Our upcoming Alaska cruise will be the 4th cruise for me and Colorado Dad, and while that may seem like quite a few, it pales in comparison to some of the folks I’ve talked to who have been on 30, 50 and even 100 Disney cruises! I always wonder how in the world they can afford to go on so many, because quite honestly, a Disney cruise can be on the expensive side. Here are some of the things I’ve learned from talking with those frequent cruisers as well as our own experiences:
- If you don’t have flexible travel dates, book early – In most cases, cruise itineraries will be the cheapest in the first couple days after they’re released, so if you know what dates you’d like to cruise, start looking as early as possible. Disney starts selling their cruises at least a year before the sail date (sometimes even more), so it definitely pays to start planning early. Keep an eye on the Disney Cruise Line website, Disney Cruise Facebook page or Disney Cruise twitter account to learn when new itineraries will be released for sale.
- After you’ve booked, keep your eyes open for deals – We booked our Alaska cruise over a year ago, but I’ve been occasionally logging into the Disney Cruise website to look for deals or rate changes, and it’s actually worked in my favor twice for this cruise. If you have not reached your “final payment due” date (75 days prior to departure), Disney will give you an adjustment of your fare if the price has changed. Twice in the past year, I logged on to the site and noticed our fare had gone down. Not by any signficant amount – $40 or $50 each time – but any little bit helps! You can also modify your reservation to include special offers like “kids eat free” if they come up. I did this myself, but a good travel agent should be watching for these changes for you as well.
- You don’t HAVE to have a verandah – Yes, I’ll admit, we have splurged on a room with a verandah and it was very nice, but on last year’s cruise and again this year for Alaska, we’ve foregone the verandah to save money. On the Dream and Fantasy, the inside staterooms have the “virtual portholes” to give you a peek outside even without a window, but my favorite rooms are the “Secret Porthole Rooms” (SPH for short) on the Magic and the Wonder. What the heck are SPH rooms? They are rooms in category 10A, an inside stateroom category, so are cheaper, but with a very special feature – a porthole window that is “partially obscured”. There are only 6 of these rooms on the Wonder and Magic, #5020, #5022, #5024, #5520, #5522 and #5524, so they book fast, but if you can get one, I’d definitely recommend it!
- Book shorter itineraries – This is one of those “do as I say, not as I do” things. Disney has lots of different cruise lengths, typically starting at a 3-day cruise. There are a few 2-day cruises, but these are special itineraries and aren’t offered on a regular basis. For me, I love cruising so much that anything less than 7 days seems crazy to me, BUT a shorter cruise is a great way to introduce yourself to cruising to make sure you like it and is almost always cheaper. As of now, any cruise length counts towards your status in the Disney Cruise line’s Castaway Club (a returning cruiser program), but even better than that, it gets you on the ship, which is important because…
- Booking a future cruise while onboard gives you a DISCOUNT – This is my favorite tip and one we’ve used 3 years in a row. If you book another cruise while you’re on any of the ships, you’ll get a 10% discount and you won’t need to put down as big of a deposit. This is great, but the real benefit here is if you know you want to cruise again, but don’t know exactly when, you can book what’s known as a “dummy date”. The Future Cruise desk castmember will typically look for a lower priced sail date to minimize the deposit you’ll need to pay and book you for that date. Once you’re booked, you can make any changes you want to that reservation, including moving to a totally different itinerary or sail date, all while still retaining your discount. As long as you haven’t reached that “final payment due” date, you can continue to make changes to your reservation without any penalty. I always wonder if Disney will ever stop providing this perk, but so far, it seems like it’s been good business for them, so let’s hope they keep doing it! There are a few limitations, like the number of rooms you can book and how many people can be included at the discounted rate, so definitely make sure to ask the Future Cruise sales folks for the latest details.
These tips have definitely helped us save some money and I hope they help you as well! Unfortunately, while the big part of your cruise vacation is included in the fare you pay up front, there are always those things onboard that you might forget about, so next week I’ll talk a little about the additional expenses you might have once you’re onboard and a few savings ideas to help cover those costs.
And don’t forget, I’ll be focusing on Disney cruise related topics from now until June 4th when we set sail on the Disney Wonder, heading to Alaska, so if you have any topics or questions you’d like me to cover, leave me a comment!