Disney Cruise Vacation Planning Guide
The process of booking a Disney Cruise vacation can be overwhelming for a first time cruiser. Let’s see if we can simplify the process a bit.
The first thing that needs to be done is to decide where you would like to go and for how long. Disney Cruise Line offers sailings from 3-15 nights in length. The Disney ships offer trips to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, the Mexican Riviera and special Panama Canal sailings. The itineraries can be found here.
Three and four night sailings go to the Bahamas and Disney’s private island Castaway Cay. Disney offers a combination vacation, pairing a 3 night stay at Walt Disney World and a 4 night cruise, as well as a 4 night stay at Walt Disney World with a 3 night cruise. These are known as land / sea vacations.
After deciding where to go and for how long, the next step is to decide when you want to go. Disney Cruise Line sails year round, but there are times of the year that are busier than other. The major holidays, summer vacations and special sailings are all very popular travel times and are usually the more expensive times to travel. Weather patterns also are a factor in deciding when to go. The Caribbean has a hurricane season which runs from June 1st through November 1st each year. As a cruise vacation can be a large expense, it is advisable that each traveler add travel insurance to his / her vacation.
Now that the decisions about where, when, how long and how you plan on getting to the ship have been made, there comes the task of booking the actual cruise.
The first step in this part of the process is deciding which stateroom category will best suit your traveling party. While everyone traveling would like to stay in the most spacious and luxurious stateroom possible, cost and the fact that there are very few of these multi-bedroom staterooms make this implausible for mast travelers.There are several classifications of staterooms on the Disney ships. They are:
- Inside Staterooms – interior rooms on the ship offering no views to the outside.
- Outside Staterooms – exterior rooms offering either one large window or two smaller windows
- Verandah Staterooms – exterior rooms with a sliding glass door and a personal balcony
- Suites – one and two bedroom suites with sliding glass doors and private balconies
The final step in the process is getting the best price for your cruise.
Disney Cruise Line bases their pricing on several factors. Your party size, chosen travel dates and stateroom category and location are all factored into pricing. The other variable that often gets overlooked is the percentage of the ship’s available space which is already sold. Disney Cruise Line offers what is known as tier pricing. The lowest pricing for any category stateroom is tier zero pricing. This is the price offered when the sail dates are first released to the public. As the ship’s staterooms fill, the tier will jump to the next level and prices will increase. This is the reason for the adage that says “the earlier you book, the better the pricing.” This is not just a salesman’s line, but actual fact.
There are other ways to get a great price on your cruise. Many travel agencies offer what is known as “group pricing”. This means that the travel agency has held a certain number of staterooms for a certain date at the lowest tier price. In the event that the pricing has started to increase, the travel agency might still have rooms available for its clients at the lowest price. There is also a “group discount” associated with booking group space. This offers a price below the lowest pricing offered to the public. Travel agencies offer other incentives to clients booking as part of their “group”. These will depend on the agency. Group pricing is not available for all sail dates and is usually limited on the dates it is available. Check with your agent to see if it’s available for your chosen sail date.
Disney Cruise Line also occasionally offers special pricing for certain groups. Florida residents, military personnel, travel agents and cast members are often offered discounted pricing on certain sail dates. Disney offers something known as “Magical Rates” to the general public on some of its less full sail dates. Please be aware that the most popular holiday / school vacation sail dates will carry the highest pricing and offer no discounts.
Travel agents will often run promotions offering an incentive to book through them. These often take the form of shipboard credit. This means that the agency will place a credit on your shipboard account. This credit will be good for any additional purchases made onboard the cruise ship. Clients can use these credits for things such as alcohol, onboard photos, shore excursions and spa treatments. Dreams Unlimited Travel offers a special discount to clients that are lifetime sponsors of the DIS. You can see that offer at the link below.
Wholesale clubs often run promotions on cruises offering a discount in the form of a gift card to be used in the store. The wholesale club takes a percentage of the price and gives the client a card to be used for merchandise and services within the store. There is often a drawback in this as the wholesale clubs usually lock you into the price and will not give any credit should the cost of the cruise decrease due to a promotion.
The very best price possible for your next cruise (and we know you’ll want to go back) will be offered while onboard the ship. Disney Cruise Line offers a discount to return cruisers and a shipboard credit. In order to get the best value, we’d advise rebooking onboard to get Disney’s discounts and promotions and then transferring your reservation to your travel agent to take advantage of their offered promotions.
Dreams Unlimited Travel (as do other agencies) monitors each reservation for the opportunity to offer our clients the best price possible.
Now that you have chosen your cruise, gotten the best possible price and are ready to book your reservation, you are probably wonder what happens next.
The first thing that will happen is that you will need to make a deposit. Once a price is offered for a cruise, you will have a short window of opportunity in which to make your decision. Should you decide to go ahead and book your cruise, you will need to make a deposit. The going rate is 20% of the voyage fare per person, with specialty cruises commanding higher deposits (suites are higher and your deposit is immediately non-refundable).
You will also need to make a decision on whether you want to add airfare from your home city to your destination and back, whether you want to add travel insurance and whether you will need transfers from the airport to the port and from the port back to the airport. Each of these things will be an additional expense.
Once these decisions are made comes the truly hard part of the process - waiting for your departure date to arrive.
There are still a few more things to do however. Your final payment will need to be made. Final payments are usually due 90 days prior to departure for suites and 75 days prior to departure for non-suite staterooms.
Cruise lines can have very stiff penalties for canceling a cruise and they are often levied on a sliding scale depending on what point in the reservation process you find yourself. Below, you will find a link to Dreams Unlimited Travel’s webpage containing Disney Cruise Line's Terms and Conditions, including the cancellation policy.
The last piece in the process is getting your cruise documents. Disney Cruise Line delivers your cruise documents via UPS and they usually arrive 10 – 14 days prior to arrival. Once final payment is made (and you have passed the final payment date of 90 or 75 days), you can visit Disney Cruise Line’s website and complete an online check in process and view and register for onboard activities.
And then the countdown begins……
- Disney Cruise Line discounts for the U.S. Military - Disney Cruise Line's Military discounts are available for all branches of active and retired members (or spouse) of the Military.
- Florida residents can sail for as low as $135 per night - New Florida Resident discounts are released weekly.
- Changes to minimum age to cruise on Disney Cruise Line - Effective for 2015 sailings, the minimum age to cruise is now 6 months old. Previously, the minimum age was 12 weeks.
- Disney Cruise Line releases photo of Halloween Pumpkin Tree onboard ships - Each of the four ships will have a different version of The Pumpkin Tree.
- Florida residents can save on Disney Cruise Line - Discounts are available on a variety of sailings.
- Disney Cruise Line discounts available for members of the U.S. military - Rates start at $130 per night per person.
- Disney Cruise Line and Aulani honored by Travel + Leisure
Results are part of the World's Best Awards 2014.
- Disney Cruise Line releases remainder of 2015 schedule
Sail dates for the remainder of 2015 have been announced.
- Disney Wonder to return to Hawaii in 2015?
Itineraries aren't released yet, but a suspicious entry on the Hawaii port calendars is fueling the rumors.
- runDisney announces Inaugural Disney Castaway Cay Challenge
Runners must complete an event at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, as well as the Castaway 5K.
- Fourth Oasis-class ship planned for Royal Caribbean
The new ship will set sail in 2018.