There are so many ways to experience Disney magic. For one, you could visit the iconic Disney theme parks. At Walt Disney World, you could blast through the galaxy in Space Mountain and then find yourself hanging out with Hitchhiking Ghosts at Haunted Mansion. You could travel the world on a hang glider with Soarin’ or hop aboard a super stretch limo and race through Los Angeles at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Feel like living dangerously? Perhaps you would want to help sneak an Iguanodon back to the present with DINOSAUR or try out a high concept vehicle at Test Track. And that’s just for starters!
Yet another way to experience Disney is by sailing the high seas. Through the Disney Cruise Line, you still experience Disney imagineering at its finest – with unique character interactions (like a pajama party with the lovable Pluto!) and its own set of thrills (look no further than the Aquaduck, an elevated water coaster that zips you through the top deck and off the side of the ship). Some will say, there is also an added benefit that it’s a much more relaxed, laid-back vacation compared to the constant touring at the parks. The Disney Cruise Line also allows guests to travel to different parts of the world in one trip – with multiple stops across the Caribbean, Canada, and European ports such as Iceland, Norway, Spain and Portugal.
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Vacation on land or vacation at sea? As Ursula would say, “Life’s full of tough choices, ain’t it?”
But the good news is, it doesn’t have to be! For the ultimate Disney vacation, guests can combine the best of both worlds through a land-and-sea vacation. But how exactly does one go about planning a land-and-sea vacation? How do combine a Disney World and Disney Cruise Line vacation? Well, there’s two options:
Option 1: Plan a land-and-sea vacation through the Disney Cruise Line.
Option 2: Plan a land-and-sea vacation by booking two separate reservations – a resort vacation through Walt Disney World and a cruise through Disney Cruise Line.
Now, let’s break down the pros and cons of each option.
The “Easy Peasy” Factor
Without a doubt, Option #1 is the more straightforward of the two, primarily because you only have to plan your trip through the Disney Cruise Line. As an “add-on” your cruise reservation, Disney Cruise Line allows you to include a visit to Walt Disney World either at the beginning or at the end of your cruise. You track one reservation number and follow one set of deposit and vacation balance payoff timelines. You also use the same reservation number to link in My Disney Experience so you can plan Fast Pass+ selections or to get the 180+10 day advantage for dining reservations.
With Option #2, you will need to keep track of two separate reservation numbers. You will need to put a deposit two separate times. You will also need to enter your WDW reservation number in My Disney Experience to make Fast Pass+ selections or to get the 180+10 day advantage for dining reservations. Separately, you will need to enter your DCL reservation number on the DCL website so you can begin planning your port adventures and any onboard activities, like reservations for Palo, Remy, and the spa.
With Option #1, tickets can be added to your land trip, but currently, Disney Cruise Line only allows you to add Magic Your Way Tickets with Park Hopper Option. That’s right, if you wanted base tickets (which allows you to visit one park per day) or Park Hopper Plus (which has all the park hopper features plus entry to Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, ESPN Wide World of Sports, Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course, Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course, or Disney’s Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course), you would not be able to do so as part of your Disney Cruise Line package.
If you want more flexibility when it comes to ticket selection (pricing difference between base tickets and hopper tickets can be significant depending on how many days you are spending at the parks!), then Option #2 would be the way to go.
Did you know that although Disney Cruise Line is in the same Disney family, it can’t access the same inventory of rooms that Walt Disney World can? Instead, a certain block of rooms are allocated from WDW to DCL specifically for land-and-sea vacation packages. When the blocks of rooms are fully booked, well, not even Tink’s pixie dust can change it. In fact, it is entirely possible for a block of rooms at a particular resort to be fully booked with Disney Cruise Line and yet still have availability on the Walt Disney World side. If you have your heart set with a particular resort and DCL does not have availability, then you may want to go with Option #2 – check directly with WDW to see if the resort is truly sold out, and if it isn’t, you can book the resort stay separately.
Vacation Balance Payoff Date
With Option #1, since the land vacation is considered an add-on to your cruise, the total amount of the room (and park tickets, if applicable) is simply added to your final cruise package total. Because it is part of your cruise package, it has to follow the same balance payoff rules as the cruise itself. For example, if your cruise is less than 7 nights, the vacation must be paid in full 75 days prior to sailing. And if the cruise is more than 7 nights, the vacation must be paid in full 90 days prior to sailing.
With Option #2, you follow two separate payoff dates. While that may mean more things to keep track of, it can also provide some significant benefits for budgeting purposes. Your cruise would still follow the payoff rules as in Option #1 (either 75 or 90 days prior to sailing), but your WDW booking will not have to be paid off until much closer to your check-in date. For a room-only reservation, for example, your balance needs to be paid off by your check-in date. For a vacation package, full payment is due 30 days prior to the check-in date.
At this time, dining plans cannot be added to a land package through the Disney Cruise Line. DCL can always try to see if an accommodation can be made by working with Guest Services – so if you are determined to add a Dining Plan, I would still ask – but it is generally not an option. With Option #2, you have a variety of Dining Plans you can add to your trip, including the Quick Service Dining Plan, Disney Dining Plan, and the Deluxe Dining Plan.
With Option #1, Memory Maker cannot be added to your land package through DCL. If you would like to purchase Memory Maker, you will have to do so separately through Walt Disney World and link it to your My Disney Experience account. Alternatively, you can book a separate resort reservation through Option #2 and include Memory Maker there.
Disney transportation will be the same regardless of which option you select. If you are traveling from the airport to your resort, or from your resort back to the airport, bus transportation is complimentary through Disney’s Magical Express. However, if you need transportation from your resort to Port Canaveral, or from Port Canaveral back to the airport, it will cost $35 per person each way.
With Option #1, the total cost of insurance is 8% per person (up to $399) with the Disney Cruise Line, and it includes coverage for your cruise and any other add-ons, including transportation, resort, and tickets. What’s nice about this is there’s only one insurance plan that covers everything. If you ever need to cancel your trip due to an emergency, you will only need to deal with one insurance provider. With Option #2, you will have two separate insurance plans – but there could be an upside, too. Insurance through Walt Disney World is $77.50 per adult and kids are free. If you do the math to compare 8% of your land trip versus $77.50 times the number of adults in your party, you can see what makes more sense for you from a pricing standpoint.
Disney Cruise Line has its own exclusive promotions for any land package add-ons, so if you see a vacation package deal through Walt Disney World, you will likely not be able to apply this to a DCL package, unless DCL happens to have the same promotion. In order to see which option will give you the most value (and leave you with extra spending money for Main Street popcorn), it is a good idea to price the land package add-on through the Disney Cruise Line promotion and compare it with any Disney World promotion.
With that, I will turn it over to you. Have you ever had a land-and-sea trip or are you thinking of having one? I’ve had the privilege of planning amazing land-and-sea trips for my clients, and would be happy to navigate all the complexities for you! You can call me at (920) 526-0809 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get a free quote!