Spending two weeks onboard a Disney cruise ship is little more than a dream for those of us with school-age children. But my in-laws have no such limitations. They recently returned from a two-week Disney Cruise Lines (DCL) sailing on the Wonder from San Diego through the Panama Canal to Galveston, Texas. I got to live vicariously through them and learned these Disney cruise tips for longer Disney cruises. 


Disney cruise tips for longer Disney cruises - outside Cabo San Lucas

Outside Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – Photo Credit: Edward Mansfield

Disney Cruise Tips for Longer Disney Cruises

My in-laws booked this cruise while sailing with my family on the Disney Wonder Alaska cruise we did back in 2014. This was their second cruise on DCL.  Seeing as this one was on the same ship for 7 days, I was curious to see what they thought. I came away with several Disney cruise tips for anyone considering this or the other longer Disney cruises.

1. You’re Not Going Back to Where You Came From

Both Panama Canal sailings are unique among most Disney itineraries because they depart from and arrive into two completely different locations. That means it involves complicated airline reservations, but Disney rewards you for that in the pricing on the voyage.

The bottom line is that overall, these are the two DCL offerings that give you the most value for your money. If you book ahead of time, you can maximize that benefit, and if you book while on another Disney cruise, you can do even better with a 10% discount and a stateroom credit that are often offered to those who book another cruise while onboard their current voyage.

Just a rough example…if you booked on January 15th 2018 for a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise in April 2018, it would cost approximately $4067 or $581/night.  If you booked on January 15th 2018 for a 14-night Westbound Panama Canal cruise in April 2018, it would cost approximately $6248 or $446/night.

Disney Cruise tips for longer Disney cruises - transiting the Panama Canal

Transiting the Panama Canal – Photo Credit: Edward Mansfield

2. Crowds? What Crowds?

On any of the holiday or summer DCL sailings from New York or Florida, the ships often are quite crowded. Nothing like the theme parks at Walt Disney World, of course, but you do still wait on line for characters, getting into the theater for shows, etc.

On the Disney Panama Canal cruise, apparently not the case. In fact, I was dying to know how many children were on the Wonder for the Panama Canal cruise, and apparently so were others since my mother-in-law promptly told me “only 200.” Only 200 kids on a ship that can accommodate 2,400 passengers is amazing. I’m sure those kids had free reign in the kids’ clubs and elsewhere. She also told me that it was more younger children than older, but that there were middle and high school aged kids there as well, diligently doing their homework between activities.

3. Cool Port Visits!

On this voyage, the Wonder made stops in Cabo San Lucas, Puerta Vallarta, Cartegena, Cozumel, and Grand Cayman. There were the typical Caribbean style offerings, like scuba diving and snorkeling in many ports, but there were also some unique cultural experiences.

A boat tour of the beautiful sandstone cliffs and arches in the harbor in Cabo, for example. In another port, my in-laws visited ancient Mayan ruins with a detailed tour presented by a guide of Mayan descent.  In Colombia, they could have taken advantage of a tour of the cacao fields with a chocolate tasting experience or an emerald jewelry making class.

For those looking for something vastly different from the normal DCL Caribbean offerings without having to travel across the Atlantic, this is it.

Disney cruise tips for longer Disney cruises -- Cartagena Colombia.

Cartagena, Colombia – Photo Credit: Edward Mansfield

4. Welcome to Galveston.  Don’t Plan on Leaving Anytime Soon.

Having sailed on several DCL cruises, I’m generally very impressed by their ability to disembark so many guests when the ship arrives at its final destination. Apparently, the same can’t be said for Galveston. The guests on this sailing waited hours in the lobby to disembark, and many missed their departing flights – problems caused by port authorities and not DCL. My in-laws mentioned that other guests said that is typical for any sailings in or out of Galveston. Not a great way to end a fantastic vacation.

The Panama Canal cruise also sometimes transits via Miami instead – perhaps a better way to enjoy all this great cruise has to offer!

Get More Disney Cruise Tips on our Disney Cruise Podcast!