DCL Series: Pt 1 -So You Wanna Book a Disney Cruise?
So, you’ve decided that it’s time for you to set sail on a Disney Cruise as your next getaway (or are dreaming about it) but are not entirely sure what to do next. You’ll have plenty of decisions to make from where and when you want to cruise, to what ship you want to sail on and many more. Planning a Disney cruise (much like planning any Disney trip) requires a lot of preparation if you truly want to have the most magical time while you’re there and with the release of the new 2024 Disney Summer Itineraries we thought we’d offer some assistance by sharing our own experiences as well as some info from an expert in a couple of cruise related articles. For our first one, we’ll be focusing on the when and how to book your cruise. And to provide an even more realistic breakdown of everything we will be able to actually relate everything we talk about here to our upcoming Disney cruise in July!
As many of you know who have been following us, Krystle absolutely LOVES planning for a Disney trip. Months of preplanning, color-coded spreadsheets and packing lists are a consistent scene in our home. For many years, she did all this on her own, but about 2 years ago that all changed and that’s where our first tip for you when it comes to the when and how to book a cruise comes into play…get in touch with an experienced Disney travel agent. Whether it’s your first or fiftieth cruise (or Disney vacation) there’s always something new to learn about or a question that comes up that you’re not entirely sure about. And with the seemingly endless changes made throughout Disney almost weekly it can be tough to stay up-to-the-minute on everything. A good travel agent can take all that headache away and can help you not only by answering questions, but also by taking the time to go through the steps of actually booking your vacation (no more waiting on the phone for hours to talk to someone, or waking up at an ungodly hour to try and book something before everyone else)! With all that in mind, we have invited the preferred travel agent of Married to a Disney Addict (and our good friend) Sue Passauer from MEI Mouse Fan Travel to join us in writing these articles!
One of the very first things that usually comes up when planning a Disney cruise/ vacation is, how am I going to pay for this? And honestly it’s a very appropriate question as yes, they can be pricey. So it’s important that you know what your budget is and how to look for the best possible deals that fit within it. When it comes to the cost of a Disney cruise, there are a number of factors that influence the total of your final bill. What ship you choose, the category of cabin you select, the length of cruise, the itinerary, and the time of year you decide to sail. This is where the assistance of a travel agent like Sue can really help! She can take all of this information and provide you with the options that are the best fit for you and your family. This is exactly what we did for our upcoming cruise. We told Sue when we’d be able to go and what our budget was and she got to work finding the best possible deal that fit that criteria. All we had to do was say “we want that one,” and SHE booked it for us! Now of course you can log onto Disney’s website and do all the research and comparing and booking yourself, but a little (or really a lot) of help never hurt anyone!
Now back to the pricing, generally speaking the newer the ship, the longer the cruise, the nicer the cabin, and the longer you wait to book can all cause the price of your cruise to go up. For instance, the itineraries for Alaska which run from May to September are more expensive than a Caribbean itinerary which runs year round. Now most of us are capable enough to look into the prices of specific sailing dates to specific locations and so on. However, the one thing that can really make a difference in helping you save money is by booking EARLY! Essentially you want to book your cruise on what’s called “day one availability” (that means the very first day that specific cruise is available to the public to be booked). The thing that you need to know about “day one availability” is that it is not the same for everyone on the ship. Disney (like many other cruise lines) use something called a “tiered release” based on their guests Castaway status (the number of times you’ve cruised with Disney in the past). The higher your status, the earlier you get to book. In our situation, Krystle and I are only Silver level, but Krystle’s parents are Gold. As they planned on coming with us we were able to book 2 rooms (one in each of Krystle's parent’s name) on the Gold day rather than waiting till Silver opened up. This will also come in handy when we start planning excursions and add-ons, which we’ll discuss in a later article. Below are the Castaway Levels if you are wondering:
Pearl = 26+ cruises (highest and new level) → earliest “day one booking”
Platinum = 11-25 cruises → one day after Pearl
Gold = 6-10 cruises → one day after Platinum
Silver = 1-5 cruises → one day after Gold
No Status = first cruise → one day after silver
The tiered and “day one availability” system is another reason that having a good travel agent on your side is so important. Once you know what kind of cruise you want to take (approximate time, location, etc…) your travel agent will be able to start looking into all the available cruises and when the “day one booking” is available for you. Then you simply tell your agent which one you want and THEY will book it for you that day! No need to wake up early, sit on the phone for hours or fight with your computer to try to book it before everyone else.
Now honestly, there usually isn’t a threat of a ship being sold out before it opens to first time cruisers, but it CAN happen. Especially if you’re trying to get onto a special sailing, such as an inaugural sailing on a new ship or the Marvel Day at Sea, which can book very quickly. However, the main benefit of booking on day one availability really is the savings because as the ship starts getting filled and the number of available cabins decrease, the more the remaining cabins will cost. It is simply a matter of supply and demand, the fewer cabins that are available, the higher the price.
Although DCL does typically not offer day one discounts, there may be opportunities to access savings later down the line. Disney has recently begun running promotions that can provide savings for Disney+ subscribers. For example, last fall they offered a discount to Disney+ subscribers where they were able to receive FREE cruise fare for the 3rd and 4th guests in your stateroom - which is a GREAT saving for families or friends traveling together!!!! This is again where a great travel agent comes in handy, as a good agent will monitor your current reservation and if an offer is announced that is applicable to your reservation, they will get that offer applied sometimes before you even know it exists. In addition, these offers can sometimes be pretty confusing and have certain requirements and that is one more thing you don’t need to work about.
So, if you're ready to get planning, now is the time as Disney has JUST released summer 2024 itineraries. The release dates are as follows:
Platinum Castaway / Golden Oak: Monday, March 27, 2023
Gold Castaway: Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Silver Castaway / DVC: Wednesday, March 28, 2023
General Public: Thursday, March 29, 2023
If you’re even thinking about taking a Disney cruise next summer (or even sooner) be sure to reach out to Sue and she can answer all your questions and get you started. Her services are completely FREE so there’s no commitment to worry about until you decide to book! You can always shoot us a message too. Be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming article discussing the Disney ships and itineraries too for even more great Disney Cruise info!
Thanks for reading along and as always,
See Ya Real Soon,
Matt, Krystle, AND Sue!