Disney Cruise vs. Carnival Cruise: Which is better for you?

When planning a family vacation, visiting a theme park or a cruise is often at the top of the list.

With so many cruise lines on the market, deciding which one best suits your family’s needs can be tough. Two of the biggest family vacation contenders are Carnival Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line.

While both offer exceptional programming and activities for families, there are significant differences between the two.

This article will compare Disney Cruise vs. Carnival Cruise Line in terms of fleet size, cabin options, programming, and more, to help you make an informed decision for your next family vacation.

Disney Cruise vs. Carnival Cruise Line

disney cruise line vs. carnival cruise line
Carnival Liberty and Disney Dream docked in Nassau, Bahamas

Types of ships

Regarding fleet size, Carnival Cruise Line reigns with 24 ships compared to Disney Cruise Line’s five.

Carnival Cruise Line operates a fleet of 24 ships, ranging from the smaller, more intimate (older) vessels like the Carnival Paradise or Carnival Elation to the larger mega-ships such as Carnival Celebration.

Each ship offers a variety of amenities and experiences, from water parks and mini-golf courses to specialty restaurants and theaters.

Overall, Carnival prides itself on providing all cruisers with a fun and affordable cruising experience.

carnival celebration miami florida
Carnival Celebration in Miami (Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

In contrast, Disney Cruise Line operates five ships: Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, and Disney Wish. These ships are larger than Carnival’s smaller vessels but smaller than the majority of Carnival’s ships.

Disney Cruise Line offers a more immersive and magical experience, with each vessel decorated in a classic Disney style and featuring Disney-themed restaurants and productions.

Additionally, Disney Cruise Line offers exclusive experiences, such as character meet-and-greets and Marvel Day at Sea on select sailings.

However, it’s important to note that Disney’s fleet is mainly dedicated to family-friendly cruises.

At the same time, Carnival has a broader audience, including adults-only options like gambling and more bars around its ships. If you’re looking for a smaller, more intimate experience with fewer crowds, Disney Cruise Line may be the better choice.

disney cruise line


Carnival Cruises offers a wide range of itineraries, focusing on the Caribbean and Mexico. Some popular destinations include Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica.

Carnival also offers cruises to Alaska, Hawaii, and Europe, allowing passengers to explore some of the world’s most beautiful destinations.

Disney Cruises, on the other hand, focuses on family-friendly destinations like The Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

They also offer cruises to Alaska and Europe, but their itineraries are more limited than Carnival’s. Recently, Disney Cruise Line announced that it would position a ship in Singapore.

What sets Disney apart is their Bahamian private island Castaway Cay, where the ship can dock.

Carnival Cruise Line also has a private island, Half Moon Cay, but the ship has to drop anchor, and guests must take a water shuttle ashore.

Both private islands are paradise that offers white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a range of activities for kids and adults.

disney cruise castaway cay bahamas island
Disney Dream docked at Castaway Cay (Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line/David Roark)

Cabins: Disney Cruise vs. Carnival Cruise

Regarding staterooms, both Carnival Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line offer a range of options to fit different needs and budgets. However, there are some critical differences between the two cruise lines.

Disney Cruise Line is known for its spacious and well-appointed staterooms, which feature Disney-themed decor and comfortable furnishings. Disney ships have four main categories of staterooms: Inside Staterooms, Oceanview Staterooms, Verandah Staterooms, and Concierge Staterooms.

All staterooms on Disney ships are equipped with a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator, a safe, and a private bathroom. Additionally, some staterooms have split bathrooms, which can be a significant perk for families traveling with kids.

disney cruise line dream stateroom cabin
(Photo courtesy of Matt Stroshane/Disney Cruise Line)

Carnival Cruise Line, on the other hand, is known for its affordable and functional staterooms. There are three main categories of staterooms on Carnival ships: Interior Staterooms, Ocean View Staterooms, and Balcony Staterooms.

While Carnival staterooms may not have the same square footage as Disney staterooms, they are still comfortable and functional, with all the necessary amenities like a TV, a safe, and a private bathroom.

Couples may prefer Carnival’s spacious suites, while families may appreciate Disney’s Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms. Carnival’s cabins are known for their ample storage space and modern amenities, such as flat-screen TVs and mini-fridges.

Both cruise lines offer a variety of cabin categories, from interior to balcony, to suit different preferences and budgets.

One major difference between Carnival and Disney staterooms is their size. Disney staterooms tend to be larger than Carnival staterooms, which is a major advantage for families with kids or groups who need more space.

carnival spirit cruise ship

Food and drink

When it comes to onboard dining options, Carnival and Disney Cruise Line both offer a variety of choices to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. However, there are some notable differences between the two cruise lines.

Firstly, let’s talk about the programming and planning aspects. Disney Cruise Line is known for its themed restaurants and character dining experiences. Guests can dine with their favorite Disney characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Cinderella.

On the other hand, Carnival offers a more relaxed dining experience with no specific themes or characters.

disney fantasy restaurant main dining room

When it comes to family dining, both cruise lines have plenty of options. Disney Cruise Line offers rotational dining, where guests rotate between three different themed restaurants, while Carnival offers their “Your Time Dining” option, where guests can dine whenever they choose.

Both cruise lines have additional dining options like quick-service restaurants, 24-hour room service, and a buffet.

For couples looking for a romantic dining experience, both cruise lines offer specialty restaurants for an additional fee. Disney Cruise Line has Palo and Remy, while Carnival has Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, Bonsai Teppanyaki, and The Chef’s Table.

However, it’s worth noting that Disney Cruise Line’s specialty restaurants are more upscale, while most of Carnival’s options are more casual.

bonsai teppanyaki restaurant mardi gras
Bonsai Teppanyaki

MORE: Castaway Cay: 10 Fun Facts About Disney Cruise Line’s Private Island


When it comes to bars and nightlife, there are some notable differences between Disney ships and Carnival ships.

Disney Cruise Line offers a variety of bars and lounges, each with its unique theme and atmosphere. For example, the “Skyline” bar on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy features a changing skyline that simulates the world’s most famous cities.

On the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic, you can sip a cocktail at “Keys,” a lounge inspired by the famed piano bars of New Orleans.

Carnival Cruise Line, on the other hand, is known for its lively and energetic nightlife. The ships feature multiple bars and nightclubs, such as the RedFrog Pub and the Alchemy Bar, where bartenders create custom cocktails based on your preferences.

alchemy bar carnival celebration

While Disney Cruise Line’s bars tend to be more subdued and family-friendly, Carnival Cruise Line’s bars are geared more toward adults who want to let loose.

Entertainment and activities

While both cruise lines could be considered catering to different demographics, they offer a wide range of activities to keep guests entertained throughout their voyage.

Carnival Cruise Line is known for its fun and lively atmosphere. They offer a variety of activities to suit everyone’s interests, from sports and fitness to music and entertainment.

Some popular activities on board include water slides, mini-golf, basketball, volleyball, and fitness classes. Guests can also enjoy comedy shows, live music, and karaoke nights.

For those who prefer a more relaxing vacation, Carnival also offers spa treatments at Cloud 9 Spa and thermal suites with pools (certain vessels) and quiet lounges where guests can unwind.

carnival panorama waterworks

Disney Cruise Line is designed for families and offers a wide range of activities for both children and adults. The ships are designed with Disney-themed characters and entertainment, making it a magical experience for guests of all ages.

Disney offers a variety of activities, from water sports and pool parties to dance parties and Broadway-style shows. Children can participate in supervised activities at the youth clubs, while adults can relax and enjoy the adult-only areas of the ship.

Disney also offers movie theaters, live music, and character meet-and-greets throughout the ship.

Both Carnival and Disney offer a variety of shore excursions for guests to explore the destinations they visit. Depending on the port of call, these excursions can range from cultural experiences to outdoor adventures.

disney fantasy pool deck aqua duck
Disney Fantasy

Overall, Carnival and Disney Cruises provide various activities and experiences catering to different demographics and interests. While Carnival is more geared towards fun and entertainment, Disney is designed with families in mind and offers a magical experience.

Kids’ programs

Carnival Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line both offer exceptional kids’ programs, but there are some key differences to note.

Carnival’s kids’ program, known as Camp Carnival, is divided into three age groups: 2-5, 6-8, and 9-11. Each group has age-appropriate activities and entertainment, from arts and crafts to video games and scavenger hunts.

Camp Carnival counselors are trained to supervise and engage with kids in a fun and safe environment. Teens have their own club, Circle “C,” where they can hang out, play games, and meet new friends.

Disney’s kids’ program, called the Oceaneer Club, is designed to immerse children in the world of Disney. The club features areas based on popular Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, and Frozen.

Kids can also participate in activities like storytelling, crafts, and games while interacting with their favorite characters.

There are also youth clubs for tweens and teens and a nursery for infants and toddlers.
While both programs are top-notch, Disney’s program stands out for its theming and character interactions. However, Carnival’s program offers more age-specific groups.

andy's room play area disney magic
Andy’s Room in Disney’s Oceaneer Club on Disney Magic (Photo courtesy of Matt Stroshane/Disney Cruise Line)

Prices comparison

When planning a cruise vacation, one of the most important considerations is the cost.

How do the prices compare between Disney Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line?

Carnival is known for its affordable prices and value-packed itineraries. It offers a wide range of ships, with the fleet size currently standing at 24 ships. Carnival’s prices typically start at around $50 per person per night and can go up to $500 per person per night for their larger suites.

On the other hand, Disney Cruise Line is known for its top-notch programming and family-friendly atmosphere. They have a smaller fleet size, with only five ships currently in operation.

Disney’s prices typically start at around $200 per person per night and can go up to $1,500 per person per night for their suites.

quiet cove adults area

While Disney Cruise Line may have higher prices overall, it’s important to note that their pricing often includes more amenities and activities than Carnival Cruise Line offers.

Disney’s programming includes character meet-and-greets, Broadway-style shows, and themed activities for kids and families. Disney Cruise Line’s cabins are typically larger than the ones offered by Carnival.

It’s also worth considering what type of traveler you are when comparing prices. Carnival Cruise Line may be a better option for budget-conscious couples or groups of friends who are looking for a fun and affordable vacation.

Is Disney Cruise Line better than Carnival?

When choosing a cruise line, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It all depends on what you’re looking for in a vacation adventure.

Disney Cruise Line is known for its family-friendly atmosphere and top-notch programming, while Carnival Cruise Line is known for its affordability and energetic nightlife.

carnival deck party

If you’re traveling with kids and want a cruise that offers plenty of activities and entertainment for families, Disney Cruise Line is an excellent choice.

The line’s ships feature Disney-themed shows, character meet-and-greets, and dedicated youth clubs for kids and teens. Additionally, the private island Castaway Cay is a beautiful and exclusive destination that everyone in the family will enjoy.

On the other hand, if you’re traveling with a group of friends or as a couple and want a fun and affordable vacation, Carnival Cruise Line may be a better option. Their nightlife options are also more geared towards adults, with multiple bars and nightclubs on each ship.

Final Thoughts: Carnival vs. Disney

Disney Cruise Line is known for its family-friendly entertainment, with plenty of options for kids and adults alike. The ships feature Disney-themed shows, character meet-and-greets, and activities like dance parties, trivia nights, and movies.

There are also dedicated spaces for kids and teens, including play areas and clubs.

disney cruise rapunzel's royal table
)Photo courtesy of Matt Stroshane/Disney Cruise Line)

Carnival Cruise Line, on the other hand, caters more to couples and adults. While plenty of family-friendly activities and shows exist, there are also more options geared toward adults, such as comedy clubs, bars, and nightclubs.

Whichever cruise line you choose, do your research ahead of time to ensure you’re getting the best deal and experience possible. Consider factors such as cabin size, amenities, programming, and overall pricing to make an informed decision.

With some planning and consideration, you will have an unforgettable family vacation on Disney or Carnival Cruise Line.

READ NEXT: Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival Cruise Line: Which Cruise Line Is Best For You?

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