One thing Disney seems to excel at is making things as complicated as humanly possible. Some would consider that job security but you and I find it utterly maddening at times, don’t we? Disney Cruise Line competitor Royal Caribbean, even with considerably more ships and cruise itineraries seems to make the booking process much simpler. Cruisers just seem to stumble and struggle when trying to book a Disney Cruise, especially with all the ships, itineraries, perks, levels, shore excursions and options. It gets pretty confusing and the task seems daunting, made all the more so with the announcement of two new Disney Cruise Line ships coming soon.
So what should you and I look for and what can we do to make the booking process fool-proof?
1.) Decide Ship, Sale Date and Itinerary
Those decisions are sometimes made for you based upon having only very limited flexibility; perhaps only having 7-days to travel, only having a specific window to plan for, or for some reason only having one option for Disney Cruise line port of departure.
But what if your options are wide open and you just want to choose the best?
One great thing with Disney cruises is that currently there are only four ships: the Dream, Fantasy, Magic and Wonder. While there is some measure of variety among them, it’s safe to say that they are all the same level of quality, alleviating some of the anxiety that comes with the significant variety of ships of other cruise lines. Even Disney ships about to enter rehab are very well maintained.
Having been on all four Disney Cruise Line ships multiple times, I feel confident in saying that each one has its own personality and charm. With the parity among ships, many repeat cruisers want to try a new ship til they’ve been on them all.
If your budget or schedule make the decision of which ship to sail on for you, don’t expect that the vacation experience will be drastically impacted one way or another in terms of level of character themeing, service, size of staterooms, upkeep of the ship, etc. and yet many repeat cruisers have found that there are even unique nuances and personality that they have developed a favorite. It might be something as simple as a coffee shop or particular comfortable corner booth that they enjoy.
Flexibility of schedule offers much more in terms of ports of call the cruiser would like to experience or even different ports of departure, or even length-of-cruise as the Dream is doing 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises out of Port Canaveral. So if you want a 7-night cruise, the Disney dream probably isn’t going to be your ship (unless you’d like to do a back-to-back option.
Price, just to be completely honest, is the greatest single consideration for most travelers and a Disney Cruise Line vacation is not cheap. At all. For various reasons we won’t delve into here, when comparing to other cruise lines, Disney will generally always be priced higher, which corresponds to the value of the cruise itself; Disney wins awards annually as one of the very best cruise lines. Not to mention that Disney staterooms are some of the largest at sea. Some interior cabins on Disney ships are larger than balcony rooms on other cruise lines. Almost all staterooms sleep three passengers, some sleep four and many even sleep five.
Tip: When booking a Disney Cruise, book every single person you think will be cruising. Why? Because it’s much easier to remove a person than add one later!
Wouldn’t we all like to avoid summer if at all possible since Disney is a family cruise line? (Translation: billions of children having the time of their life) Based upon simple supply-and-demand, rates will be at the absolute highest during summer and lowest in late October, early November, January, etc.
Save on a Disney Cruise and Book Last Minute!
…which can sometimes backfire since with cruising the earlier you book, the better. IGT, OGT and VGT are the acronyms Disney uses for Interior Guarantee, Ocean-View Guarantee and Verandah Guarantee. The reduced prices for these are usually about the same as the people who booked very early on. These guaranteed prices are only available if Disney is unable to fill the ship. The cruiser needs to also keep in mind with the guaranteed rates that the category of location of the stateroom is completely at the discretion of Disney Cruise Line. In exchange for getting the reduced rate, the cruiser gives the cruise line the option of where to put them, which is unfilled space.
Tip: Highly consider adding cruise insurance as a part of your overall travel budget. Contrary to popular opinion, cruise insurance isn’t a flat fee but is 8% of the total fare of the cruise (before taxes and port charges). One thing that sets Disney cruise insurance apart from competitors like Insure My Trip is the “cancel for any reason” clause.
The very first question a travel agent will ask a client who is interested in a Disney cruise is “when can you travel?” When changes everything. And some cruisers often given priority to overall price. Next question is “how long of a cruise would you like to take?”
Military discounts for Disney cruises, when released at all, tend to be very limited and, unlike Florida resident discounts, aren’t applicable to existing reservations. Military discounts are one of the only discounts that are new-reservation only. Sometimes however, it pays to take a cancellation penalty and re-book with a military discount. Just keep in mind that the new reservation is just that; excursions and dining reservations are not carried over.
After your travel agent has discussed all of this with you and a tentative decision has been made, the cabin can be held for 48-72 hours, a quote can be sent and the deposit (20%) can be placed. Once the deposit has been paid, you’re in! The cruise is booked. Now, if you add passengers or upgrade the cabin, resulting in an increase to the fare, your deposit would increase accordingly.
Is the deposit refundable on your Disney Cruise line vacation? Yes, up until the final payment date (which we would tell you when it is if we had a PhD – usually somewhere between 75 and 120 days before you sail).
Once your is paid, you’ll get your personal cruise number, allowing you to go on DisneyCruise.com and check on your cruise, do online checkin (after your final payment has been made, etc.)
Many ask :Should I just allow Disney to handle my airline reservations to the port of departure or to Orlando? The answer is no. They, like other travel companies use bundled air, meaning that they book your actual flight reservations much closer to your sail date but don’t tell you your carrier or schedule until then. It even sometimes happens that parents and children or friends within a party are separated because the actual seats weren’t reserved until very close to the flight. You’re better off reserving your plane tickets directly with the air carrier.
Tip: If your flight is in to Orlando, consider using Disney Magical Express to take you to a Disney resort of your choice instead of a hotel in Orlando.