Picking between two beautiful family friendly resort vacations?
Sounds difficult, but we'll press on.
Walt Disney World is a kinesthetic experience, with average walking distances of five to ten miles per day depending how active you are and which park you tour. I highly doubt you'll walk that much on a day at sea. (Unless you're crazy like me and have to get your run in before dawn.) Similarly in the parks everything is going all the time, if you or your child are overwhelmed by activity and get easily overstimulated. Cruising tends to attract and invite more of a relaxing day at the beach vibe. There are extremely active shore excursions and activities (dawn basketball anyone?) available too, but it is not overwhelming or inescapable.
|Somewhere in the Caribbean a boy plays basketball as the sun rises.|
Don't worry, I checked it out.
This is directly above the gym rather than someone's stateroom.
If your entire party is high energy, all day long every day, Walt Disney World would be a better group pick.
Cost and Value
Cost wise, DCL is generally more expensive per day than staying at a value resort and getting the smallest meal plan, but once you include food and childcare, all that saved value goes out the window.
This one goes to DCL.
The Pirate Night fireworks are the best at sea.
Wishes and Illuminations are the best fireworks display in the world.
|There are more fireworks in this single frame than in the entirety of The Pirates in the Caribbean fireworks.|
Ship fireworks are pretty cool.
Magic Kingdom fireworks induce tears in grown men.
Not even kind of close.
Travel to Vacation
Driving to Galveston on the morning of the cruise take approximately an hour (two if there is traffic).
Flights from Houston to Orlando are quite expensive as is driving (18+ hours with the necessary potty breaks for kids makes this two days of eating out and a hotel break). I like using this calculator: Fly or Drive Calculator to figure out the probable cost of driving. It takes into account your make and model of car, how cheap of a hotel you'll tolerate, rental car at the destination and whether you'll park your car at the airport, and lots of the little extra costs. The only thing it fails to include is the cost of food on the additional days. (Average cost per meal eaten outside the home is $12.75 per person. If you want to add that in to your calculations.)
This goes to DCL, but only if you live near a homeport.
I'm going to give this to WDW for everyone else, as bussing to port from the Orlando airport adds an additional charge per person and hour of transport each direction.
Ease of Room Access
Afternoon naps become simple when you walk to the proper end of the ship to ride the elevator to your floor and reach your stateroom.
Longest this could take is ten minutes.
From Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, you start by walking out of the park, waiting for a bus (or monorail), riding the bus (or monorail) back to your resort and walking to your building to take the elevator to your floor and reach your hotel room.
Longest this could take? An hour. More if you have to wait for the next bus due to crowds or are at a resort that is in a different area. (WDW is the size of Manhattan, after all.)
Cruising is cruising right along (but I'm
Air Conditioning and Weather
I live in Houston. I'm used to heat and humidity conditions similar to what you encounter in Orlando year round. Here in Texas, our solution is reverse hibernation. During summer months (April-October) stay in or near air conditioning. Cruising involves air conditioning. Walt Disney World involves standing outdoors in lines for rides or while waiting for parades or fireworks.
At WDW, I rarely avoid sunburn. DCL, I only sunburn if I forget my sunscreen when I head to the tropical beach excursions.
During the summer, this goes to DCL, unless there is a hurricane that effects your cruise, but not Florida.
During the winter I'd hand it to WDW with lower crowds and generally mild (for winter) weather. The Caribbean stays tropical even during the winter months...so if you like that (which I do) then it still goes to DCL.
Overall, there are magical moments to be found everywhere! For all that I cry on Main Street USA, I tear up every time I get welcomed aboard. (Yes, the atrium you've seen on travel channel specials and promotional DVDs gets the same effect as seeing Cinderella Castle.)
The ship is similar to Animal Kingdom in that the magic is there for you to discover rather than all being at set intervals. Rather than queueing and meeting Belle after passing through Maurice's cottage and into the magic mirror (a wonderfully beautiful experience) you happen upon Belle sitting on the floor reading to the children who happened to be there. Is anything on DCL as big of a "Wow!" moment as all of Walt Disney World? I'd say the ocean off every side of the ship lends a majesty and excitement to even the small moments getting a coffee.
This one, I'll leave as your call.
I love Walt Disney World and still hold the dream of living in Cinderella Castle in my inner child, but as an adult, I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy living on a Disney ship more.
Both are great vacations, but ultimately very different choices. We have done both and will do both again. If you're up in the air on the land and sea issue I hope this at least gives your a few things to think about.