10 Ways to Save Money When Booking a Disney Cruise

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So Disney Cruises are expensive! There’s no two ways about it. I said in a recent blog post that it may not be as expensive as you think when you compare the cost of a similar vacation, but I realize that’s still a lot of money sometimes. So let me give you some advice on keeping the costs as low as you can. Here are 10 ways to save money on your Disney Cruise!

1. Book Early – As a general rule, the day prices come out for a Disney cruise is the cheapest they will get. There are exceptions and I’ll talk about those in #2 below, but this is still a good rule of thumb. If you are looking at peak times like summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, I can almost guarantee you these prices aren’t going down, and in fact will go up and up over time. As soon as a particular sailing starts filling up, the prices go up. I’ve seen prices jump hundreds of dollars overnight. I have a cruise booked at Thanksgiving that has gone up over $1700 since I booked on opening day. If you know what you want, book it as soon as you can. Book it, sit back and watch the prices soar. Pat yourself on the back.

2. Book Late – Here are the exceptions. Unlike years past, Disney does have specials from time to time. Those specials are usually offered much closer to sailing time. They are more likely to be offered on the classic ships (the Wonder and Magic) and they’ll probably be during an off time like hurricane season or when school is in session. The last Kids Sail Free special was in the spring of 2013 and it applied to sailings on the Wonder out of Miami and the Magic out of Galveston. The Dream and Fantasy have never had a Kids Sail Free offer. One thing you can find, even on the Dream and Fantasy, however, are last-minute, highly restricted fares like IGT, OGT and VGT rates. An IGT means you are guaranteed an inside room or better, OGT means an ocean view room or better, and VGT means a verandah or better. Disney has started using these last minute rates to fill up any sailings that aren’t sold out. These rates enable you to pick a general category but not a specific category or room. They are non-refundable, payable in full when booked, and no changes can be made. If you’re flexible during the off season and will be okay not wedded to a particular sailing date or room location, wait until your timeframe gets close to book it.

3. Know What Discounts You Qualify For – Disney periodically offers discounts for Florida Residents, Military, and Canadians. Department of Defense civilian employees also qualify for military rates when they are available. Disney generally releases the Florida Resident and Military discounts on Monday mornings. Check the site every Monday morning to see what’s there! Right now there’s a special for Castaway Club Members (guests who have sailed with Disney before), and they’ve even had discounts for Disney Vacation Club members on occasion as well! Watch the specials or let your travel agent know what you qualify for so they can watch for you!

4. Book Two Rooms – This certainly sounds backwards! But it’s true. Sometimes booking two rooms is less expensive than booking one. On the classic ships especially, it’s almost always less for a family of five to book two inside rooms as opposed to one room for 5. On the Dream and Fantasy, Disney had the foresight to include some oceanview rooms that sleep 5, so they’re a good option. Sometimes it’s also cheaper for a family of four to get two inside rooms rather than a verandah. That’s because sometimes the cost for the third and fourth person in a verandah room is more than the cost for two people in an inside room. Look into it! You may value a second bathroom more than a verandah!

5 Time it Carefully – Timing is everything on a Disney cruise. Summer cruises are expensive. Holiday cruises are the same. If you have the flexibility to go during the school year, you can save a fortune. September is historically the least expensive month because of both hurricane season and the start of school. If you are tied down during the school year, try the week before you start school or the week after you get out. Schools all over the country are on different schedules and sometimes you can snag a deal because yours ends early or starts late. We were able to sail to Alaska and enjoyed big savings for our family of four because we went the first week after school ended and Kids Sail Free was offered that week.

6. Don’t Count Out the Classic Ships – The classic ships tend to have more specials, and, as I said in a previous blog post, they are still amazing! I wouldn’t, and don’t, hesitate to sail on either one. When the Magic comes out of its extensive overhaul in October, there are already some great prices. For what’s essentially a new ship! New to all of us anyway!

7. Look for Onboard Credits – One way to help save you some money is onboard credits. Disney doesn’t allow anyone to discount their cruises and now that they don’t have group bookings (which allowed big travel companies to hold large blocks of rooms and lock in lower prices), there’s really a level playing field for prices. To gain a competitive advantage, several travel agencies offer onboard credits as an incentive to book with them. (BTW, as a side note, if you see someone advertising a lower price than you can find elsewhere, look closer.) Onboard credits are applied to your account onboard and can generally be used for anything you spend money on once you get on the ship. Things like excursions, tips, alcohol, souvenirs. So with all prices being equal, onboard credits are a way to get a little extra spending money. On the other hand, Costco offers a cash card to use after you return from your cruise. Take my advice and don’t sacrifice good service for the biggest onboard credit, though!

8. Pay With a Disney Visa – No, I do not get a commission from Chase, and no, credit cards are not for everyone. But if you do have a Disney Visa, or were thinking about getting one, you may want to book your cruise with it. In addition to the 6 months free financing they offer for Disney cruises, they also offer a $50 onboard credit for anyone who uses their Disney Visa to pay for the entire cruise. You can throw some Disney gift cards in there too, if you have them, but otherwise, you must use your Disney Visa. 50 bucks is 50 bucks. And, the good news is that you can usually combine any travel agency onboard credits with the Disney Visa credit as well.

9. Book Your Next Cruise Onboard – Of course this one is hard to do if you’re looking at your first cruise, but once you get on that cruise, book your next one! No, seriously! If you think there is any chance under heaven that you will EVER get on another cruise, book one onboard. You will only pay a 10% deposit as opposed to the normal 20%, you’ll get an onboard credit on that future cruise and you will save 10%. Don’t see anything you’re interested in? No problem. Book a “dummy” cruise. Book the furthest, cheapest date out you can, and move it once the next year’s itineraries come out. You can move it as many times as you like and as long as you’re not booking concierge, that deposit is fully refundable if it never works out. It’s a win-win! Do it!

10. Use a Travel Agent – I know you’re shocked that I would recommend this, but using a travel agent on a cruise isn’t just for convenience sake and possible onboard credits. In addition to all the knowledge they bring to the table, a travel agent can save you money. Good travel agents know all of the points above. They can guide you to the best prices. They can steer you towards things like “Secret Porthole Rooms” which are oceanview staterooms with an inside stateroom price. They can put something on hold for you the second a Kids Sale Free special is announced and before the staterooms disappear. You don’t have to pay any more to use a travel agent, and odds are you may pay less or get more value for your money.

So do you have any other tips for saving money when booking a Disney cruise? Help us all out! Next time we’ll talk about ways to save money once you’re onboard!

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Posted on October 1, 2013

16 Responses to “10 Ways to Save Money When Booking a Disney Cruise”

  • I can vouch strongly for point #2. We booked a 7-night repositioning cruise on the Wonder from LA to Vancouver about a month before the cruise sailed. For our family of four we had a VGT room for about the same cost as booking a regular inside stateroom at the time. The restrictions weren’t an issue for us being that we booked so close to sailing, and we had a great room with a verandah (definitely worth it).

    The only downside to a late booking is that you’ll probably be assigned the later dinner seating (8:15pm). The late dining wasn’t our preference, but the benefit is that it’s less busy and you don’t have to wait in line for the shows (we were easily able to get 5th row seats 15 minutes before the performance).

    And finally a note about the travel agents — I thought the same thing as you mention in point 10, but when we contacted our travel agent she wasn’t able to get us a better deal than we could ourselves. Sometimes travel agents can save you money, but nowadays, with a bit of time and effort on your part, you can often get the best deal yourself — we did, not only for our cruise but also our flights and transfers.

    • by Tammy Whiting on October 1, 2013, at 12:26 pm EDT

      You’re right, Mike, booking late has advantages and disadvantages. I’ve had good luck with waitlists for early dining even when I’ve booked really late, but there are no guarantees.

      Let me be clear on point #10. A travel agent can not offer you a lower price than Disney. Disney won’t allow that. Unless you go with an agency that charges fees (and most don’t), it should be the exact same price to book through them as booking through Disney. A travel agent should be able to save you money in other ways. Like onboard credits, knowledge of which categories and options will work best for you, knowledge of the best times to sail and best prices, the best transfer options, etc. They won’t discount the cruise for you, just steer you in the direction that will save you money. :)

      I know personally of a couple who booked the Baltic cruise a few years ago and their travel agent watched for discounts. A military discount came out about two months before they sailed and the agent got them a $7000 refund by changing their category to an eligible one. Disney didn’t advertise the special and had their agent not let them know they probably never would have seen it.

  • by Craig Wiseman on October 1, 2013, at 2:33 pm EDT

    Very helpful – thanks! A question about the “#2 book late” point. What’s the clearest place to look for good book late deals? Is there a better place than the “Special Offers” section of the Disney Cruise website? http://disneycruise.disney.go.com/special-offers/

    • by Tammy Whiting on October 1, 2013, at 3:38 pm EDT

      Actually yes! I’d recommend http://disneycruiselineblog.com/. They do a great job of publishing discounts on Monday mornings.

    • The Mousesavers website is very good about updating all kinds of Disney discounts, including cruise specials and availability of IGT/OGT/VGT bookings.

      We have sailed OGT before and loved it so much that we decided we will never cruise any other way again with DCL. It was too addictive! In fact, I’m waiting for GT bookings to open up for next June…. (and yes, I have a backup in case they don’t).

      • by Caroline Ritchie on February 4, 2014, at 12:17 pm EDT

        We once booked OGT and were initially allocated a deluxe stateroom on Deck 2. Not long afterwards, we received notification that we had been upgraded to an Oceanview Deluxe Stateroom on Deck 6 – a really great location. From what I can gather, free upgrades are a rare event on DCL and it might have been related to the fact that we already had a Mediterranean cruise booked for later the same year.

  • So, how do you catch a cruise booking on the day it comes out? Is there a set amount of lead time they always stick to? Or do you have to know what you want and keep checking daily? What’s the best strategy to get that first-day-best-price mentioned in #1? Please and thank you!

    • by Tammy Whiting on January 5, 2014, at 12:00 am EDT

      There’s not a set time lately, but recently they’ve been letting some levels of Castaway Club members book early, so everyone else gets some notice. It will be all over the internet when they come out. I’d recommend getting a good travel agent who specializes in Disney. They should notify you immediately. :)

  • by Caroline Ritchie on February 4, 2014, at 12:07 pm EDT

    From November 12 2013, all new onboard bookings on Disney ships must complete travel within 18 months from the date booked in order to maintain the onboard booking benefits (10% discount, onboard credit). However, those who currently have an existing onboard booking are being allowed an additional 6 months to travel (i.e. 24 months from booking). Those who are unable to sail within 24 months will have any onboard booking benefits removed from their reservation. You may still modify your sail dates within the 24 month timeframe as long as these modifications are done outside of any applicable cancellation period.

  • I like what you guys are up also. Such clever work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys I¡¦ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my site :)

  • Do you know if Cast Members get a discount for booking cabins? My Father-in-law has worked at Disney for 35 years and wants to take us all on a 3 Day Cruise on the Dream. I am aware of the hefty discounts that you can get a couple of months before the cruise but we were more interested in booking far in advance and was wondering if they offer any percentage off an early booking. Thanks, Tammy

    • Hi Tammy!
      There is a discount for Cast Members. I don’t know the details as Disney, and cast members, hold that information pretty close to the vest. Your Father-in-law should definitely ask. I do believe the discount is limited to his stateroom, but again, that’s something to check on. :)

  • How far in advace are the IGT/OGT/VGT offers published? I wouldn’t want to miss them!

    • There have been times when they came out earlier, but as a general rule Disney does not release the rates until most people are in the penalty phase, so 1-2 months before sail date. :)

  • I will be returning from deployment near the end of summer and wish to take my wife and 5 kids on a Disney cruise. We will no doubt book late. Can you recommend, along with MouseSavers, other travel agents that are good to work with and specialize in Disney cruises? We have never taken a cruise before and I want to make sure we do it right. Any other helpful tips, especially regarding large families and any expenses onboard would be much appreciated!
    Ryan