How a Disney Cruise to Europe is different

How a Disney Cruise to Europe is different

We’ve been on lots of cruises at this point. It’s really one of our favorite ways to vacation. But it’s important to know that not all Disney Cruises are alike. And for good reason! We are sharing how a Disney Cruise to Europe is different than what you might know about cruises from the U.S.

Disney Cruise in Europe: how a Disney Cruise in Europe is different

How is a Disney Cruise through Europe Different than other Disney Cruises?

Taking a Disney Cruise to anywhere in Europe is going to be a little different. From different cultures and different rules, things may not always seem to line up with how you remember them being done when sailing from the U.S. Never fear though, you’re still going to have the most magical time cruising through Europe.

Disney Cruise in Europe: how a Disney Cruise in Europe is different

European Cruises tend to be very port heavy 

Almost no matter where you are sailing to or from, unless you’re taking a transatlantic cruise, most European Cruises are going to be quite port heavy. And by that, I mean you’ll likely be stopping at a lot of ports in comparison to how long the cruise is. You’ll often see 7-night cruises with as many as 5 port stops.  On our 11-night Disney Cruise in Northern Europe, we visited 8 different cities. For an 11-night cruise, that’s really a lot! 

Though some people generally consider the cruise ship the destination, for a lot of U.S. travelers, the destination is the destination. So just be aware that these are often busier cruises with less downtime.

Disney Cruise in Europe: how a Disney Cruise in Europe is different

Fewer Activities on a Disney Cruise in Europe

Because the itineraries are so jam packed, there are usually less activities onboard. It’s actually a common complaint of travelers who sail in Europe mostly for the ship and not the places it stops because most programming wasn’t in full swing until after 4 or 5pm. It was like this on our Disney Cruise to Alaska as well. And there are a few reasons for it.  Since more people are getting off the ship than say they might in the Caribbean, there doesn’t really need to be as many cast members onboard for activities. So they let a lot more of them get off the ship to explore during the day. 

Oslo, Norway, Disney Dream in Europe, 11-night Northern Europe Disney Cruise

Different Demographic and type of traveler

We talked a bit about this in our Alaska post as well. And honestly, a lot of it remains true here. There are cruisers and there are travelers. Though there may be some overlap in these types passengers, these groups of people are not necessarily the same. Many cruisers are there for the ship. They’re there for the food, for the entertainment. Sometimes they’re even there just to see the destination from the ship. They may get off the ship in ports, but it’s not their biggest priority and they generally will take a short excursion or explore on their own for a couple of hours to get back on the ship in time for lunch. 

Travelers, however, are there for the places the ship is visiting. They want to see and explore. They want to spend as much time as possible in the port cities. And they want to experience more than just whatever is a 10-minute walk from the cruise terminal. These are usually the people who are trying to spend every last second at port as they can. And they’re mostly using the cruise ship as a place to sleep and transportation from one port to another.

This discussion actually became a point of contention in our cruise Facebook Group. Because for many of our European passengers, the ship was the destination. It’s easy to get around Europe, so they had already seen all of the places we were going. Many of them couldn’t understand why the Americans and Canadians were so hung up getting to see as much as possible. But for most of us US travelers, these were all new places.

Disney Cruise in Europe: how a Disney Cruise in Europe is different

Packing for a Disney Cruise to Europe

When packing for Europe, there are some things to consider. First of all, you’ll want to pack lightly. If you can fit it all in a carry-on, do it. Not only will this help you avoid potentially lost luggage. But if you are traveling anywhere beyond your cruise, especially if you plan for any train travel, you’re not going to want to be lugging lots of bags all over the place. So if you can’t manage just a carryon, try to keep it as minimal as possible. 

Outside of packing lightly, you’ll want to make sure you have an international phone plan of some sort. We actually used an e-sim, which allowed us to have phone service at a really reasonable price. Additionally, be sure to bring some sort of RFID blocker. We like these RFID blockers for traveling to Europe, and actually use them pretty much any time you travel. Packable, reusable bags are also quite helpful. And generally a cross body bag, fanny pack or pick pocket proof bag is a great idea when traveling to any larger city to keep your belongings safe from petty crimes. 

And though this may seem silly to have to say, it is so important that you know what the weather is going to be like for your specific destination. Many people in the US from what I have noticed, tend to use “Europe” as a very blanketed statement. When in reality, it’s a whole continent. With lots of different countries. Traveling to Greece in July is going to be seriously different than a cruise to Norway in August. So be sure to know what the weather is generally like and pack accordingly.  If you’re working with an authorized Disney Travel Planner, they can often help you with a full packing list based on your specific destination. 

Disney Dream Cruise Ship Guide

People Dress up more for European Cruises

If you’re from the United States and you’ve never heard people from other countries comment about how “casual” we are, well now you have. According to many people from other countries, we are very casual here. And, I mean, it’s true! Seeing people go to the grocery store in their pajamas is an occurrence you won’t likely find in many countries outside of the U.S. but there are times when I feel overdressed in my sweatpants. So, yes, we are a bit more casual in how we dress. 

That being said, if you’re sailing in Europe, chances are a good amount of your fellow cruisers will be from Europe or surrounding areas. And they do tend to dress more formally. Not necessarily all day, but especially for dinners and evening entertainment. Even just running to Cove Cafe in the morning, you can often see passengers who took the time to dress a bit nicer for the day before leaving their cabin, rather than rolling out of bed and throwing something on to go grab coffee. 

Truthfully, some people, whether they’re North American or not, just enjoy dressing up for dinner on a cruise. It’s a thing! But in general, you will find more people dressed up on the ship than say a standard cruise around the Caribbean. 

Disney Cruise in Europe: how a Disney Cruise in Europe is different

Food will be different on a Disney Cruise through Europe

A lot of people love cruises for the food. And of course they do, the food is pretty great! But, when you’re sailing in Europe, it’s important to note that much of the food you’re used to if you’re from the U.S. is going to be a bit different. The food comes from Europe, generally whichever area the ship happens to be sailing around. So you’ll often notice food items that are just different. For example, cheese is not quite as salty, and dairy products in Europe are actually entirely than they are in the U.S., so for example if you’re ordering a pizza from the upper decks, it may not be as flavorful as you’re used to. The soft serve is not the same mix as we have here. And the beloved chicken tenders will likely be a bit different too. 

None of this is bad though. We actually preferred most of the food in Europe over some of what we get when we sail out of the U.S. Though this is entirely a matter of personal taste. So it may or may not be for you. Just be aware that the food may taste and look different than what you’re used to. 

Disney Dream Northern Europe Cruise, 11-night Disney Cruise

There may be different rules on a Disney Cruise to Europe

If you’re an avid cruiser and have spent most of your sailings in the Caribbean, be prepared for some potential disrupt to what you might be familiar with. Things like local rules and processes make shake things up a bit for you, so try to stay flexible and understanding when things don’t go like you thought they might.

A couple examples of this? During our 11-night cruise in Northern Europe, as we were sailing away from Fredericia, Denmark, it was announced that no alcohol would be sold, and that the shops had to stay closed for the next two days until we were no longer in Danosh waters. Why? Well, they never gave us a specific reason. But it was the topic of discussion for the rest of the cruise. And many passengers speculated that it had something to do with taxes or fines. Additionally, on our last sea day, as we were sailing to Southampton, we were told that UK officials required in person passport inspections. This was a huge inconvenience and took up several hours for some guests. But it was required. So, there wasn’t much that could be done about it. 

My point is that some things may change during your sailing, some rules may be put into place that you don’t like. But at the end of the day, you’re not in the U.S. anymore. So you have to go with the flow and accept whatever rules may be different as a result. 

Disney Cruise in Europe: how a Disney Cruise in Europe is different

The drinking age is different on European Cruises

21 is the drinking age in the U.S., but that’s not the case for most countries in Europe. Each country has their own laws about drinking age. But for Disney Cruise Line, when sailing from Europe, if you’re 18, you are able to drink on your Disney Cruise. Now this does come with some restrictions. First of all, your parent or guardian must go with you to Guest Services and fill out a waiver. Currently, this can only be done onboard. Additionally, as an 18-year-old, you are generally only allowed to be served alcohol when you are with your parent or guardian. So, though it might seem like a good idea to go hang out at one of the bars with all your friends from the 1820 society, that’s not generally how it works.

Now I don’t know how strict they are about enforcing this rule. However, when I sailed with my daughter during her graduation trip and signed the waiver that allowed her to drink, they made sure I was with her every single time she ordered a drink. 

This isn’t an all-encompassing list as things may be different from sailing to sailing. But we hope this has been helpful for you to see how a Disney cruise to Europe might be different!

disney cruise to europe

Co-Founder and Director at Polka Dot Pixie Co LLC | Website | + posts

Melanie Renee is a photographer, writer, designer and mom. Visiting Disney destinations since 2010, she is also an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. When she's not creating her next coffee recipe, or designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's seeking beautiful sunsets and planning her next trip .

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