Is Disney Cruise Lines better?
In many ways, YES. In some ways, I'd say it's a tie. And in other ways, I think it depends on the ages of your children. My oldest is not into characters or princesses anymore and she didn't want to go to Kids Club on her own (note to self: travel with friends the next time). Our youngest was still too little to understand much of the excitement, but this mama really loved the optional nursery care.
So... in what ways did my family find that a Disney Cruise was better than others?
#1 - Service. We were asked about service by various managers and staff at least twice per day. They always wanted to know about our experiences and if we had any problems at all. We had no problems, but I am sure if anything had come up, it would have been addressed happily and quickly.
#2 - Cleanliness. Except when irresponsible parents put their non-potty trained kids in the pool (strictly against the rules, people!), we felt like this ship was truly spotless. Every time we finished a snack, someone was there to take our plates and trash. Every time we stepped out of a public bathroom, an attendant was there to wipe the counter top and ensure cleanliness throughout. It was superbly spic-and-span.
#3 - Shows. I tend to make fun of the cheese level of cruise ship shows. And most theme park shows, for that matter. But I take exception to Disney. Their level of expertise in entertainment shines, both in theme parks and on the cruise ships. We loved the shows! Even our little guy danced and clapped throughout the musical numbers until he became too exhausted to stay awake anymore.
#4 - Efficiency. The embarkation and disembarkation processes were the fastest and easiest we have ever experienced on any cruise vacation. It is usually a major hassle to get on and off the ship pre- and post-cruise, but Disney's process and quantity of friendly staff made it pretty quick and very easy. It was the same at ports; we never waited in a line of more than a few families to get on and off the ship. Any lines moved smoothly and quickly. Painless!
The food, I hate to say, wasn't my favorite of all the cruise lines we have traveled. It was good and I loved the variety for kids, plus sheer quantity of desserts (the chocolate lava cake! Mmmmm.) but it was not my favorite food of the major cruise lines. The dining rooms are beautiful and fun and getting to go to a different themed dining room each night is a blast that only Disney provides. Disclaimer: We did not dine at either of the adult-only restaurants. I hear those are truly divine! I will try at least one the next time.
Is Disney Cruise Lines worth the extra cost? For our family on this (non-peak season) vacation? Yes. We were able to drive to Port Canaveral vs. flying a family of four to south Florida, so that totally helped with the wallet. I don't know if I would pay almost twice the cost for Disney vs. another line in mid-summer, but I would choose Disney again if the price was close. We prefer to stick with non-peak travel times, anyway.
Magic is worth a bit of a premium.