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5 things Disney Cruise Line is doing wrong


From character meet and greets to immersive dining experiences, Broadway-style musicals, and exclusive deck parties, every Disney fan knows that there's no other cruise line that can compete with the magic created onboard a Disney cruise.

Even so, there are some aspects of a Disney cruise vacation that might not appeal to all vacationers. Those, for instance, who value good loyalty perks will find that Disney's Castaway Club falls short, even for their most loyal cruises, compared to programs like Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society

Additionally, the onboard dining experience isn't as flexible as Norwegian's, which has no set times or assigned dining rooms. If you are a fan of eating at your convenience, you may not like having to schedule your daily activities around dinner.

Here are 5 things that Disney Cruise Line is doing wrong. 

Read more: 10 things you won't find on a Disney cruise

No drink packages 


The majority of mainstream cruise lines have at least one drink package available for guests to purchase that either includes a fixed or unlimited number of daily drinks. With some lines charging upwards of $16.00 per cocktail (after gratuity), it's a no-brainer way to save money for those who like to indulge in a few more drinks than usual while on vacation. 

Unfortunately, Disney doesn't offer any drink packages. The closest thing they offer is a refillable beer stein. Either before your cruise or once onboard, you can purchase a 21oz glass mug and refill it for the price of a 16oz beer throughout the cruise. You can also bundle bottles of wine; 3 bottles of classic wine, for instance, costs $105, whereas the price for 3 premium bottles increases to $155. 

Neither option, however, fits the definition of a standard drink package that enables you to order cocktails or glasses of wine from bars around the ship. You'll have to pay for each drink that you order individually and settle the bill at the end of the cruise. 

Read more: Are cruise drink packages worth it?

Traditional muster drill

Celebrity Muster Drill

Covid wreaked havoc on the cruising industry, resulting in a 15-month shutdown that prevented anyone from taking a cruise. However, one of the best things to come out of the return to cruising was the virtual muster drill. 

Rather than having to gather at your assigned assembly station with every other passenger, you're able to watch the safety briefings from your smartphone or stateroom televisions before making your way to your muster station within a specified window of time. This was initially done to reduce contact with other cruises; however, reception to the virtual muster drill was positive, so the majority of cruise lines decided to keep this format. 

Disney Cruise Line still requires all guests to visit their physical stations at the same time to listen to the safety briefings before sounding the emergency alarm. To ensure that every passenger is in attendance, all Key to the World cards are scanned. If you cruised before the pandemic, you're likely familiar with this method. 

Read more: The cruise ship muster drill: What is it and why it's important

No Starlink 

Internet onboard

It is natural to want to stay in touch with loved ones back on land while on a cruise. In mid-2022, Royal Caribbean began testing Elon Musk's Starlink internet onboard their ships. Now, this impressive service can be found on numerous different cruise lines, including Norwegian and Carnival. 

Don't be surprised if the Wi-Fi on your Disney cruise isn't as fast as other cruise lines, as they have yet to add Starlink to any of their ships. 

In fact, it was just 2022 when they started offering unlimited daily packages. Prior to that, you had to pay for each megabyte. The most basic package, "Stay Connected" starts at $10/day, while the most expensive, "Premium Surf," costs $30/day. 


If you have hopes of a strong internet connection to work while onboard, your best bet is to purchase the "Premium Surf" package. At $30 per day, however, it's pretty expensive, costing over $200 for a weeklong cruise. 

Those who decide to bypass a Wi-Fi package will have to remember to turn their phone on airplane mode before setting sail. Otherwise, you might return home to a large cellular bill from your provider due to roaming fees!

Read more: Do cell phones work on cruise ships?

Lame loyalty program perks


As a Diamond member within Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor Society, I love that I'm able to get four complimentary drinks each day of my cruise. Plus, I utilized their status match program with sister brand Celebrity Cruises' and am looking forward to the perks that accompany being an Elite Captain's Club member, even though I've never stepped foot on a Celebrity ship before! These include a complimentary happy hour and laundry. 

Most cruise lines give you points based on the length of your sailing. If, for instance, you take a 7-night Royal Caribbean cruise, you'll get 7 cruise points. Similarly, you will be rewarded with 5 VIFP points if you take a 5-night Carnival cruise. Disney's Castaway Club doesn't operate the same way, as you earn a single per cruise, regardless of the length. 

To reach Pearl status, the highest tier, you have to take 25 Disney cruises. Those who reach the highest tier of the Crown & Anchor Society are rewarded with a free cruise, six daily beverages, free Wi-Fi, and more. Pearl Castaway Club members shouldn't expect the same kind of rewards. 


The only real "free" perk, in addition to branded merchandise that you'll begin receiving after your first cruise, is a complimentary dinner at Palo that's awarded to Platinum cruisers. 

Upon reaching Pearl, you'll only get three new perks: a complimentary digital photo package, the ability to book new itineraries four days earlier than the general public and cruise activities 123 days prior to sailing, and the ability to complete online check-in 40 days prior to sailing. 

That's right, you shouldn't expect a free cruise, Wi-Fi, or anything else valuable that makes programs like the Crown & Anchor Society worthy of staying "Loyal to Royal."

Read more: Everything you should know about Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Club levels

You can't eat dinner in the ship's buffet


Those preparing for a Disney cruise should understand the caveats of their dining experience. First, you'll only have two dining times to choose from — early and late — whereas most other mainstream cruise lines give you the choice to select a flexible option that will allow you to dine at your convenience, rather than adhere to a set time. 

Disney operates on a rotational dining schedule, meaning that you (and your wait staff) will rotate between each of the three dining rooms during your time onboard. If you're on Disney Wish, for instance, you might be dining with Ana and Elsa in Arandelle one night while the next you're immersed in the golden age of Hollywood at 1923. 

Because of this structure, though, flexible dining isn't feasible. If you could choose your dining room, you might find a line of people wanting to eat at Animator's Palate or Worlds of Marvel time and time again. Each dining room offers a unique experience and specialty menu items, so Disney wants to ensure that everyone can experience each room at least once. 


On Disney ships, the buffet is typically closed for dinner. There are numerous advantages to being able to grab a quick bite to eat from the buffet, especially if you've just returned from a long day ashore. Unfortunately, you won't be able to stroll into the buffet in your cover-up on a Disney cruise; you'll have to change to adhere to your set dining time in the main rooms. 

While the buffet is open on longer sailings, it functions as a sit-down restaurant with a four-course meal, so you won't have access to the expansive grab-and-go type of experience that's available for breakfast and lunch.

That doesn't mean you have to eat in the dining rooms, though. Adults can choose to splurge on dinner at Palo or another adult-only restaurant, such as Remy or Enchanté. Additionally, there's a small buffet near the pool that is open with limited offerings. Room service onboard Disney ships is also complimentary, so you can have a relaxing dinner in the room if you'd prefer. 

Read more: 10 things you should never do at a cruise ship buffet

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