Disney Cruise Line Fare Tracker in Action: Timing Your Cruise Booking

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Before delving into some travel planning decisions for my upcoming Disney Cruise Line adventure, I thought it’d be useful to explain how our Disney Cruise Line Fare Tracker tool accelerated my booking this cruise.

I am sailing on the 4-Night Bahamian Cruise on Disney Dream – Itinerary A on October 12, 2014. I get to enjoy the cheapest cabin (11C), which my group of 2 adults and 1 child will call home for the journey.

Comparison with Similar Cruise from Last Year

If our Fare Tracker finds an identical itinerary departing on a comparable day (for example, the third Sunday in October) in 2013, it displays that on the same chart when looking at a 2014 cruise. For example, our Fare Tracker for my itinerary but sailing on October 19, 2014, is shown below. Note that data for both that cruise and last year’s October 20, 2013, cruise are displayed:

4-Night Bahamian Cruise on Disney Dream - Itinerary A departing October 19, 2014

As you can see, Disney’s fare adjustments for the 2014 cruise have been similar to what is shown for the 2013 cruise. However, for this particular 2014 sailing, some trends leap out:

  1. Fares are a bit higher ($25-50) in 2014 than in 2013.
  2. Fares increased a bit later (2-3 weeks closer to sail date) in 2014 than in 2013.

Based on the 2013 changes, I expect current pricing ($2,098.66 as of May 6, 2014) to stay in effect (and perhaps drop a bit) for an 11C cabin with 2 adults and 1 child on this sailing. And if I knew I wanted to take this cruise at the beginning of this year, I would have tried to purchase before 272 days prior to sailing (January 20, 2014) to avoid the price increase we saw in 2013. In this case, that would have worked out, because the first price increase did not hit until February 4, 2014 (257 days before sailing).

Fare Tracker Shows No Comparable Cruise

Alas, that October 19 cruise above is not my cruise. I depart on the second Sunday in October, and Disney Cruise Line did not have a 4-Night Bahamian Cruise on Disney Dream – Itinerary A leaving on that day in 2013. Thus I lack a directly comparable cruise for my sailing. As a result, there is only one line on my cruise’s Fare Tracker chart:

drm-bah-a-20141012

Disney Cruise Line generally increases its fares over time via its “tier pricing” structure; this means that the earlier you book, the lower your fare will be, so as the cruise fills up, pricing goes up. (There are exceptions to this; Disney occasionally offers “last minute” pricing to fill unpopular cruises, but it generally does this via unusual fare types so as to avoid direct comparisons with other bookings.)

I was assigned to take this cruise on January 6, 2014, which was 279 days before it sails. At that point, the fare had not changed from $1,922.66 since we started tracking this cruise in February 2013 (more than 600 days before sailing!). Based on this information, it was likely that this fare was at or near the lowest price that DCL would offer for my particular cabin and group. The question was: How long could I wait to book without having the price increase?

With the Fare Tracker at my disposal, I looked at 2013 cruises for my itinerary and manually found sailings that departed on October 9 and October 20, 2013:

4-Night Bahamian Cruise on Disney Dream - Itinerary A departing October 6, 2013   4-Night Bahamian Cruise on Disney Dream - Itinerary A departing October 20, 2013

The October 6 cruise had a fare jump at 258 days before sailing, and the October 20 cruise had a jump at 272 days before sailing (both occurred on January 21, 2013, the third Monday in January). Based on this, it seemed reasonable that a price increase would occur sometime around the third Monday in January of 2014 (January 20).

My Results

I was assigned to go on this cruise right at 279 days before sailing, so we acted as quickly as we could. We were not able to buy before 272 days hit, but we made the purchase on January 15 (270 days before sailing) without experiencing a fare increase. That turned out to be about 3 weeks before a $108 price increase hit at 250 days before sailing (on February 4, 2014).

While $108 in savings may not seem like much compared to the price of a Disney Cruise, it will easily contribute toward our gratuities or pay for a shore excursion or a meal at Palo. Plus, I love the “game” of getting a great price, and I feel that we did well here.

We use the past to predict the future quite often here at TouringPlans.com, and while predicting fare changes is far from a precise science, my experience here shows an approach that worked well for me in January.

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Posted on May 8, 2014

4 Responses to “Disney Cruise Line Fare Tracker in Action: Timing Your Cruise Booking”

  • I love this tool! I have a question about VGT code last minute discount. When I do a search for that on any particular cruise it often shows “No data available.”. Does that mean they never offered the discount or TP wasn’t able to gather data for that cruise?

    • by David Davies on May 8, 2014, at 9:06 am EST

      We do a pretty good job of collecting data, so in most cases it should be because the fare was not offered. But it could be either.

      TouringPlans.com friend Scott Sanders at http://disneycruiselineblog.com does a good job of announcing DCL cruise discounts when they are released.

  • It should be noted that one drawback to waiting until just before a fare increase to book is that you run the risk of preferred cabins or sections being booked. Booking early can get you access to “special” cabins like ones with a veranda but priced like a porthole.

    Also, since you only have to put down a deposit, waiting is not gaining most people that much. Booking early is almost always the best way to go. Second to that would be the guarantee class, since you may get upgraded to a better room than you had anticipated for the price.

    Last note: Occasionally DVC members are offered discounts on last minute cash bookings. While I personally think that a cruise is not worth the point cost (though if you have points to spare, why not?), these discounts for a last-inute cash booking can be considerable.

  • by Roger Sauer on May 9, 2014, at 2:39 am EST

    Booking early allows guests to receive a better chance to get a cabin upgrade when reservations are finalized about 45 days out from departure. This is especially the case with less popular destinations such as fall and transatlantic cruises.