Which Cruise Line is Better? Royal Caribbean or Disney?

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Join Moms at Sea Travel’s Kelly Aleman as she tackles the long debated question; How does a Royal Caribbean cruise compare to a Disney cruise? While you may see Kelly hitting the high seas most often on Royal Caribbean, what you may not know is that she is an avid Disney Parks enthusiast and Annual Passholder at Disney World. Her family visits the parks numerous times throughout the year and is known to tack on a stay at the House of the Mouse before or after a Royal Caribbean sailing.

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After having gone on over 40 cruises, most being on Royal Caribbean, I tried something new and sailed on the most recent addition to the Disney fleet, the Disney Wish.

I am going to break down every category and give my opinion on how they stack up!

For the purpose of this review, I will compare Royal’s third newest ship, Symphony, which I sailed on in May and December 2022, to the Disney Wish. While Symphony does 7 night Caribbean cruises and Wish does 3 and 4 night Bahamas cruises, I feel these are still good comparisons as they are both each line’s top tier of ships. .


Perhaps it is my experience with Royal, but I found the Disney website and app harder to navigate. I found it frustrating that I couldn’t book excursions until I was paid in full and closer to sailing with DCL. Cabana availability on Castaway Cay is also a challenge as you will have a lot of trouble getting one unless you’re Concierge. With Royal Caribbean, cabanas on Cococay are more expensive, but there is usually not an issue with booking one in advance. The mixology, champagne tasting, or any specialty beverage classes were also unavailable on Disney as they were all booked up.

This was a bit of a disappointment, I’m not going to lie.

However we did see several of the beverage classes taking place as we were on board and walking around and they looked really fun!

Winner: Royal Caribbean


I found Disney’s check-in confusing. With Disney, you basically have to stay up until midnight to get the earliest check-in time available. This is not my style, so I woke up at my normal 5am, and got a 12pm check-in time. Not my preferred check-in time, but with two young kids, I don’t see midnight anymore. With Royal Caribbean, I am able to easily check-in when I wake up for the day, and can snag one of the earliest times.

With Disney you had to have all your items ready (passport, boarding photos, etc). With Royal you can select your time and finish the other items at another time at your convenience, knowing your check in time is secured.

Winner: Royal Caribbean

Embarkation Terminal

Disney’s theming really shined here. The terminal was simple and easy to flow through. It is not as big as Terminal A in Miami, but it was a very nice and well themed terminal.

Winner: Disney


We didn’t wait in any lines during our check in with Disney. We checked in, went through security, up the elevator (we had a stroller) and basically walked onto the ship. Super smooth and fast process. One thing to note, I never received my check-in “barcode” so I did have a hiccup where before boarding they asked for my barcode, but it was never received via email and I couldn’t find it in the app. The terminal staff seemed familiar with this issue and quickly fixed it for me. Was this user error? App error? Not sure, but worth mentioning.

Winner: Disney

Initial Thoughts after Boarding

Both Wish and Symphony are GORGEOUS ships. Upon stepping on either ship you will be wowed. Symphony is large and intense with all the offerings on the Promenade when you board. Wish is upscale and beautiful when you enter the Grand Hall. Both are impressive in their own ways.

Winner: Tied

Buffet Options: Marceline Market Vs Windjammer

Embarkation lunch on Wish provided food offerings, which included giant shrimp and stone crab, definitely hit a touch above Windjammer’s usual spread. Every breakfast and lunch in here provided a variety of noticeably elevated offerings for both kids and adults. There is even a kid’s buffet area which was a hit with my seven year old. For lunch, the Windjammer on Royal was underwhelming. Breakfast in Windjammer is good, and dinner tends to be hit or miss. If something was not out on Wish, for example blue cheese dressing for a salad, you could ask for it and it magically appeared. Voila! On Royal, I ask for blue cheese dressing, and they typically tell me they don’t have it that day.

Winner: Marceline Market on Wish

Availability of Food, Snacks, and Complimentary Beverages

I feel it’s very easy to find food, snacks, and free beverages on Symphony. There is Park Cafe, Promenade Cafe, Sorentos, and Solarium Bistro to name a few. I felt on Disney there were meals available at the food hall area at Mickey’s Festival of Foods but if you wanted a snack or fresh fruit (not a meal), I couldn’t easily find this.

Winner: Royal Caribbean

Main Dining Room, Dinner

Disney really shines with their themed rotational dining rooms and we loved all three; 1923, Worlds of Marvel, and Arendelle. They were all so unique and immersive!

Winner: Disney

Quality of Main Dining Food

I do enjoy Main Dining Room food on Royal Caribbean, but Disney food quality was a step up from Royal Caribbean. However, I did feel the appetizer, soup, and salad offerings on Disney could have used a broader selection.

Winner: Disney

Casual Food Options

We thoroughly enjoyed Mickey’s Festival of Foods on the pool deck. We loved being able to stay in our wet swimsuits and grab Donald’s Cantina tacos and hot dogs and chicken fingers from Goofy’s Grill. The food haul concept by the pool was really convenient and delicious for causal lunch options. On Royal we do enjoy the casual eateries throughout Symphony, but it does involve us drying off and putting shirts/coverups on. My kids love hotdogs from the Dog House on the Boardwalk, and I like the salads from Park Cafe in Central Park.

Winner: Tie


Disney may win with the theming of some of their bars such as the Bayou and Hyperspace Lounge, but their daytime bars don’t hold a candle to Royal Caribbean. I found the bartenders on Disney very friendly but inexperienced (this is specifically referring to the outdoor/daytime type bars). I will say, I experienced some of the best Lemon Drop Martinis at the Bayou and Nightingale’s. The evening bars on Disney had fantastic bartenders who really shined. Royal we have always been able to find a few favorite bartenders who learned our cocktails and took fantastic care of us. I felt Royal Caribbean’s bar menus offered a better variety of cocktails. Disney’s drink menus offered minimal options. Disney’s drinks are significantly less expensive than Royal Caribbean’s. Disney drinks were often between $5-$8, with the most expensive being a Grey Goose Lemon Drop Martini at $10. So I was very impressed with the low price point of the cocktails on Disney vs Royal Caribbean.

Winner: Royal Caribbean


Wow! Did Disney really nail their cabins! We stayed in a Deluxe Family Ocean View Stateroom with Verandah. The split bathroom was very well laid out and worked well for us. The curtain to separate the parent bed from the kids area helped with nap/bed time with my toddler. The stateroom was very well appointed. The cabin was the prettiest balcony/verandah cabin I’ve ever stayed in. However, the most important part…THE BED. I say it often, I am not a fan of Royal Caribbean’s mattresses. I legit bring my own mattress topper as they are just too firm for me. The bed on Wish was one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept on. Definitely the most comfortable out of any cruise ship cabin I’ve ever had (and this is compared to even the highest level suite on Royal Caribbean). However, just to note, on Symphony we had two connecting Boardwalk Balcony cabins. This is usually our go to, so we get two full cabins and two bathrooms. This works well for us. Also, worth mentioning, our stateroom attendant on Wish was one of the best we ever had.

Winner: Disney


Our toddler loved the Character Meet and Greets. He met character after character for 3 days straight. He was on cloud nine! The Pirate Party and Character shows were a hit for the kids. Outside of the kid’s entertainment, we would have preferred more variety. We love the Aqua Show and Ice Shows on Symphony. We also enjoy mini golf and the open play area in Adventure Ocean on Symphony. We feel there is more to do in down time on Symphony versus on Wish. Of course almost everyone is aware there are no casinos on a Disney cruise. This is always an activity my husband enjoys once the kids and I go to bed at night. So he did miss that on Wish.

Winner: Tie

Pool Deck

The kids seemed to really enjoy the pool deck on Wish. Again, I felt confused trying to find all the pools as they were small and spread out on various decks. Most of the pools were shallow at only about 1-2 feet in several of the pools. My toddler loved the Toy Story Splash pad on Wish. My 7 year old loved the AquaMouse on Wish. My husband and I prefer the pool deck set up on Symphony. We enjoyed slides on both ships equally (Symphony has 3 body slides and Wish has 1 raft slide).

Winner: Tie


The layout of Wish just didn’t make sense to me. I found myself confused on where the elevators were located. Perhaps this just comes with time, but I felt myself winding hallways often to find the elevator/stairs. Royal ships have a much more user friendly lay out in my opinion.

Winner: Royal Caribean


Overall the quality of the food was just better. This actually surprised us. We expected it to be more of a tie. Disney food was definitely more enjoyable than Royal Caribbean.

Winner: Disney

Kids club

This should not be a surprise. Disney really wins with their expansive and immersive Oceaneer Club. Disney’s “It’s a Small World Nursery” is fairly similar to Royal Caribbean’s Royal Babies and tots Nursery. However, Disney does offer milk, juice, yogurt, bananas, and crackers as snacks to the 6 month- 36 month babies and toddlers throughout. While Royal Caribbean just has crackers outside of meal times which offer a small variety but still lacks in comparison to Disney. It was also convenient Disney could message us on the app if either child needed us. My 7 year old does love Adventure Ocean, he begged to go to Oceaneer Club over and over on our 3 night cruise.

Winner: Disney

Private Island: Coco Cay vs Castaway Cay

While Disney’s Castaway Cay is beautiful and offers a lot to do, Royal Caribbean just wins here in my opinion. Splashaway Bay, Oasis Lagoon, and Captain Jill’s Galleon (Pirate Ship Play area) just win for my kids. Disney does offer an adventure course area and waterslides in the ocean (which were super fun), but my kids prefer the splash pads and pool on Coco Cay. I do think Castaway Cay has amazing theming and is a beautiful destination, but Coco Cay just wins for us.

Winner: Royal Caribbean


Both cruise lines offer a smooth departure process. We always carry off with self assist, so we are off around 7a/7:30a depending on when the ships are cleared by customs. We didn’t experience any delays or problems on either debarkation.

Winner: Tie

Final Thoughts

So which is the winner?

I think this depends on the family. We thoroughly enjoyed both cruise experiences. Disney of course is more expensive. For reference, we paid about the same for 3 nights on Wish with my family in one Deluxe Family Ocean View Stateroom with Verandah as we did for 7 nights on Symphony in connecting Boardwalk Balconies. Both cruise lines have lots of wins, and we plan to sail on both again.

Hope this helps you plan your next cruise, whichever cruise line you choose!

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