Anyone who has priced a Disney cruise knows that they are expensive! You’ve probably wondered if there are any tricks to getting lower rates or saving money. The fact is everyone (Disney Cruise Line phone representatives, travel agents, people online) sees the same prices. No website or travel agent out there can give you a cheaper cruise fare than the DCL website is currently showing, although they can offer you onboard credit as incentive to book (more on that later). So don’t waste your time scouring the internet for a cheaper price on a particular sailing, because you won’t find one. They're all the same, although some may vary slightly due to taxes and fees.
But don’t despair! Here are 6 tried-and-true strategies for saving money on a Disney cruise:
1/Rebook while on board
This strategy obviously doesn’t apply to first-time cruisers, but when you finally do get on the ship, I highly recommend making an onboard booking to save money on your next cruise. You'll save 10% off the regular cruise fare plus receive onboard credit. There are a few restrictions and requirements, so be sure to read the fine print. You can cancel and get a refund of the deposit, if you get home and change your mind, but you can’t get the discount once you’ve left the ship. If in doubt, book it. Recently, DCL began allowing you to book a placeholder instead of an actual sail date. This way, you can wait and assign the booking to a particular sailing after you get home.
2/Use a travel agent who gives onboard credit
I use a travel agent to book my Disney cruises, because she give a large, onboard credit. Some people prefer not to use a travel agent, because it means giving up control of certain aspects of their reservations. But for our family, the “free” money is just too much to turn down. You can use your credit for spa treatments, gratuities, shore excursions booked through DCL, gift shop purchases, and alcoholic beverages.
For more reasons to use a travel agent to book a cruise, click here.
For more on gratuities, click here.
3/Cruise during off-season
Prices vary greatly for the exact same itinerary depending on the time of year that you sail. Prices are much higher - sometimes even double - when kids are out of school. I know that a lot of people have to adhere to school calendars, so this isn't an option for everyone, but if you can sail during the off-season - extend a long weekend, perhaps - you can save quite a bit of money.
4/Use Disney Visa Rewards Card
You can get a $50 onboard credit, if you use the Disney Visa Rewards Card to pay for your cruise. You also earn Disney Dollars every time that you use the card. Those dollars can be redeemed at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, DCL, and the Disney Store. Depending on which type of card you get (premier or regular), you earn a certain amount of reward dollars every time that you make a purchase anywhere.
5/Book as early as possible
Generally speaking, the price for a specific sailing is the lowest on the day that the sailing opens for bookings; the price only rises after that. How quickly the price goes up depends on how quickly the ship is filling up – the faster that it sells, the faster and more times the price will rise. Some of the most popular itineraries will have huge price increases over time for the exact same room. To be sure that you get the lowest price, I recommend booking as soon as the sailing is released, usually 14 to 18 months in advance.
6/Take advantage of discounted rates
In addition to military and Florida resident discounts, there’s another cruise discount that DCL has been using recently and here’s how it works: shortly before the sailing (usually around 60 days or so), DCL will release discounts for certain room categories (IGT for interior, OGT for oceanview, and VGT for verandah) which will be much cheaper than the most recent prices (but about the same as the prices were the day that they were first released). There are restrictions, such as needing to pay in full upon booking and being non-refundable; so once again, read the fine print. In addition, these discounts really only work well for a maximum of four people, unless you're willing to have two rooms that may be nowhere near each other on the ship. With five or more people, you must book two staterooms (unless you book a suite, which is not eligible for discounted rates). With this discounted rate, DCL won't guarantee that your rooms will be near each other on the ship. Also, this strategy only works for people who can plan vacations on short notice.
Diana Smith is an expert cruiser. She and her family, including her three Disney princesses, have set sail on eight Disney cruises. For more, check out Disney Cruise Mom Blog.