Disney Cruise Line vs Azamara Club Cruises

As many of our friends and fans know, I just returned from my first Azamara Club Cruise on the Azamara Journey.  I traveled over Easter, so more children were onboard than normal.  According to the stats we were given, there were six onboard under 17.  Yes, I did say that was more than normal.  Part of the reason it is surprising is that Azamara does not have dedicated children’s programming like all of the contemporary cruise lines.  That was ok with us as we are two adults with no children.

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We have cruised 27 times on Disney since 2002.  People are amazed when I tell them that.  We have been very happy with Disney Cruise Line and to be honest, the experience on board has rarely been less than excellent for us.  We have realized that we pay a premium to cruise on Disney and it hasn’t been a problem for us when we consider all we are getting.  This started changing about 2 1/2 years ago when the Disney Magic came out of her reimagination.

As I was preparing to host a group onboard for the five night sailing, I received a call from Disney Cruise Lines, indicating that the cruise was going to be cancelled as the ship was not ready yet.  This was three days prior to sailing.  I scrambled to reschedule or postpone all of my clients to another cruise date and then I started worrying about myself.  Our flight was in the morning and we had been scheduled to cruise back to back, plus meeting friends at Disney World pre-cruise.  We couldn’t just cancel, we had a lot of arrangements to be made.

Of course, since our notice was three nights prior to the sailing, we figured that the rest of the work should only take three more days, right?  I think I would have been more accepting if it had only taken three days, but instead, when we got onboard eight days after we received the notice, there was still work being done.  Some cabins weren’t completed.  Reserved cabins weren’t cleaned, toilets weren’t attached, etc.  This made me realize that Disney should have been able to give more than three days notice.  As far as I can tell, this is when my opinion started to change.

After this time, Disney started putting limits on onboard bookings, changed the alcohol policy, significantly increased pricing, yet didn’t vary many of the sailings at all.  After 27 sailings, we really didn’t see a need to cruise except if it was a very special itinerary or a new ship.  When summer 2016 sail dates were released, we made our decision that unless it was work related, we would not be cruising Disney again after our scheduled cruise to Iceland and Norway in summer 2015.  It was a very sad moment in our household.  It was a tough decision, but we had decided that unless people started to send a message about the itineraries and the pricing, nothing would ever change.  As long as people were paying, Disney had no incentive to change.  I was no longer going to be a part of the problem.

Don’t get me wrong.  If you have young children and haven’t been on every Disney Cruise Line itinerary, you have every reason to cruise.  The children’s programming is fantastic.  I don’t know of any cruise line that comes close to what Disney does for the kids.  I’m not saying the other lines have bad children’s programming, I’m saying that Disney far exceeds the others.  Disney is a great line to go on a multi-generational trip.  There is something for every age to do.

Disney prides itself on is exceeding the competition in terms of what they offer onboard.  I think the children’s programming is a great example.  But when it comes to the rest, I think you can reasonably argue that Disney has started to fall behind the competition.

With summer 2017 sailings released last week, it was great to see some new itineraries out there for more than just the Disney Magic.  Four and five night “double dips” to the Bahamas, new ports in Alaska, a nine night sailing in Alaska, plus two Southern Caribbean sailings on the Fantasy.  However, when I looked at the pricing on those sailings, it was the same old, same old.  New itineraries mean higher prices, justified because they are during summer break and because you can’t compare to previous sailings as there weren’t others.

Let’s turn back to our Azamara Club Cruise.  This cruise far exceeded our expectations.  From the food, to the service and everything in between, Azamara was, well, just amazing.  While onboard we booked a future cruise in November 2018.  This was a 10 night Eastern Caribbean, visiting many islands that we have not visited before.  The price was not cheap, but the experience made us realize it was worth it to us.

Balcony Cabin

After Disney announced 10 and 11 night sailings on the Fantasy, we felt it was important to compare the two lines and sailings.  Here is a comparison of the ships and what is offered.

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Yes, gratuities and standard alcoholic beverages are included in the cruise fare.  The inclusions listed above are for all cabins, not just concierge and suites.  They have other extras as well.  I should also mention that with a new booking on a future Azamara cruise, onboard credits are available for most of the categories.

Of course, you have to compare the pricing as well as the ports of call as it wouldn’t mean much without that.  Below I compared the 10 night Disney Fantasy sailing with the 10 night Azamara Journey sailing that I am booked on.  The price difference is staggering!  Yes, the Journey is not going as far south as the Fantasy, but I will get nearly 20 more hours in port and visit three ports of call I have never been to, and return to three ports that I loved in the past.  Plus I won’t have to pay for gratuities or beverages.  If I opt for the concierge room, I’ll pay just a little more than a balcony on Disney and I’ll also get my specialty dining included.  Plus I’ll get between a $300 – $1500 onboard credit from Azamara.

Next I compared the 11 night Disney Fantasy sailing with the 11 night Azamara Quest sailing in January 2017.  Editor’s Note:  Price comparison removed by request.

10 vs 11

One other thing that I forgot to mention about Azamara pricing.  Several sailings a year will have single rates at 125% instead of the industry norm of 200%.  This is great for the solo travelers.  Additionally, if you are a cruiser who has been on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity Cruises, you have an advantage.  When you are part of either the Crown and Anchor or Captain’s Club, you can request a one-time match into the other club.  You will come in to the other club at a corresponding level, then start earning loyalty with the second line.  Azamara shares the club levels with Celebrity.  What this means is if you have cruised with Celebrity, when you cruise on Azamara, you come in at their respective level.  What is different is that you continue to earn points with both!  We started our Azamara Journey cruise 6 points away from the next level with Celebrity and Azamara.  After completing the cruise, we have now reached the next level with both of them.  The repeater benefits are much better as well with both of these lines.

This has made me feel even better about the amount I’m spending for my Journey sailing.  The only question left is “Who wants to join us?”  If there is enough interest, we will make this a ToaD group sailing!  Drop my wife a note at tracy@travelonadream.com.

8 thoughts on “Disney Cruise Line vs Azamara Club Cruises

  1. Tiffany

    Even though I have not been on Azamara, I agree with all of this! Disney started to separate itself from the pack for us (and not in a good way) a few years ago. Since then, the gap has continued to widen. We have sailed with them 11 times but I don’t see a 12th in the foreseeable future.

    Reply
  2. Sara

    We have been on 4 Disney cruises and we have one scheduled for Jan 2017 and I believe it may be our last Disney cruise. Disney has always been very expensive for us and we have gone to great lengths to make them happen because we felt our teenagers were “safe” on this cruise line and we have always enjoyed the service and food. But this upcoming January cruise is almost $2,000 more than what we paid for the same type cruise 4 years ago. If we did not have a generous grandparent helping us out on this one we wouldn’t be able to go. Recently we priced out the new itinerary for Summer 2017 and they have gone WAY outside our price range. I hope others make a stand too and Disney stops being the cruise line only for the ridiculously rich.

    Reply
  3. Mari

    Our eyes were opened last summer after a 14 day on the Wonder. It was fabulous…..but there are other lines, too. We have sailed 3 times with DCL with much joy and many family memories. However, our kids are growing up and they enjoy more physical activities onboard — for example, rock climbing and ropes courses. The Mouse does not offer these activities on any ship and charges 3 times more than ships with the rock climbing and ropes courses. In fact, we can sail Concierge level for less on the new lines as opposed to a low level balcony on the Disney ships. The DCL children’s program was very fun when both kids were younger. However, they are enjoying the other lines with new ports to visit. So rather than cruising every 18 months on Disney we are able to sail on our new choice lines more often — about once every 5 to 10 months. I would rather swim in the Caribbean with my kids more often than getting caught up with only sailing with the Mouse and friends. We cherish our DCL family memories…..but look forward to cruising more often on the others. Thank you Tracy for you latest blog……the Azamara Journey looks enticing!

    Reply
  4. Lyn

    The Azamara pricing looks good, especially with the “extras” that are included. But, shouldn’t the price comparison be within the same season?

    Reply
    1. Tracy Whipple

      I would have done it during the same season but Azamara does not sail to the Caribbean in the summer. Additionally, Azamara does not repeat a regular schedule like Disney does. The closest I can get to same season is a 7 night sailing from San Juan with Azamara on March 24, 2018 and Disney on April 9, 2017. The prices are similar but the inclusions are not close. Disney includes Barbados, St. Lucia, Martinique, Antigua and St. Kitts with one day at sea while Azamara includes Gustavia, Roseau, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua and Virgin Gorda with no days at sea. In every category, Disney is priced higher, though not by a significant amount. This is the Disney Magic instead of the Fantasy and the ship is two years older than Azamara. With pricing being virtually the same, with what you get with Azamara, they get my vote.

      Reply
  5. Angela

    Those 11 night cruises on Disney Fantasy look like a lot of fun! For comparison though, what is the pricing the Fantasy versus the Journey?

    Reply
    1. Tracy Whipple

      When the blog was written on April 18, the pricing for the Disney Fantasy for two adults was $7836.04 inside, $8816.04 for balcony and $4494.80 for inside on the Journey, $6894.80 for balcony.

      Reply
  6. Angela

    Wow! That’s a huge difference! Am I reading that right? A balcony on Azamara is $1000 less than an INTERIOR on Disney?!

    Reply

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