Disney Cruise Line

St. Martin and St. Thomas DCL Port Adventures Content Updates

by on March 3, 2014

New Port Adventures Information for St. Martin and St. Thomas

The port of St. Maartin in Philipsburg

St. Maartin Port

After our latest cruise, a 7-night Eastern Caribbean aboard the Disney Fantasy, TouringPlans has updated content for our DCL subscribers on the ports of St. Martin and St. Thomas. We also have the latest information on the DCL port adventures available to cruisers on that itinerary, including links to external web sites for the tour operators to help you make the best decisions with your time and money.

If you have comments or questions about Disney Cruise Line, the Fantasy, or the Eastern Caribbean ports, let us know in the comments section.

The Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line

The Unofficial Guide to DCL

Pre-order Our DCL Book Today

The Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line by Len Testa, Erin Foster, and Laurel Stewart is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released in April.

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10 Most Frequently Asked Questions About IGT, OGT, and VGT Fares on Disney Cruise Line

by on February 16, 2014

A few years ago, Disney Cruise Line started something new for last minute travelers in search of a bargain. It offered non-refundable, restricted fares called IGT (Inside Guarantee), OGT (Oceanview Guarantee), and VGT (Verandah Guarantee). These fares used to be very rare and only offered during the slowest times of the year. Well, they’ve been increasing in regularity in the last year and are popping up even on what are traditionally the most popular times to sail, like Thanksgiving week. The more these fares appear, the more questions they seem to generate. So let me try to help by explaining what these fares are and maybe even what they aren’t.

1. Why Should I Care About These Fares? – Or, in other words, how big of a discount are we talking? – A pretty good one! As a general rule, opening day prices are about the cheapest Disney cruises get. Usually these rates take you back down to those opening-day prices for your sail date. Sometimes they are a little better, more often they are the same or more. If you didn’t get in on opening-day prices, these fares may be calling your name.

2. What the Heck do Those Acronyms Mean? – IGT, OGT and VGT. What do they mean? It means you save money and are picking a “general type” of stateroom, which prevents you from reserving specific staterooms or locations. If you choose IGT, for example, you are booking an inside stateroom in category 10 or 11, while OGT is an oceanview stateroom in category 8 or 9, and VGT is a stateroom with a verandah in category 4, 5, 6 or 7. You are not picking a specific room number, or a specific category like 7, 9, 4, etc. This means that if you desperately want an inside room with a split bathroom (found in categories 10 and up) and will be very disappointed if you don’t get it, then do not book an IGT fare because Disney may assign you a category 11 room without a split bathroom. You will have no input in that decision because you are paying less for the IGT fare and allowing Disney to select any category 10 or 11 stateroom for you. On the other hand, if you just want a verandah at a good price and could not care less where you are on the ship and how huge, small, or obstructed your verandah is, then booking a VGT is perfect.

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What Are The Differences Between the Disney Dream and Fantasy?

by on February 6, 2014

TouringPlans is happy to announce that pre-orders are available for the Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line, written by Len Testa, Erin Foster, and Laurel Stewart. We also encourage anyone planning a cruise to subscribe to our Disney Cruise Line content. 

Which Ship Should I Choose, the Disney Dream or the Disney Fantasy?

 

Castaway Cay

Whatever ship you choose, Castaway Cay is a must.

This month, I’m happy to be returning to the Disney Fantasy for the first time since 2012. It seems impossible that it’s been nearly 2 years since the last time I sailed that ship. One of the questions about Disney Cruise Line that we get here at TouringPlans is, “What are the differences between the Disney Dream and Fantasy?” The following is a partly scientific, somewhat arbitrary comparison of the two ships.

On the surface, the ships are nearly identical, with just some difference in theming. But there are some big differences to consider when booking your cruise.

Let’s start with the draws, where the offerings on both ships are identical:

  • Staterooms
  • Atrium – only difference is theme
  • Kids’ clubs
  • Main dining rooms (except Animator’s Palate)
  • Cove Cafe
  • Senses Spa
  • Staff – both ships have incredible Cast Members who are dedicated to making sure your cruise is enjoyable

Differences Between the Disney Dream and Fantasy

Cruise Length and Cost

Mayan pyramid

Photo by Chad Klotzle. Want pyramids?

First there are the itineraries. The Fantasy alternates between 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises. The Dream does mostly 3- and 4-night Bahamas sailings (with the very rare 5 night from time to time). If you want to see an island that’s not Nassau, the Fantasy is your only choice. If your heart is set on Nassau, you’re on the Dream. Happily, both ships dock at Castaway Cay – the best island you’ll ever visit in our opinion. A longer cruise allows for more themed nights, though most cruises include the ubiquitous Pirate Night.

Making two stops at Castaway Cay is always our preference, but we are big fans of the number of days at sea you get on a 7-night cruise if you have the time to spend. You may wonder why we ranked the Eastern over the Western. In our opinion, having the extra day at sea and visiting the less-crowded ports of St. Maarten and St. Thomas beats the pyramids of Mexico or getting to see Falmouth, Jamaica. If you’re looking for a more active vacation, swap the second and third rankings

Here is how we rank the itineraries:

  1. 5-night Bahamas with 2 stops at Castaway Cay – the ne plus ultra of itineraries – Dream
  2. 7-night Eastern Caribbean – Fantasy
  3. 7-night Western Caribbean – Fantasy
  4. 4-night Bahamas – Dream
  5. 3-night Bahamas – Dream

Cost is another factor. Not only is a shorter cruise less expensive than a longer one, but the Fantasy tends not to get as many special deals at the Dream. In general, on a per-night basis the Fantasy will cost more than the Dream even before discounting. Our fare tracker is a great way to compare prices on Disney cruises. If cost is a concern, go with the Dream.

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10 Reasons to Book Your Disney Cruise Early

by on February 1, 2014

Well, the rumors are strong right now that the release of the rest of 2015 Disney Cruise Line itineraries is imminent. There’s no predicting what lies in the minds of Disney executives, but there is a precedent for this. The summer and fall itineraries for 2014 came out the second week of February in 2013. And, the summer itineraries for 2013 came out the last week of January in 2012. So it’s time folks!

The million-dollar question for cruisers is – book now or wait? Well, Touring Plans has created an ingenious tool to help you decide – the Fare Tracker! The Fare Tracker tracks historical prices of itineraries and dates. Were the prices lowest on the first day of booking, or was there a last minute sale? Did the prices stay the same? Or go up faster than Carl’s house once it was attached to the balloons in Up? If you are currently eyeing a specific itinerary and date, go look at what happened to the prices of a similar cruise over the last few years. You may feel like you can wait a while! But if you’re torn on booking early, here are some reasons you may want to consider it.

1. Good Prices – After just a few minutes of checking out the Fare Tracker, you’ll see that some prices are almost certainly going up. New itineraries, holiday sailings, and summer sailings are good examples. Some cruises go up hundreds of dollars from opening-day prices, sometimes in a matter of hours on opening day. If your cruise is predicted to go up, you should seriously consider booking the day, no the moment, it’s released for booking.

2. Connecting Rooms Are Available – It’s not surprising that on a family-oriented cruise line, connecting rooms are in high demand. And all rooms do not connect! The classic ships were not built with nearly enough connecting rooms and they frequently disappear quickly on opening day. Disney recognized their mistake and built the Dream and Fantasy with more connecting rooms. They also added some doors to make more rooms connect on the Magic during its re-imagineering this fall. Still, they are a limited supply. If connecting rooms are important, or essential if you’re splitting up your immediate family, book early!

3. “Secret” Categories Are Available – What goes faster than connecting rooms? Secret rooms! Of course there’s no secret that they’re there, but you may not know that they’re better than advertised! As I discussed in a previous blog post, the Magic and Wonder both have some oceanview rooms that are categorized as inside rooms because of obstructions. Some of the rooms classified as navigator rooms are actually normal, open verandahs with slight obstructions. Since these secret rooms aren’t well kept secrets, they book up quickly. Get them fast!

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10 Great Things That Happened on the Disney Cruise Line in 2013

by on January 12, 2014

Disney Cruise Line had some exciting things happen in 2013! No new ships, or even announcements of them, but still it was a good year! Here are some of my favorite things that happened. Add yours below!

1. The Magic Was Reimagined – The Disney Magic was reimagined and is awesome. It wasn’t gutted, it was redone (reimagined in Disney speak), and the changes are wonderful! The initial sailings had some kinks, but Disney worked hard to get those fixed. The AquaDunk took my breath away. Literally. No, seriously, it scared me to death. But in a fun way. The new Oceaneers Club and Lab are kid heaven, and the Twist n’ Spout slide and Aqua Labs are great additions. Cabanas is about a million times better than Topsiders. I don’t even think I’m exaggerating. Carioca’s has great food and beautiful new theming. The staterooms have some new, much needed additions like new bedding and more power outlets. The Night Clubs are updated with new modernized theming. I really think Disney took a great ship and made it even better.

2. Lifeguards Are Now Stationed on All Four Ships – I can’t say enough what a great decision I think this was. Disney prides itself on being a family friendly cruise line, and putting a lifeguard at the family pool during pool operating hours is putting its money where its mouth is. What’s more important to families than an extra layer of safety for their children? Other cruise lines need to play catch up here.

3. Exciting New Ports of Call! – That sounds like a commercial, doesn’t it? Disney Cruise Line called on some new ports in 2013. I was fortunate enough to be onboard for the first visit to Greece and Turkey, and it was excellent. The Acropolis in Athens was breathtaking, and Mykonos quickly became one of our favorite ports ever. We also enjoyed touring the ruins of ancient Ephesus. The cruise after ours visited Venice and Croatia! How cool is that? I’m always “pro” new ports. Always.

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Improved Fare Tracker for Disney Cruise Line

by on January 8, 2014

We launched our Disney Cruise Line coverage in October with over 300 pages of information that dazzle the eye with more than 400 beautiful photos. A critical piece of this project is the data-driven Disney Cruise Line Fare Tracker, a tool that displays fare change histories for hundreds of different DCL sailings in 2013 and beyond. Each day we collect more than 50,000 different pieces of fare data and process them to display these charts. This tool helps people detect trends in DCL fares, with the ultimate goal of helping them determine the best time to purchase a cruise.

This week, we upgraded the Fare Tracker so that the Fare Tracker chart for a given cruise includes a separate line (in red) depicting historical data for a similar cruise. When such data exists, we now display fare information for a sailing on the same itinerary at the same time the previous year. For example, the Disney Fantasy is sailing on a 7-Night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Saturday, October 4, 2014. If you look at the Fare Tracker for that cruise, you will see data for the same itinerary departing on a comparable day in 2013 (7-Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise on Disney Fantasy – Itinerary A on Saturday, October 5, 2013):

Sample Fare Tracker with Comparison

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10 Things Not to Pack on Your Disney Cruise

by on January 3, 2014

There have been a lot of great blog posts here on Touring Plans about packing for Disney vacations, and Scott wrote one recently on packing for your Disney cruise. Well, I’m here to help you with the opposite problem! Packing too much! We all could use some extra space in our suitcase, right? Or a little less weight? I can’t promise to help you stay under 50 pounds, mercy, I can’t even seem to do that, but maybe I can get you closer!

1. Too Many Clothes – It’s so easy to do. Just don’t do it. It can be overwhelming when you think about how many clothes you think you need on a Disney cruise. Swimsuits during the day, shorts when you’re not in your swimsuit, nice clothes for dinner, dress clothes for dress up nights, etc., etc. Well, there are washer and dryers onboard! They’re just a few dollars a load, and you’re good to go. Tip – the laundry rooms are least busy on port days! Disney has also changed the dress code for the main dining rooms. Most nights are cruise casual. Disney requests no swimwear or tank tops, but shorts are fine if you don’t feel like dressing up. That will save you some packing space! Also, if you really want to go all out on formal night but don’t want to pack a tux, you can rent one onboard. So lay out everything you want to bring and really look at it. Do you want 6 swimsuits? Yes. Do you need 6 swimsuits? Not so much!

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Run The World: Disney Cruise Line Edition!

by on December 26, 2013

Castaway Cay 5K Finisher

Castaway Cay 5K finisher!

Whether you’re running a runDisney event, or simply logging miles on Disney World property, every mile really is magic at Disney! Recently, I had the opportunity to take my Disney running to the next level when I traveled aboard the Disney Magic. I learned that it’s not only possible to keep your training up while cruising, but it can be a lot more fun than you might think!

In this post, I will share three run categories: Indoor Training, Outdoor Training, and even a runDisney “Race,” so lace up your running shoes…and let’s go!

Indoor Training

Treadmill

Treadmill over the water!

Sure, I know what you’re saying: it’s a treadmill. But really, if you’re on a cruise and looking to run several miles on your training plan, it is an option that you should consider while aboard. Several treadmills line the front window of the Fitness Center and are generally available throughout standard operating hours. I visited at 8 AM on our “At Sea” day and had no problem securing a treadmill located in the center of the room.

The current machines are “Life Fitness” models and have many technological touches to keep your workout as enjoyable as possible – you can hook your headphones right into the machine and watch TV, listen to your iPod, or select options on the touch screen to visualize trail runs, track workouts, and more…though honestly, I could not take my eyes off the gorgeous blue water outside! It was a really neat feeling to feel like you’re flying above the waves!

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10 Tips on Tipping on the Disney Cruise Line

by on December 10, 2013

Tips on tipping! See what I did there? First time cruisers always have questions about tips. In a somewhat all inclusive environment, it’s easy to forget about gratuities! Tips are expected on any cruise line and they can be a significant expense you need to be prepared for. Notice I said tips are “expected” not “mandatory”. Tips are always optional. But, just like you wouldn’t walk into a nice restaurant and consider not tipping (and if you would, that’s a whole different conversation), you really shouldn’t consider taking a cruise and not tipping. If you are someone who wants to tip appropriately, but are worried you don’t know the standard cruise tipping principles, this blog post is for you. And, Disney has made a lot of this easy for you (well, if you are planning to give the recommended amounts). See below for more!

1. There are Four Main Tipped Positions – There are four positions where tips are expected. These tips are so expected they will actually be charged to your onboard account automatically (see #2 below for what that really means). Those four are your three dining room servers (Head Server, Server, and Assistant Server), as well as your Stateroom Host or Hostess. Now if you’ve never cruised before, the Head Server is kind of like the maitre d’, the Server is in charge of your personal table service team, and the Assistant Server is just that, the assistant to your lead Server. The Stateroom Host/Hostess is the person who keeps your cabin clean, makes your bed, turns your bed down at night, makes those awesome towel animals, leaves you chocolate (!), and generally ensures you have everything you need in your room. The total amount you will tip is determined by the number of nights of your cruise. The recommended amounts per night are $4 for Server, $3 for Assistant Server, $1 for Head Server and $4 for Stateroom Host/Hostess per person in your sailing party. You’ll notice that adds up to $12 per night. Take that $12 and multiply it by the number of nights and the number of guests in your stateroom. That will be your suggested tip amount. For my family of four on a 12-night cruise this summer that was $576. That’s a lot of money, but the people who received the tips did a ton of work for us during those 12 nights (all with a smile on their faces)!

2. You Can Change Tip Amounts – As mentioned above, Disney now automatically charges the standard tip amounts to your onboard account. Those amounts are auto-charged, but not set in stone. If you want to give more, or in the rare circumstance where you may want to give less, you can go to Guest Services before the cruise ends and have them changed. If you just want to add a little, you could also add some cash to the tipping envelopes you will find in your room on the last day of the cruise.

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10 New Features of the Reimagined Disney Magic and Reviews of Each

by on November 14, 2013

Did you hear the Disney Magic was just “reimagined”? They recently dragged me off I recently returned from the inaugural sailing of the new Disney Magic, and (spoiler alert!) I loved it. Since I had also spent 12 wonderful nights on the Magic this summer before she went to dry dock, I had a very recent experience to compare the “old” Magic to the “new” Magic. So, let me tell you my impressions (and reviews) of the new Magic (and her new features)!

[Shameless plug: Check out our new Disney Cruise Line coverage, with more than 300 pages and 400 photos! - Len]

1. AquaDunk – The AquaDunk is by far my favorite addition. I’m not a big fan of body slides, but it’s a complete rush. It lasts all of 7 seconds and yet somehow feels like you fall for at least 7 minutes. Some critics of the AquaDuck on the Disney Dream and Fantasy felt like it was too tame. Not so with the AquaDunk. You step into a vertical tube with water pouring down your back and a Plexiglas door closes around you. After you give the thumbs up signal that you’re ready, Huey, Duey and Louie count you down, then the floor drops out from under you and you fall. And fall and fall and fall! Oh, and twist through a tube that goes out over the ocean, which is more than 100 feet below you. The wait was short on my sailing, but it certainly could be long during a hot afternoon at sea. Ride first thing in the morning or during the evening shows. If you’re onboard during a port day, the line should be short, as well!

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