I got the chance to take my second Disney cruise, a four night Bahamian cruise on the Disney Dream. I spent quite a bit of time debating the best Disney Cruise Line transfer options, so I thought I’d share some of my findings here. The simple reality is each transfer option to get you to Port Canaveral has pros and cons. You can pay for convenience or you can make life a little more tough but save a bunch of money.
Disney Cruise Line sails out of Port Canaveral, which is about an hour away from Walt Disney World and MCO. Here are some options for how to get there and what I like and dislike about each option.
Disney bus transfers
You likely know that Disney’s Magical Express takes you to and from MCO airport to a Walt Disney Resort hotel for free. Disney Cruise Line offers similar bus transfers, but they cost $70 per person round trip. Your origin/destination for this bus ride can be MCO OR a Walt Disney World resort. That means you can go MCO => Port Canaveral => WDW hotel or mix and match. For our family of five, this would have cost $350.
Pros: Like Magical Express, your baggage will go straight from origin to destination (your home airport if you’re going straight from MCO). It’s nice not to have to worry about things, especially when debarking. Since this transfer is through Disney, they’ll take care of you if there are issues and you have to worry about less. This is definitely the most convenient option for most people.
Cons: For many families, Disney transfers will be on the upper end of costs for cruise transfers. Another con is you don’t have too much control of your schedule, unless your cruise gets delayed you’ll probably be waiting around MCO for a few hours. Since so many people take the Disney transfers, you also have to check in/debark with the largest crowds, although unless you check in super late you’ll be crushed by crowds regardless.
Tips: Make sure you have the right items in your day bag, as it may take few hours to get your bags. Also, you need to book this through your booking agent, so you can book direct with Disney if you booked your cruise with Disney, otherwise you need to go through your travel agent.
Rental car/your car plus parking at Port Canaveral or nearby
If you’re driving yourself down to Orlando, or if you get a car rental for the week, you can park at Port Canaveral. This costs $17/day INCLUDING embarkation and debarkation day. That means a 4 night cruise costs $85 in parking. Obviously if you’re driving your own car this is the cheapest option, if you get a cheap weekly rental you might end up saving money over Disney transfers as well. There are other cheaper parking options nearby (see tips).
Pros: Once you debark you can go straight to your car. No busses, no hassle. The parking facility is covered and just a short walk from the terminal.
Cons: If you’re renting a car and just parking it, make sure the math works out. Otherwise this option is pretty straightforward.
Tips: If you have a lot of luggage, drop a family member and your luggage off first so you don’t have to drag it all the way. Do the same on the reverse. There are other parking lots nearby such as Park ‘N’ Cruise, which charges about $9/day. If you’re staying in the area, many local hotels also have special park and stay rates.
Taking a taxi or rideshare probably will be cost prohibitive for most people, or at least not worth the tradeoff (I checked on the day of our cruise and Uber was quoting about $150, though I’ve read online that it should be around $110 or so by taxi. Surge pricing perhaps?). However, if you’re traveling in a large group, this may be a cheaper option. In the same way, sometimes a van rental can end up saving you money. The rental companies we looked into have large 15 passenger vans that tow a luggage compartment in the back. Finally, you can take a shuttle service like Cortrans Shuttle Service.
Pros: With point to point service, you can go from anywhere you’d like to Port Canaveral and vice versa. You also get dropped off so you have minimal walking at the port. If you’re traveling in a large party you can all stay together. Also, the larger the party, the more you may end up saving.
Cons: For smaller groups, this will cost you more money (especially with a taxi/rideshare). With shuttles you may have to share with a bunch of people, and with full van rentals you have to make sure you get a reservation in advance.
Tips: Make sure you shop around, there are lots of car services, taxi companies, and shuttle companies out there. Make sure you’re clear about pickup and drop-off locations.
One way car rental
Ultimately, we chose to do two one way car rentals. This gave us the convenience of having our own car but saved us quite a bit of money. We ended up paying about $110 total (dropping the car off at the Car Care Center at Disney World). To compare, that’s the cost of of a one way cab ride, and a couple hundred dollars cheaper than the other options. I dropped my wife and two daughters off at the port and then took my son to return the car. It was a quick five minute shuttle back to the port.
Pros: Flexibility, and a large potential cost savings. You can control your own timeframe and show up at the port later (lower crowds) or earlier (more time on the boat).
Cons: Logistics can be a bit more of a hassle and you’re basically on your own if you run into any issues. It also may be tough to find a good rate during certain seasons.
Tips: Different car rental agencies will have different prices, so (stop me if you’ve heard this before) shop around. In our case, it was cheaper to rent with Hertz one way and National on the return. If you need car seats, be sure to factor that into your price. You can also use something like autoslash.com to monitor prices, but the site hasn’t been as useful lately in my opinion.
There’s no one correct way to get from Orlando to Port Canaveral. What works best for one family might not be the best for another. With young kids, it may be worth it to pay convenience and go with Disney transfers. Or maybe it makes sense to save money and put the savings to experiences on the ship. Regardless of what you choose, find the option what works best for you and your family.
Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. Happy sailing!
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