Planning a trip to Disney World vs. planning a trip on Disney Cruise Line

How different is it to plan a trip to Disney World and a cruise on the Disney Cruise Line? While the two are similar, they have differences that require their own unique approach.

Let’s start by talking about the similarities. Since both are ran by Disney, the overall planning experience – booking, making payments, etc – are similar. However, the approach and mentality needed to book a trip at either Disney World or on Disney Cruise Line are almost opposites.

Planning a Disney World trip

After booking your Disney resort, you’ll need to keep an eye on your calendar. If you’re staying on property, you can book your dining reservations 180 days before your trip and your FastPass+ reservations 60 days out.

In summary, you’ll need to have a rough idea of where you want to go and what you want to do each day of your stay. The FastPass+ system requires you to know what park you want to go to each day, and roughly what attractions you want to hit and when. For example, to make sure you are able to ride the most popular attractions in Epcot, you’ll need to follow an Epcot FastPass+ strategy guide or risk missing something you want to see.

In order to maximize your Disney World trip, you’re going to have to do a lot of planning in advance. The goal is to have everything planned ahead of time so that you don’t need to make too many decisions during the trip itself. That’s both a pro and a con, unless you know what you want to eat and ride a couple months out.

Planning a trip on Disney Cruise Line

After booking your Disney cruise, the preparation process is significantly different when compared to planning a Disney World trip.

Once you’re paid in full, you’ll have a date where you can book your activities. That includes your port adventures and items such as Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. There are other experiences, such as seeing characters, that may be reserved in advance as well.

However, compared to a Disney World trip, a journey on the Disney Cruise Line requires far less planning. Instead, Disney cruises are more relaxed and a plan-as-you-go trip. Using your daily navigator, you can see what activities are offered a day ahead of time on the ship, allowing you to make your selections in the moment.

Want to sit out on the deck? Go for it. Want to see a movie? Show up a few minutes early, but don’t worry about having to book a spot two months prior. Trying to decide where to eat dinner? There’s quick service options, but through rotational dining, you won’t have to decide if you don’t want to think about it.


Both a Disney World trip and a Disney cruise require some advanced planning if you’re going to maximize your trip. However, a trip to Disney World requires more planning and decisions while a cruise with Disney Cruise Line is the more laid back, relaxed experience. With this in mind, consider making Disney World your first stop if you’re planning a Land and Sea vacation that includes both a cruise and a stay at Disney World.

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David is a Disney travel expert who created Notes from Neverland in 2018 after visiting Disney theme parks countless times. Previously, David spent way too much time writing about sports, and was featured in Sports Illustrated, MSN, Yahoo!, and in many other publications. Learn more or contact us.

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