Disney Cruise Line
This article is a travel topic
Bringing Disney-style entertainment and theatrics to the high seas, Disney Cruise Line (DCL)  is an American cruise line owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company. Not surprisingly, the four majestic ships in the line appeal the most to families with children, but teens and adults also enjoy spending several days at sea with the Disney characters. Disney cruisers also have exclusive use of Castaway Cay, a private island in the Bahamas.
The line's fleet currently cruise the Bahamas and Caribbean out of Port Canaveral in Florida, as well as seasonally to Alaska from Vancouver and to Mexico from Los Angeles. Coming in 2012, there will be departures from New York City and Galveston, TX and in 2013 the Disney Wonder will call Miami home for about 5 months. Walt Disney World is only an hour away from Port Canaveral, and combining a cruise with a trip to the World is becoming more and more common. Expect to see these "Land and Sea" vacation packages coming soon to Disneyland, which is only a short distance from the Port of Los Angeles.
The Disney Cruise Line fleet is small compared to the other major lines, but Disney has placed their focus on quality over quantity. They've taken the design principles and customer service standards that make a Disney theme park such a memorable experience and adapted them to fit the cruising industry. On a Disney ship, you'll find multiple swimming pools, a Broadway-style theater, a full-service spa, world-class cuisine, happening night-spots, supervised areas just for kids, and more activities than you can shake your mouse ears at.
A Disney cruise isn't just for families with kids; while children are a major part of the line's customer base, they have taken great pains to entertain adults traveling solo (as well as parents who just want a break). Teens have their own spaces, too, where they can hang out with their peers instead of being sentenced to watch little siblings or to tag along with their parents.
In retrospect, it's a little surprising it took Disney so long to get into the cruising business. The industry seems a perfect fit for Disney's brand of entertainment, but it took a while to come to fruition.
Disney had partnered with Premier Cruise Line to provide ship-based components of combined vacation itineraries starting in the 1980s. Although Disney sold the vacation packages and provided some costumed characters for the cruises, eventually the company decided they could create a better experience—and keep more money in-house—by establishing their own cruise line.
In 1995, Disney commissioned their first two ships, the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder. They're sister ships, nearly identical, both designed from the keel up to present an ocean-going version of their theme parks and hotels, one where the operational areas of the ship are kept carefully hidden from guest view. The Magic was completed in 1998, with the Wonder following a year later; both ships ported at Port Canaveral, where a dedicated Disney Cruise Line terminal opened in 1997.
Also part of the Cruise Line is Castaway Cay, a 1000-acre (4 km2) island in the Bahamas once known as Gorda Cay. Disney had purchased the island in the mid-80s (part of the 1984 film Splash was filmed there), and it turned out to be a perfect spot for large cruise ships. After making an existing natural harbor even deeper (and using the excavated sand to expand the beaches), Castaway Cay was born and incorporated into the new ships' itineraries.
After a almost decade of successful cruising, including occasional trips to the US west coast and to Europe, Disney announced plans to add two ships to the fleet. The Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy would be about 40% larger than the Magic and the Wonder, with unique features including an enclosed overhead water coaster called the "AquaDuck". The Dream launched in January 2011, cruising from Port Canaveral. To make room for the Dream, the Disney Wonder moved to a new home at the Port of Los Angeles, from where it will sail to Mexico (with summertime cruises from Vancouver to Alaska).
Get on board
All Disney cruises are international. That means you will need your passport, and you will have to pass through Canadian or US Customs upon your return, even if you never left the ship. Take that into account when planning how to pack and what kind of souvenirs you buy.
If you don't have a passport yet, don't waste time; DCL requests that you provide them your passport number at least 75 days before your cruise!
Check-in typically begins at 10AM (10:30AM in Port Canaveral); embarkation begins at 1PM, and all passengers must be on board by 4PM (3:45PM in Los Angeles).
Whether your cruise departs from Port Canveral or from Los Angeles, Disney Cruise Line has motorcoaches that will take you from the airport or the theme park resort to the cruise terminal. In Florida, that's Orlando International Airport (MCO) and the Walt Disney World Resort; in California, you'll be coming from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the Disneyland Resort; and in British Columbia, your only choice is Vancouver International Airport (YVR).
At the airport, just look for the blue-uniformed DCL cast members in the main airport terminal; at your Disney resort, ask about catching the bus at the front desk when you check in. Transportation is $35 one-way, or $69 round trip. The trip is about an hour (less in Vancouver), but you'll have a video to watch and the company of your fellow cruisers.
You also may have the luxury of not needing to keep track of your luggage. If you're flying from within the United States to either Orlando International or Los Angeles International, and you're going straight from the airport to the seaport, you can tag your luggage at your departure airport and not have to worry about it again until it arrives in your stateroom aboard the ship. This service is not available at Vancouver International; you'll need to claim your bags and then get them to the DCL bus. Of course, if you're flying internationally to any of the airports, you'll have to go through Customs with your luggage before handing it off to DCL.
You can, of course, also catch a bus back to the parks or the airport. You'll need to move your own luggage through Customs after debarkation, though.
The Disney Cruise Line Terminal is among the "A" Cruise Terminals, at 9155 Charles M. Rowland Drive in Port Canaveral. No matter where you're coming from, you're going to want to get onto State Route 528, the Martin Andersen Beachline Expressway (though locals may still call it "The Bee Line"). Fortunately, that's not hard; the highway runs right along the north side of the airport. Route 528 can also be reached via I-4 (exit 72), Florida's Turnpike (exit 254), and I-95 (exit 205).
The Beachline is a toll road, with three toll plazas along its length. The total toll will be $3.25 from I-4 or the turnpike, $2.50 from the airport, or free from I-95. However you get on the Beachline, take it east across the state almost to the Atlantic Ocean; you'll cross the Intracoastal Waterway, Merritt Island, and the Banana River. Take the exit for Route 401 North, then just follow the signs.
The World Cruise Center is at 600 North Harbor Boulevard (be careful: this is not the same road that forms Disneyland's eastern boundary) in San Pedro. Get on I-110 (via I-405 if you're coming from the airport) and take it south to Exit 1A; follow the signs for Harbor Boulevard, but go through the intersection and take your next right.
From Disneyland, take I-5 (it bounds Disneyland's northeast corner) north to Exit 113C to CA-91 west. Then, take Exit 12A to I-710 south, and finally take Exit 1C to reach Harbor Boulevard.
Canada Place is on the northern edge of Vancouver on the Burrard Inlet. You'll want to get on Provincial Route 99 and head north, across the Granville Bridge into the Central Business District. Hop over to Howe Street and take it all the way to the Bay, then follow the signs for the terminal.