View Full Version : Cruise vs. Park with a 5 year old

05-21-2004, 05:59 PM
Hi all :wave:

I am fairly new here and a friend told me about these boards so I have been "lurking" for the last few weeks.

I have never been to Disney World (Oh the horror!!!!).... I have 4 sisters so vacations were usually low budget... ie camping.

I have a 5 year old little girl and I want to take her to Disney World (the one in Florida... is that Disney World or the other one???) As you can see I am a complete newbie and need lots of help!!

So here are a few questions...

My husband and I like to cruise... will my 5 year old get as much out of a cruise or should we consider a park? We do have a budget so both is probably out of the question.

The cruise length I am looking at is the 3 - 5 days one. I don't know if I am right assuming this or not... but my first thoughts about cruising is that there aren't as many people as there are at a park so she might have more 1 on 1 contact with the characters and I know there are programs where my husband and I can have some alone time too.

I know there are a lot of Disney veterans out there so I look forward to your responses!!

05-21-2004, 06:15 PM
My little girl LOVED the cruise when she was 4.
You don't get tons of character time (you still have to wait in a line) but there were lots of opportunities listed in the navigator (a little schedule you get everyday of the cruise). She enjoyed the clubs- but never spent more that a few hours there at a time. If you had a child that never went to the clubs you might have to work a little harder to keep them busy. The mickey pool is great -but extremely crowded. She will enjoy the shows they were wonderful. My DD is pretty social and enjoyed meeting the servers etc...
I would go to the trip reports board and read lots of trip reports and see if they sound like something you as a family would enjoy

The cruise is a much more laid back kind of trip than the parks. The parks are exausting- but sooo much fun.

I would think that either WDW or the cruise you couldn't go wrong.

05-21-2004, 06:15 PM
WooWoo, you'll get tons of advice on both sides. After sifting thru them all, see what's right for your particular needs. I have done DisneyWorld 7 times (the one in Florida-Disneyland is the one in CA). We've cruised 8 times (once with Disney). I have a 7 year old. I found the cruise to be the best of both worlds, by far. When we were at the parks (Disneyworld), there was a lot of running around to do in order to assure that our 7 year old got the most out of the vacation. Alas, it wasn't much of a vacation for hubby and me:D On the ship, she was always entertained, whether by us or the staff on the ship. We could be together for breakfast, then she'd do the kid's club for a couple of hours while hubby and I did other things. Then we'd join up for lunch and maybe a dip in the pool, then she'd visit the club again for a few hours. Same thing for dinner and after. During the evening, she'd be in the club while we took in some adult activities (disco, games, shows). We all felt like we had a vacation. Plenty or character opportunities, Disney stuff everywhere, pools, ocean, islands, everything! If what you're looking for is a vacation for all of you, then I'd say the cruise is it. If you mainly want your 5 year old to experience lots of rides as well (and don't mind sacrificing your own down time to ensure he/she does them all) then the parks are for you. With the cruise, I didn't feel like I needed another week of vacation after we got home.

05-21-2004, 06:46 PM
We chose the cruise over the parks for our DS6 at the time (now 7). We felt he would have more fun and he did. He can't wait for our next cruise to try the Western. Already has excursions picked out. Go with the cruise, but then again we are biased over here.

05-21-2004, 09:21 PM
We had the same hard choice. We ended up doing Disney World for 1 day only and then a 4 day cruise. There was no comparison. Disney World was hot, crowded, exhausting, making her cranky. Huge lines to meet characters.

The cruise was relaxing, laid back, tons and tons more character contact. 100 times better.

our daughter was 4.

Tony M
05-21-2004, 09:43 PM
I live in Florida and get to take all relatives that visit to Disneyworld. I dread going to the parks anymore as they have are way too crowded and much too hot. As a local, I still feel the best way to do Disneyworld is to go Commando style and be done before noon or to do the tourist thing and stay onsite. With that being said, DCL is a far better Disney experience. On one cruise we spent more time doing Disney things and living the Magic than you ever can at the parks. The Characters are everywhere and they seek you out. It is almost unlimited in the amount of interaction the you have with them. We have a DD(3) and a DS(9) who totally enjoy the cruise over the parks. If you have to make a choice, DCL is the best.

05-21-2004, 11:11 PM
I agree that there is more time with the characters on the ship. The trick is to get there 20-30 minutes early. The face characters take the time to talk to the kids...maybe because we were at the front of the line or close to it? Cinderella would stop & talk to both of my children every day when she passed us in the hall. She called them BY NAME!!! Needless to say, she made my 3 yo DD's trip...year...life. princess: We did one day at MK before our cruise & stayed at the AS Movie in the Toy Story section. The kids loved it & we were told all day that it wasn't crowded...but it wore us out! :crazy: The lines with the characters were much more rushed. We didn't even plan to get any autographs that day but after the Cinderella show Mickey came out right in front of us...so we kind of HAD to. :) It was my first time at WDW too, so you aren't alone. It will be just as exciting for you as it will be for DD to see the characters. :earsgirl:

05-22-2004, 12:09 AM
DH and I lived in FL in 1974 just after WDW opened. We saw so many exhausted and cranky kids that we swore we wouldn't take kids until they were older. We finally went when DD was 8 and DS was 11. It was fantastic because they had the stamina to last all day and have a great time. Also they were big enough to ride anything they wanted.

We did our first cruise earlier this month when DD completed her first contract as a CM on the ship. We also spent several Days at WDW after the cruise.

From a restful point of view, it's the cruise hands down. There's so much walking to get from point a to point b at WDW that it's very tiring. We really enjoyed the cruise and since DD is a CM in the Club we know the quality of the folks working with the kids on the ship.

I agree with the other posters that you're child will have much more opportunity for interaction with Characters on the ship and on the island that at WDW.

I agree that it's a lot of money but you can get good deals if you book VERY early so it's a trip you book WAY ahead and plan look forward to for a year or so.

05-22-2004, 01:17 AM
We just got back 2 weeks ago from a 7 day land and sea package! My 5 year old daughter LOVED the cruise...so much better than the parks. BUT...we are from So. California, and she gets to go to the parks here alot...so Disneyworld wasn't a really big deal to her. We all said numerous times we wished we would have done the 7 day cruise only! DH and I LOVED the relaxation of the cruise and hated the STRESS of the parks.
Disney's kids club on the wonder/magic is incredible! We didn't see our daughter for 4 days!!! LITERALLY! (except at night to go to bed!)princess:

05-22-2004, 09:10 AM
Thanks so much to everyone for replying! It sounds like a cruise might be best for us. When we go on vacation, that is exactly what we want to do. My husband is somwhat laid back and I honestly don't see him following a planned mode of attack going from place to place at breakneck speed to see as much as possible in a few days time.

So now a few more questions. ;)

How do most people go about booking their cruise? I have looked at mousesavers.com and Expedia. I am going to do some more research today at different travel web sites. Do you think I will be able to find the best deal myself on the net or should I visit a travel agent?

Offshore excursions... my husband is an avid golfer. Are there any golf excursions?

One more question. And I truly don't want to offend anyone by asking this. I know the gay community meets at the parks... do they meet for cruising as well and if so when?

05-22-2004, 09:12 AM
Ok...I'll be the one contrary voice. I really love the cruise and both my girls do as well. However if this were going to be my very first disney experience I would do the parks. I know many people talk about how relaxing the cruise is vs the overcrowded parks. I honestly believe if people planned as well for the parks as the do for the cruise they could make it relaxing. We have become really good at navigating crowds and just enjoying the atmosphere. The one thing the parks will not beat the cruise at is the character interactions. This was not always the case but right now the characters on the cruise are very "animated" ( pun intended ). You still have to wait in lines and track them down though. The thing to remember about the parks is that people dont know how to pace themselves or thier children...and everyone gets wiped and cranky...do a little planning and dont try and do everything...and take breaks!!! when you need them and the whole experience is that much better. One thing the cruise can not compare to is walking into magic kingdom for the very first time and walking down main street and seeing that castle( its even better if your on your way to a character breakfast with cinderella in the castle ).

05-22-2004, 09:26 AM
I was on the 5/1 eastern. We went through a local TA, but from what I understand, there are several online that can serve you better. Check them all out to get the best price. In my opinion, it would be best to stick with a DCL expert. Try the following. These people have cruised the DCL MANY times. I am going to type the web site with spaces because otherwise this board blocks them out, but when you go to their site type the two words together. www. castaway club. com. Type all that together as one word to get you to their website.

As far as gays on the cruise. I saw two couples that I know for sure were gay because I had "met" them on this Dis board. There was nothing about them that offended me, in fact they were quite nice. My older son, 10, knew simply because they were together all the time. There was NOTHING offensive about their behavior. In fact, there was no offensive behavior that I saw at all on board from gays or straights. Nothing that I would have shielded my children from. And believe me my son has been known to tell people in the mall and such to "Get a room!"

We did have an experience at WDW in 2000 where two women were all over each other with hands in each others back pockets, etc, etc, (you get the idea) right out in front of everyone. That offended me, but would have if it had been a girl and guy.

I know that WDW has a Gay Week. It is usually in June, so if that is not your cup of tea, just make sure to check that out and avoid that particular week.


05-22-2004, 09:32 AM
We used a TA and got a great deal. people here us dreams unlimited and have nothing but good things to say. give them a try. yes there are golf excursions. Go to disneycruise.com and click on funonshore and then choose the islands in the itinerary you choose. They will be listed. There is supposed to be one on St. Thomas that is absolutely gorgeous, but I did not get to play there. Good luck.

Also, check out the Disney Credit Card. You can get onboard credits when using it to book, then rewards dollars to use on the ship.

05-22-2004, 09:52 AM

We took our daughter on our first trip to Disney World when she was 5 -- the most magical experience on memory. Disney Cruise Line was just starting out that year, and was advertising heavily on the Disney resort televisions. My daughter started talking "cruise" from that moment on. I would highly suggest the land/sea vacation during the off season. We took our daughter in February 2003 for her birthday and only paid about $3000 for the cruise and 4 days at Disney World in the Polynesian. I remember it only being about $1000 difference in price to add the land portion to the basic 3 day cruise -- and we got ultimate park hopper tickets (they cost about $750 for 3 people) and 4 nights at the Polynesian (which normally goes for about $300 a night - so would have been about $1200 for 4 nights without the cruise). The best rates for cruising seem to occur in the Fall -- and the weather is perfect. Even February wasn't bad.

The cruise hooked us last year. The next Disney vacation is a 7 day cruise, without a visit to the World. For a 5 year old, the access to the characters on the cruise will be absolutely magical, and the clubs are great for kids.

Another factor to weigh. . . How much is your 5 year old into amusement park rides? If she's a bit frightened by them, the cruise might be your best bet. If she's a thrill seeker, you might want to do the land/sea thing.

Just some thoughts. . . Regardless of what you decide to do, you'll have a wonderful vacation!

Judy:wave: princess:

05-25-2004, 02:51 PM
I was on the May 8 Western and I would have to say cruise. I have a daughter who is 7. She has been to WDW 7 times. We asked which she liked better and she said cruise. There is so much more character interaction on the ship than in the parks. As far as pacing when we have gone to WDW we go to one of the parks in the morning. We would stay till about 12. Then her and her sisters would go to the pool and then we would go back to the parks in the evening. Her sisters are 6 and 3. They loved the cruise. My 7 year old loved the club. She also had a friend on the ship. I would have to say hands down the cruise. It is so much more relaxing.

05-25-2004, 02:55 PM
It's funny weve been WDW 6 times and just got back from our second cruise. I asked my DD7 which she prefered and she said "park". She felt that there was more to do and it was more exciting at the parks than the cruise. Just goes to show you...you never know..:)

05-25-2004, 04:25 PM
Land and sea is ideal - a little of each - off season pricing can be reasonable - we did this in mid October on our first cruise.

If this is not an option, I would pick the cruise - we were just talking about this last night with our 5 and 8 yos - when asked, they both picked the cruise over WDW - but I'm sure you could get the same number picking WDW.

For my money, the cruise is much more relaxing, you get a lot more character interaction, the food is better (and included in the price), and is a more "special" experience (for lack of a better word).

My DW is a heavy duty planner, so we've done WDW with a very detailed plan designed to avoid the crowds, etc. - but we still find it very exhausting (very fun, mind you, but tiring).

05-25-2004, 04:50 PM
WooWoo, you're going to get all types of answers here. When we did our first cruise (4-day land/3-day sea) back in May 1999 all three of our boys (11, 8 and 4 at the time) preferred the cruise over the parks. They couldn't wait to do the 7-day cruise. HTH

05-25-2004, 05:10 PM
I suggest you post this over on the theme park board. I suspect you will get a very different answer.

You can probably (with good budgeting) get a much longer vacation out of WDW for the same money than you can out of the cruise. And a longer vacation will change the pace of your touring. With extra days, you won't necessarily need to go from morning to night. You can take a day to sit by the pool, play minigolf or shop Downtown Disney.

We do the parks in October - it is seldom hot and crowded. We've been in January and Feburary - when it is downright cool - so cool swimming seems ridiculous. And we've seen empty parks. The key to parks is timing - go over school break and you will get crowds. But your DD is young enough that you can probably pull her from school yet - which makes it a good time for WDW. The cruise gets much more expensive during school vacations, but it really doesn't get much more crowded - as the ship usually sails fairly full. (WDW is also somewhat cheaper in the offseason - at least onsite hotel rooms).

The cruise is wonderful, but it will not meet a five year olds need to go to WDW if that is what her interest is. Some of our five year olds like cruising more than the parks, some like the parks more than cruising (mine like them both - pressed they have a preference for anything involving rides). But the ones with informed opinions have been lucky enough to do both. The cruise has some real advantages - the pace is slower. The kids clubs are wonderful. Meals are included and are very good. Service is generally excellent. On the other hand, most of us spend 24x7 with our kids when we do the park (kids clubs are available, but pricey), good restaurants will be expensive, and the pace is faster. But the parks have the castle. The parks have rides. The parks have incredible gardens. Disney resorts have fantastic pools (moderate and deluxe resort have great slides) that are much less crowded than anything on the ship. And Disney has great waterparks, Pleasure Island, fantastic golf courses, horseback riding, mouseboats (many of these things you can book excursions for on a longer cruise).

If I had to pick one, I'd pick the parks every time. More variety. More to do. Less chance of bad weather spoiling your time. No chance of ending up in quarentine. More flexibility in budgeting.