So, you’ve made the decision to cruise with Disney! Where to start?
The first thing you need to decide is when you want to cruise and how long for?
There are a number of different starting points, destinations and lengths of cruises available. From a 3-Night cruise to the Bahamas to an 11-Night Mediterranean. Some itineraries are only available on select dates, so when you plan to cruise willhave some influence on which itinerary you choose. If you’re a first-time cruiser you may prefer to take a shorter one to start with. In which case I’d personally recommend the 4-night rather than 3-night cruise, as it includes a day at sea and 3 nights are just too short! You can check out the full itinerary schedule here.
Once you’ve decided on which itinerary you’re going to do, the next choice is which category of stateroom you’re going to book. They range from the smaller category 12 inside staterooms right up to large category 1 suites with concierge service. See full details, including stateroom layouts, here. All staterooms are large enough to comfortably house between 3 and 5 adults. If you’re not bothered about having a sea view or verandah, then the inside staterooms are the most cost effective option. On the new Disney Dream ship, the inside staterooms feature a virtual porthole with real-time views and familiar Disney characters “floating by.” If you plan to spend more time in your stateroom, or want to enjoy breakfast or evening drinks on your own private verandah, then an oceanview stateroom with verandah is the best choice.
The earlier you book, the more money you’ll save, so as soon as you’ve decided on which cruise you want to do, aim to make the reservation as soon as you can. Booking at least a year in advance is preferable, especially if you want to book a category 1 or 2 suite which sell out quickly. Another benefit of booking early is you’re more likely to get the main dining slot if that’s what you prefer. You can book the cruise a number of different ways: direct with Disney Cruise Line, as a package through a travel agent, online, or using a specialist Disney travel agency.. The latter is my preferred option as they’ll look for any discount offers that may be available, and usually have an onboard credit offer, whereby you get a set amount of onboard credit to use on your cruise, depending on the overall cost of the cruise.
At the time of booking you’ll be offered the choice of the main dining seating or late seating. Main dining seating times are either 5:30pm, 5:45pm or 6:00pm; Late seating times are either 8:00pm, 8:15pm or 8:30pm. You can’t choose between the three different times, they are allocated when you get onboard, depending on which restaurant you start off in. Those will young children often prefer the earlier main seating time, and it usually gets booked up well in advance. If it’s booked up when you make the reservation, you can put your name on the wait list. If you’re still not allocated the main dining seating before departure day, you can visit the dining changes desk when you embark and try to change it then – subject to availability. Guests on the early seating go to the late show in the theatre, and guests on the late seating go to the early theatre show.
You can add any special requests to your booking when you make the reservation, such as a crib or highchair for your stateroom, or let them know if you’re celebrating a special occasion.
When you book your cruise you’ll need to pay a deposit, which is based on the total cost of the cruise. If you’re sailing in stateroom categories 1-3, the final balance must be paid 90 days prior to departure. Payment for categories 4-12 must be paid 75 days prior to departure. Advance bookings for things like shore excursions, Palo reservations and children’s activities cannot be made until you have paid your final balance in full.
Once your balance is paid you can begin to think about making onboard reservations.
The dates on which guests can make online reservations vary depending on what category stateroom you are in, or what Castaway Club level you are:
- Platinum Castaway Club, Suites/Concierge, Weddings/Vow Renewal, VIP, Media and Make a Wish Guest Types: 120 days in advance
- Gold Castaway Club: 105 days in advance
- Silver Castaway Club: 90 days in advance
- All Other Reservations: 75 days in advance
Availability for shore excursions, Palo dining, spa treatments, fitness activities and nursery time is limited, so advance reservations are strongly recommended. Booking then online prior to sailing also means that you don’t have to waste time on embarkation day in long lines.
Simply go to disneycruise.com and click on “Planning Center,” then “My Cruise Plans.” Login to your account (or create an account using your reservation ID) and retrieve your cruise reservation, then go to the “My Cruise Activities” section. From there you can view and book shore excursions, make Palo reservations, book time at Flounders Reef Nursery and make reservations for the Spa. When trying to make some reservations, especially for Palo, you may find that there are none available or the time you want isn’t showing up. Don’t worry! A certain number are kept back for guests to reserve on embarkation day.
Once all that is done you can relax and begin to countdown to your Disney Cruise!
As your cruise date approaches you can complete the online check-in process to save time when you arrive at port.
Meanwhile, visit our comprehensive Disney Cruise Line section where you’ll find 100′s photos to browse through, and information on all activities, entertainment, kid’s clubs, and dining onboard.
If you belong to an online forum, why not add one of our free Disney Cruise themed countdown tickers to your forum signature to show everyone how long you’ve got until you cruise?!