Our family took a trip to Disney World in September 2018 and unexpectedly caught the Disney bug. This led to booking a last-minute 4-Night cruise on the Disney Dream of Port Canaveral in January of 2019. We wrote about Dos & Don’ts for a Disney Cruise here.
This led to planning a 3-Night Disney Cruise also on the Dream in January 2020. We flew into Orlando Wednesday night after picking our son up from school. Thursday we went to the Magic Kingdom. Friday around noon we got on the ship to enjoy a day at Castaway Cay and a day at sea before disembarking the ship Monday at 8 a.m.
What We Like About a 3-Night Cruise
- Fits into our schedule
- Less time away from school and work
- Typically cheaper than a longer cruise
- Typically easier to unplug from the internet over the weekend
- We get to experience each restaurant one night and each of the 3 excellent broadway quality shows one night
- Stops at Castaway Cay which is one of the MAJOR highlights of the cruise for our family
- We really enjoy Pirate Night on the Disney Dream
- Opportunities to meet characters at scheduled times or by going to dance parties, shows and the farewell party
- Potential to go on a long weekend if travel distance to the port is reasonable
- No time to get bored
- Fun and easy vacation to go on with friends
What We Don’t Like About a 3-Night Cruise
- Barely time to get oriented with the ship
- Not nearly enough time to enjoy all of the shows and amenities on the ship, and port days like Castaway Cay
- 3-Night cruises on the Dream are always Friday – Monday and I would assume weekends mean the ship has more people on board
- Feels like more of a herd mentality, everyone seems to go everywhere together at the same time because many events are only offered 1 time or fewer times compared to a longer cruise when the schedule and crowd are more spread out
- Super busy the whole time, not enough downtime
- Not enough time to relax and catch a nap
- Hardly enough time for kids to check out kids club – which they LOVE – and gives the parents time to enjoy the adults only portions of the ship.
Is a 3 Day Disney Cruise Worth It?
We STRONGLY prefer the 4 Day Cruise over the 3 Day, however with a son in middle school we didn’t think we could take him out of school for a week like we did in elementary. Since we LOVE Disney cruises we believe a 3-Day cruise is better than no cruise at all!
So, in January 2020 we stayed at this Disney Resort and went to the Magic Kingdom the day before our 3 Day Cruise out of Port Canaveral.
When going to the Disney Parks you can pick and choose the dates and parks. With a Disney Cruise, you are limited to the schedule for 4 ships.
With 3 more ships being built in the next few years it’s been rumored that Disney is expanding its location at Port Canaveral to handle 2 ships. So if another ship cruises regularly out of Port Canaveral hopefully there will be more itineraries to choose from!
Our family would REALLY like a 4-night itinerary over the weekend out of Port Canaveral, right now that option is only available out of the Miami port.
Port Canaveral is most convenient for us because we can get reasonable direct flights to Orlando and we like the option of staying at a Disney resort the night before our cruise.
As far as I can see the Disney Dream has 4-night cruises Monday – Friday and 3-night cruises Friday – Monday out of Port Canaveral all year around. There is more variety in the cruise itinerary out of Miami.
Is it Important to Have a Day at Sea?
One of the most magical parts of our 4-day cruise was the final full day being at sea. Our family really enjoyed cruising around the ocean and all of the extra activities that were offered on the ship. Our 10-year-old son wanted to spend a good bit of time that day at the kids’ club.
So we found one of the few 3-day cruise itineraries with a day at Castaway Cay (Disney’s Private Island) and a day at sea. The typical itinerary is a day at Nassau, Bahamas and a day at Castaway Cay.
The day at sea wasn’t quite as magical this time. Not sure if there were just more people on the ship or more kids on the ship, but everything seemed so much busier and more intense all day long.
So this left me wondering if we should’ve chosen a typical itinerary and just stayed on the ship while in port at Nassau. At least at a port a portion of the people will get off the ship. On a day at sea, everyone had better stay on the ship, so it impacts crowd levels.
On our 4-day cruise, we got off at Nassau, Bahamas to walk to Junkanoo Beach and got back on the ship by lunch. We wanted to stay in our budget and avoid spending any extra money.
Knowing that some people get off the ship at Nassau I might be inclined to evaluate our priorities and plan accordingly. That may mean spending more time on the ship during a future 3-day cruise that stops at Nassau if excursions aren’t in the budget.
Budgeting for a 3-Day Bahamas Cruise
Prices change regularly and vary depending on size of party, dates, itineraries, etc. Generally speaking traditional holidays, school holidays like spring break and summer break – when people can get away – are going to cost more than a typical work week during the school year.
As an example for our family of 4 to get one stateroom in January 2021 (about a year from day I’m writing this), a 3 night cruise on the Dream starts at $2,769 and a 4 night cruise on the Dream starts at $3,430.
There is an additional expense of tips of $12 per person per night on the cruise. This expense would increase each day that the cruise extends.
The only other required expenses are transportation to and from the port. This expense will only increase nominally on a longer cruise if you are paying to park. Here’s a Review of Disney Transportation to Port Canaveral.
Regardless of the length of the cruise, you are not REQUIRED to pay additional for excursions, meals, drinks, etc.
Planning for a Short Cruise
Our family has almost as much fun planning by reading articles on Pinterest and watching conversations in Facebook groups as we do on the vacation. So we like to research topics and burning questions to get background information and learn more about our options, but then choose to be flexible while on vacation.
I think everyone will agree that a 3 day cruise goes FAST! One way to make the most of your time on the ship is to do some research ahead of time….which you are doing if you are reading this article!
Making the Most of Day 1
Our absolute best tips for a Disney Cruise are here: Dos & Don’ts for a Disney Cruise here.
Begin Well Rested – Sleep makes a big difference in our family. Starting the cruise well-rested makes it much easier to make the most of the 3 days on the ship. Flying in super early the day of departure would be tough for our kids.
Board Early – We would strongly encourage you to get the earliest Port Arrival Time possible and arrive at the port just before your window to board the ship opens.
Have A Plan – If there’s something you want – tickets to meet characters, a different dining time, reservations, etc – know where to go and head there immediately after boarding the ship to try and address your need.
Pack Swimsuits in a Carry-on – The first few hours on our 3-Day Cruise while everyone was boarding were some of the best! The kids just want to swim and play in the water and we packed swimsuits in a carry-on to keep with us so they could! We swam, went to Nemo’s reef, went on the Aqua Duck (water slide) and had a frozen drink!
Making the Most of Castaway Cay
Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island and seriously one of our best days of the year! Disney has control of the cleanliness and presentation of the island, which means it is AMAZING!
Our kids just love playing in the sand and ocean and we don’t get to the beach very much so we want to spend as much time as possible just hanging out on the beach.
My son loves running the 5K – here is our Disney Cruise Castaway Cay 5K Review. I enjoy starting the day with a long walk because it makes me feel better about indulging in the delicious food on the ship.
We also love meeting characters on Castaway Cay because if you get there early the lines are short and characters are everywhere and very accessible. There’s typically a dance party around noon that young kids love!
One of my secrets to vacation success is to try and think just a little bit differently than everyone else. For example, there is a tram that makes 2 stops. Do you think most people get off at the 1st or 2nd stop? After they get off at the 1st stop do you think they walk very far to find a beach chair? Absolutely not! So if you walk a little further you will find plenty of chairs.
Will We Do a 3-Day Cruise Again?
If time and budget allow we prefer a 4-Day or longer cruise, but if they only options are a 3-Day Cruise versus no cruise at all then YES we will go on a 3-Day Disney Cruise to the Bahamas again!