In February of 2011 we took a 5 day cruise out of Port Canaveral on the newly built Disney Dream. It was a fantastic trip – a great getaway from New England in the winter! This year in February we’re taking a similar cruise on Royal Caribbean out of Miami and I thought it would be fun and useful to compare the two and name a winner! We’re two weeks away and in this first part, I’ll cover the differences between the two cruises in terms of ships, itineraries, getting booked, and booking shore excursions. In Part 2 after the cruise I’ll cover our actual on board experiences including boarding, dining, and how we felt about the trip overall!
The Disney Dream was brand new at the time of our trip – she had only been in service for 3 weeks! We had a great time watching the webcam at the Meyer Werft shipyard in the months leading up to our cruise. We saw the progression as the Dream was built, launched, and put through sea trials. Very cool! At 1,115 feet in length and with a capacity of 4000 passengers, the Disney Dream is one of the largest cruise ships afloat. Despite its substantial size, the Dream is comfortable and accessible, with a layout that allows for easy transitions from the cabins to the dining areas or the decks as needed. The Dream features the AquaDuck, as well as a waterslide and two pools. There is a hot tub although it is off to the side of the pool area rather than in the open. The Dream has all sorts of activities and amenities including a mini golf course, basketball court, Oceaneer’s Club for kids and exclusive hangouts for teens and tweens. There is also a huge outdoor movie screen on the back of the funnel stack! For a full tour of all the features of the Dream, check out the virtual tour and slide show on Disney’s Cruise Website.
The Majesty of the Seas is a veteran of the Royal Caribbean fleet, launched in 1992, so no chance to see her under construction! At 880 feet and a capacity of 2,744 passengers, the Majesty is about 2/3 the size of the Dream. Majesty underwent a full refurbishment in 2007 to bring her up to date with the amenities and design of the rest of the Royal Caribbean fleet, including a complete overhaul of the pool decks, the addition of a climbing wall and other activities that are standard on newer Royal Caribbean ships. With two pools (and two whirlpools), a climbing wall, basketball court and kids clubs, Majesty of the Seas has nearly as many amenities as the Dream despite being 1/3 the size and nearly 20 years older! Here’s Royal Caribbean’s info on the Majesty of the Seas.
Both cruises include five days total aboard ship.
- Day 1 – Port Canaveral/Miami
- Day 2 – Nassau
- Day 3 – Castaway Cay/Coco Cay
- Day 4 – At Sea/Key West
- Day 5 – Port Canaveral/Miami
As you can see, the major difference is day 4 where we were at sea on the Dream and in Key West on the Majesty of the Seas.
Pros: I booked our Disney cruise online and had no problems getting everything the way I wanted it. The online reservation process was simple and elegantly designed. Disney’s website is full of beautiful pictures and virtual tours so we could see each stateroom category in detail. We booked over 9 months in advance (while the ship was still under construction!) so we were easily able to select the stateroom category we liked, the dining time we wanted, etc. I noticed that the price went up steadily between the time we booked and when we sailed, and the ship was definitely full (not surprising as it was one of the first few sailings of the brand new Disney Dream). I reserved all of our shore excursions online (again many months early) and had no problems getting the times and selections I wanted.
Cons: Booking Disney shore excursions meant paging through many many similar listings and trying to pick out exactly what we wanted. There were at least 15 different choices for Atlantis excursions including a tour, tour plus Aquaventure, Aquaventure plus Dolphin Cay, tour plus Dolphin Cay – it was enough to make my head spin and I spent a lot of time reading the fine print to make sure I was getting the exact excursion I wanted. The same problem existed in booking for Castaway Cay. Everything from a float tube to a Jet Ski tour was listed separately which meant a lot of time spent reading and paging through all the options.
Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
I started to book our Royal Caribbean cruise online but had questions about the stateroom choices that weren’t clearly solved by the online booking system. Royal Caribbean’s online reservation system is not bad but it is not as elegant and simple as Disney’s. I ended up calling and making the reservation over the phone.
Pros: That process was easy and the salesperson was exceptionally helpful. She double checked for discounts, told me about the ship and helped me understand why there were so few balcony options (Majesty was built when suites with balconies were not the norm for the majority of staterooms). Once I booked our room she sent me an email and I was able to login to the Royal Caribbean site and manage the rest of my booking online.
Cons: The shore excursions booking process was easier in some ways (fewer options at Atlantis, so no confusion about which one to pick), but the interface is definitely not as clear and simple as the Disney interface. I couldn’t book the Jet Ski tour on Coco Cay when I made my reservation (it said “inquire on board” which I took to mean that it was sold out) however when I checked back in a few weeks later I found that I could book the driver option but not the passenger. Two days after I booked the driver reservation, the passenger option became available. I only discovered this by repeatedly returning to the website to check. I also found that I couldn’t reserve “anytime” dining options and will need to do that on board.
In both cases I was able to easily walk through the online check-in well in advance, and print out a nice summary of my reservation, all of my shore excursions, etc. as well as my Sail Passes to bring with me to the ship. Both Disney and Royal Caribbean sent me luggage tags in advance to be sure our luggage was properly marked for our stateroom. So now we are booked and ready to go! Stay tuned for a review and comparison of the two cruises after we get back!