Disney Cruises offer unbeatable family fun. The popular line is well-known for its excellent kids' programs, live entertainment and gourmet dining. However, cruising with Mickey, Minnie and the rest of the Disney pals doesn't always come cheap. Fortunately, there are ways to save on cruises to Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, and other tropical Bahamian ports. The key to preserving your budget is to know where and when to shop.
Where to Find Deals
Before you start searching for deals, visit the Disney Cruise Line's website, and choose a specific cruise. Once you know where you want to go, you have a few options for searching for deals. Remember to consider free onboard amenities, prepaid tips, discounted shore excursions and other perks, as these also help lower the total cost of your cruise.
Booking Buddy is ideal for comparing prices and offers. Enter your cruise information, and the site will give you several websites offering price quotes on the same cruise. Many sites may require you to register, but don't be shy. You'll receive regular emails on deals as they become available, and you can unsubscribe at any time after you've made a decision.
Disney Cruise Website
Make sure to check out the Special Offers section of the Disney Cruise Line website, which typically showcases deals on cruises that the line is particularly anxious to sell. The site also gives information on standard discounts such as Military (both active retired members and their spouses, including Department of Defense personnel) and special rates for Florida residents. However, it neglects to mention the discounts for airline employees (both current and retired employees are eligible, provided the airline is still in business). If you are, or were, an airline employee, see your employee handbook to find out how you can take advantage of special discounts.
Some travel agencies that do a lot of business with Disney Cruise Line are able to hold "group blocks" at the lowest available price offered for that sailing. By choosing one of the group block sailings you can save a significant amount of money. What's more, you don't have to reserve more than one stateroom or participate in group activities to be eligible for the discount. Ask your travel agent if he or she offers this option.
Form a Group
The best way to get deep discounts is to form your own group. Like most cruise lines, Disney offers special incentives for blocks of at least eight cabins. If you're planning a family reunion, or have a group of parents and children planning a cruise vacation at the same time, this can be an effective way to lower the cost. If you are in a position to form your own group, try negotiating directly with the cruise line before booking.
Occasionally, the line will offer discounts to customers who have purchased a Disney World Annual Pass. Once again, the Disney Cruise Line website is a good source for this information, along with a number of the specialty sites named above.
Airline Miles and Hotel Points
If you're a member of an airline frequent flier program (such as American Advantage, Delta Sky Miles or US Airways Dividend Miles) and mileage accrual is important to you, begin your research on your preferred airline's website. You're likely to find attractive incentives in the form of bonus miles for booking your trip through them. Similarly, if you belong to the Hilton Honors program, you can accumulate a pile of Hilton points by making your arrangements through a dedicated Cruises Only site.
Knowing where to look is half the battle. In addition to finding great deals, there are a few strategies you can employ to get the most mouse for your dollar.
A good rule of thumb is that discounts on Disney cruises are going to be harder to find during the summer, or over holiday periods when school isn't in session, you're more likely to find an attractive deal during the school year, when the line is under greater pressure to sell cabins. While the exact dates of the school year vary in different parts of the country, generally try to avoid June through August, as well as the last two weeks in December or the first week in January.
One way around this is to book at the last minute. Excellent deals may be found between 21-75 days before the ship leaves, although your choice of destinations and cabins will probably be more limited.
Consult the Experts
The expansion and success of the Disney universe has spawned a number of websites dedicated to compiling information and deals:
- Mouse Savers includes a page devoted to cruise discounts, and it is updated frequently.
- WDW Info offers information on everything Disney, and has an up-to-date discounted cruise page.
- Dreams Unlimited offers comprehensive information on cruise deals including onboard credits and discounted amenities.
- Small World Vacations is an authorized Disney vacation planner.
- Everything Mouse is a guide to Walt Disney World and Disney Cruises and features daily deals on Disney cruises.
Onboard Booking Discount
Another way to save on a Disney Cruise is to take advantage of the company's onboard booking deal. The program is designed to reward passengers who are considering taking a future Disney Cruise. If you book an upcoming cruise while you are still on board the ship, you will receive a 10 percent discount and an onboard credit for the future cruise.
The onboard credit is usually $200 for a seven-night cruise and $100 for a three-night or four-night cruise. Note: a deposit is required at the time of booking. However, there is no penalty for making changes to the reservation. You can change the dates of the future cruise as you desire and still keep the onboard booking discount and onboard credit.
Save Money on Family Fun
There's little doubt that a Disney cruise can be a great adventure for the entire family, as well as a good way to bring family members closer together. With a little planning, it can be a cost-effective vacation as well.