10 Ways to Take a Disney Cruise for Less
Disney Cruise Lines has a fleet of four ships geared toward families. With characters roaming the decks, onboard theatre, Mickey waterslides, and hi-tech cabins, it's an experience to thrill children of all ages. Unfortunately, these aren't cheap cruises. Improve your chances of finding a deal on a Disney cruise within your budget with these 10 easy tips.
Inside cabins are the base accommodation on all Disney cruises and typically cost a third of the price of a suite. While there is no ocean view or verandah space, the interior rooms have something kids might even prefer: "Magical Portholes" offer a glimpse of about three dozen animated characters and objects passing by throughout the day as well as a real-time look at the ocean captured by hi-definition video cameras. Interior rooms have all the necessary amenities for a family of four and are known to be roomier than other lines'.
Disney Cruise Line doesn't permit booking agencies to offer discounts, so be sure to read the fine print if a company advertises a trip at a lower rate than Disney itself. Onboard credits, which spend just like cash for activities, souvenirs, drinks, and more while on the ship, are the only leverage travel agencies and websites have to entice customers. Although the cost of the stateroom remains the same, this is extra money to spend on ship expenses, which can add up quickly (typically only food is included). Disney also offers a $50 onboard credit per stateroom for vacations booked on the Disney Visa card, and Costco gives customers a cash card to use back home as an incentive to book through the warehouse club.
Disney does offer discounts from time to time and for specific groups, such as members of the military or Disney Vacation Club members. Keep an eye on the rates to see if deals become available, but don't fret too much. Even if the fare drops after booking, travelers report that Disney will adjust the original rate.
Consulting a travel agent is free, as agencies are compensated by the cruise lines. Those who specialize in Disney vacations often have taken the cruises they recommend, which gives them insider perspectives that don't appear on the Disney website. Take advantage of a travel agent's experience and insight to find the most economical package.
Ignore the debate about whether to book early or late. Disney's recommendation is to make a reservation well in advance, especially for the most popular family vacation times, including spring break, summer, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Not only is there money to be saved by booking early (before the remaining rooms start going for a premium), but early booking ensures a choice of stateroom, better times for dinner reservations, and no concerns about dates selling out.
Although it actually costs more money, insurance could result in significant savings if it's needed. Disney cruises must be paid for in their entirety up front, and canceled trips are not refunded without insurance. Given the cost of a cruise (up to several hundred dollars per person), many consumers don't want to risk losing it all.
It's a bit of a long shot but not unreasonable to book the cheapest room and hope for an upgrade closer to departure. Because specific rooms are not assigned at the time of booking, the only guarantee is the rate. As time passes, Disney Cruise Line evaluates stateroom bookings to see how the ship is filling up. After the lowest fare sells out, Disney sometimes upgrades the earliest bookings to make room for more guests to travel at the base rate. This is even more likely during non-peak travel times. It is also possible to request an upgrade once arriving for check-in. Although this usually results in an additional charge, the difference between the fee and what you would have paid for the upgraded cabin can be vast. Check in as early as possible to give this a try.
For a family of five or more (and possibly four), booking two interior staterooms may actually cost less than booking one larger "upgraded" room. Having more space between the two rooms plus a second bathroom could be invaluable. At the time of booking, be sure to try a variety of room options to compare the pros and cons, along with the cost.
The most popular times for family vacations -- summertime and the holidays -- are naturally the most expensive. For those able to go during the school year, savings can be huge. Cruise experts have identified September as the cheapest month for Disney cruises, because not only is school starting, but it's also hurricane season. This is no doubt a risk (and a reason to buy insurance!) but could definitely pay off.
While it seems premature to book the next trip before disembarking from the last, Disney Cruise Line rewards repeat customers by knocking 10 percent off the cost of a future cruise booked onboard and offers a $100 to $200 credit, depending on the length of the cruise. This does require money down, but passengers have up to 18 months to schedule the trip. The reservation can be changed or canceled for a full refund anytime before the final payment is due.