Dying to take a Disney Cruise but worried that it might be a little too much for your vacation budget to handle? Disney Cruise Line offers 3-Night Getaway Cruises out of San Diego, Miami and Port Canaveral, Florida. The cruises offer all the fun and Disney magic you’ll find on a longer cruise, but with fewer days and a smaller price tag.

The Disney Dream. Photo credit: Disney Cruise Line.

The Disney Dream. Photo credit: Disney Cruise Line.

With four ships and multiple itineraries to choose from, a Disney cruise is truly the ultimate family vacation. Whether you want to save some money or just prefer quick trips – or if you are one of those people who love Disney but the thought of spending a full week with Mickey & Friends is just a bit too much to handle – a short cruise is still an awesome experience. All of Disney’s 3-Night Getaway Cruises feature one full day at sea and one port of call; the cruise from San Diego stops at Ensenada, Mexico while the two itineraries departing from Florida visit Disney’s private island, Castaway Key.

We took a 3-day cruise aboard the Disney Wonder out of San Diego. Here are the top six things we loved about our short cruise.

Partying like pirates aboard the Disney Wonder. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

Partying like pirates aboard the Disney Wonder. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

1. “Pirates in the Caribbean” Deck Party
This is one of Disney’s signature events, and even if you are on a short cruise you’ll still get to experience it! Pirate Night is a dinner and deck party with Disney characters, capped off with fireworks over the ocean. Everyone gets a pirate-themed bandana to wear and many get really into it – donning eye patches and carrying (plastic) swords. This was a really fun experience, even though on our cruise from San Diego we weren’t anywhere near the Caribbean!

2. Disney Movies
Whether in the plush movie theater or out by the pool, there’s always a Disney movie playing. In the afternoon, kids play games out on deck and the winner gets to choose which flick they show. (My son kicked butt at trivia one day and opted for The Lion King – a classic.)

All you can drink soft drinks, tea and coffee are included. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

All you can drink soft drinks, tea and coffee are included. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

3. All-You-Can-Drink-Soft Drinks
It may not seem like much, but if you drink a lot of soda it’s a pretty big deal! While other cruise lines charge extra for soft drink packages, Disney has self-serve drink stations on deck, available 24 hours a day for your drinking pleasure. Milk, juice, tea, coffee, lemonade and soft drinks are available there free at all times. You can also order any of these drinks for free in the dining rooms. On a family cruise line where there’s not as much booze flowing, this was a huge perk.

4. Character Meet & Greets
Granted, my kid is getting a little old to truly appreciate this. But if we had cruised 5 years ago we’d have been golden. That’s because Disney characters are everywhere, and one of the best parts of sailing with Disney is being able to meet them. Scheduled appearances happen several times throughout the cruise and you might even run into some in Castaway Cay if that port is on your itinerary. The lines for photos are much shorter than they are at the parks, and many times you’ll just see them wandering around.

Keep in mind, getting your favorite’s autograph on a 3-day cruise may require a little more patience than getting one on a 7-day cruise, because schedules are more condensed and all the guests are trying to squeeze in a photo opp. But if this is something that floats your kid’s boat, definitely make time for this special opportunity.

Disney Wonder's water slide. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

Disney Wonder’s water slide. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

5. Cool Waterslides
The Disney Wonder had a great waterslide that the kids onboard loved! I say kids, because unlike other ships we have been on in the past, only kids are allowed to go down this slide, so there were a few disappointed dads watching from the deck. Being the original Disney Cruise Line ship, the Wonder actually has the smallest slide of the fleet.

The Disney Dream and Fantasy ships upped the ante with the AquaDuck, the first-ever watercoaster on a cruise ship. The coaster features a transparent, acrylic tube that propels riders along on a raft, up and down four decks of the ship, swinging out 13 feet off the side, 150 feet above the sea!

Interior stateroom. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

Interior stateroom. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

6. Family-friendly Staterooms
Disney prides itself on its larger-than-average staterooms, and when you are traveling with kids, space is a premium! Standard rooms fit four comfortably, with pull down beds and a privacy curtain to separate the grown-up space from the children. All come with bathtubs, a television, a safe and a hair dryer.

Rooms are decorated very tastefully, while still giving a nod to that famous Mouse that started it all! Beds were comfortable, there was ample closet and storage space, and even the windowless interior rooms felt fairly open and not at all claustrophobic.

 

Best of all, Disney offers a unique service called the Wave Phone, which is like a cell phone you get to carry around. While on board or on Castaway Cay, you can stay connected to your kids no matter where they go. Each stateroom comes with two, and the service is completely free. So if your kids are at the Kids Club and you are at a lounge, you can sip your cocktail guilt-free knowing if they need you they’ll call! And similarly, if your teens are due back from their club at 10:00 and it gets to be 10:30, call them up and tell them to get back to the room! Peace of mind at its finest.

Shuffleboard is one of many Disney themed and classic cruise activities available. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

Shuffleboard is one of many Disney themed and classic cruise activities available. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

Taking a short cruise is a great way to save money while still getting a taste of all the indulgences a few days at sea has to offer. Opt to go in the off-season (typically when school is in session), and you will save even more. And with the extra time and money you save, you can start planning your next vacation! Or maybe tack on a few days at the parks before you head home…

Planning a Disney Cruise? These top budget tips will help your family save money aboard Disney Cruise Line on your next vacation.