrity have cruise line apps that are pretty integral to the day-to-day cruise experiences. You likely will use them before a sailing to upload pre-cruise documentation and check-in for your cruise. But guests use them even more on the sailing itself to check activity times, message each other, check their folio charges, or get debarkation information.

We actually found both apps highly functional and used them quite a lot to plan and organize our days. A few minor differences are worth knowing about, as follows:

  • Check-in: DCL is notorious for major check-in bugs and we definitely had a much harder time on check-in day making things work on Disney compared to Celebrity.
  • Messaging: Both the DCL and Celebrity app have an in-app messenger service that doesn’t require a Wi-Fi packages so guests can keep in touch on the ship. Celebrity, however, won’t allow children who are under age 13 to create an account. As a result, it’s impossible to message younger kids even if they have their own device. This was inconvenient for us with our youngest whom we wanted to give some more independence on the ship.
  • Push Notifications: Both the DCL app and Celebrity app let you “star” activities you want to attend and then send a push notification to you beforehand as a reminder. I preferred that Celebrity’s notification came at 30 minutes in advance vs. Disney’s 15 minutes. The extra time was sometimes necessary just for transit time criss-crossing a ship.

Laundry

Celebrity Cruise Laundry Bag
Send out laundry on Celebrity cruises.
  • Winner: Disney

Last but certainly not least, let’s talk a topic that is hard for parents to ignore: laundry. When you are on a longer vacation in a variety of climates (as cruises often are!), sometimes you just need to clean a few clothes. And in this regard, there is a clear cruise line winner.

Being a family-friendly ship, Disney just gets it. Every ship has several self-service laundry facilities aboard. They were never maxed out on our ship. The prices to use them were highly reasonable at about $3 per wash or dry. I quickly and easily did two loads on our 5 day sailing (one of the laundry rooms was literally just down the hall from our cabin), and we were able to pack light as a result.

In contrast, Celebrity’s ships have no self service laundry at all. Nope, not even on longer sailings where nearly every guest would surely run out of clothing several times over. You must send your laundry out for Celebrity to do. It is of course pricey. We pre-purchased one small all-you-can-fill laundry bag for $40 (a substantial savings over the a la carte per item prices).

But my quibble with Celebrity’s laundry policy is not as much the price as it is the timing. It took more than 48 hours for clean clothes to come back, which is just unacceptable. On our sailing, it meant that the clothes we wore on our first Alaska port of call were not back in time for third and final Alaska port of call which is when we needed them! Not allowing guests the convenience of doing their own laundry on their own timeline was frustrating. I would have been happy to pay handsomely for that privilege, and this factor will actually make me think twice about sailing Celebrity on longer itineraries.

Price & Value

Celebrity Solstice Pool Deck
Celebrity Solstice Pool Deck.
  • What Celebrity Does Best: Overall much lower cost
  • What Disney Does Best: Not nickel and diming guests
  • Winner: Celebrity

Maybe I’ve buried the lede saving the question of price and value until the end. But I think it’s important to analyze the cost of these two cruise lines after fully understanding elements and offerings of both. Disney and Celebrity both offer pretty similar levels of luxury and service. But the bottom line is that Celebrity simply costs a whole lot less.

How much less is Celebrity vs. Disney? Let’s talk about the 7 night Alaska Cruise we took. The initial rate that we paid was $4870. Before switching to Celebrity, we had first booked (and canceled) a similar Alaska Cruise on Disney in a similar balcony cabin around the same dates. The cost of the Disney sailing was $15,246. Nope, you aren’t reading that wrong. Disney was more than three times the cost of Celebrity!

The price differential, however, won’t always be that significant. Disney’s Alaska sailings are notoriously more expensive than most other itineraries (especially for balcony rooms). For another point of comparison, I also priced out a 7 night Caribbean cruise sailing from a Florida port on both lines. For a balcony cabin on a February 2025 sailing, Celebrity’s cost is just under $4800 ($5300 with the flexible cancellation policy that makes the commitment similar to Disney’s default policy). Disney’s similar cruise is $8200 – about 65% higher.

To be fair, you can’t simply compare the sticker prices when analyzing value. Disney is much more of a truly all-inclusive vacation experience. Celebrity can nickel and dime certain guests on a lot of little extras. But you can buy a lot of these paid extras on Celebrity and not come anywhere close to spending the difference in initial price! And guests are often able to secure bigger incentives like a few hundred dollars in on-board credit on Celebrity that can help offset some of these incidentals.

We ultimately spent $860 extra on our Disney cruise (which included one $215 massage). We spent $769 on our Celebrity cruise (plus an additional $400 spent via onboard credit). Most of these costs were per passenger gratuities, so we were ultimately pretty frugal in the extras we incurred on both cruise lines without working too hard at it!

Final DCL vs. Celebrity Thoughts

Our family was highly impressed with our cruise experiences aboard both Disney Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises. We are likely to sail both cruise lines again.

In the grand scheme of things, the differences are mostly quite minor. Disney overall is more family-focused and definitely works better for travelers with very young kids. But Celebrity certainly delivers a tempting value-but-also luxurious alternative in so many ways. If a Disney cruise is just too pricey or doesn’t sail exactly where or when works for your family, I’d highly recommend Celebrity to almost all family travelers as well.

We may not cruise again in 2024 due to other travel plans already booked, but will surely do so in 2025. Stay tuned to find out which cruise line we choose to return to first – because we don’t even know!

Need Help Planning a Cruise Vacation?

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Celebrity vs. Disney Cruise Line: A complete look at the cruise line differences between DCL and Celebrity Cruises. Cabins, restaurants, kids clubs, entertainment, and more.

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