Well, after tons (literally tons!) of research and back and forth choices, my husband and I finally sat down and booked our next cruise...which happens to be our first cruise with Disney. Needless to say we are all very excited (OK, I'm not sure my 1 year old even knows we are going but he will be excited when he sees Mickey!) to get going on this cruise. Here are a few planning & booking tips for those who are looking into cruising with Mickey....
*This is a several parts series...as we get further along/ closer to our cruise I will share tips on how to get ready and then after the cruise I will share our experience! be on the lookout!
Photo courtesy of Bing.com
1. Be flexible...with everything!
When we first started talking about where we wanted to cruise we were set on Alaska. We have already cruised the Bahamas and wanted a different scene. However after looking at pricing for an Alaska Disney cruise at the time we wanted to go, it was way over what we wanted to pay for a week long vacation. Timing brings me to another aspect of flexibility. When it was all said and done we went from planning a summer cruise to booking a week before Christmas cruise to the Western Caribbean. Timing is everything with Disney cruises. You can save thousands of dollars by changing your time frame a little bit. Make sure you check into all potential cruise times and dates. (for example..the week after our cruise going to the same places on the same ship is almost $3000 more, and two weeks before is almost $1500 more!) Make sure you are willing to take into account the place, time and ship you are looking at. Even the newer ships on Disney Cruise Line can cost more and they go to the same places..only difference? one single water slide. (honestly how many times are you going to go on that slide to make it worth all that extra money...probably not many)
2. Book as far in advance as you can!
Disney has a wonderful cruise line blog as well as the DIS boards (forum) that can keep you in the loop as far as when the next year cruise schedule is coming out and sales they may be having, as well as all the info you need from veteran Disney cruisers. I was able to ask when the new schedule was coming out (couldn't find it online) and received an answer within an hour. As soon as the schedule is out...start looking and choosing a date!! We booked our cruise 8 months out and saved a bunch of money doing that. You are required to put a deposit down (normally between $200-$500 depending on how much the total cost of the cruise is) to book the cruise and the rest isn't due until 45 days from your sail date. There is no interest charged while you leave your account in the owe. This will guarantee you a great price and plenty of time to pay each month or pay in a lump sum down the road.
3. Buy the travel insurance that Disney offers!
My husband is military and booking a vacation this far in advance can be scary (even when you get permission ahead of time), however with Disney their insurance policy is great (it is through a 3rd party but they provide contact info for them and plenty of info on what you are paying for). They provide full refunds (and % refunds after a certain time) for your cruise and anything you purchase with your cruise (airfare, excursions, etc.). I was also told by Disney that medical is free of charge on board if you have the insurance with Disney (I busted my toe on our carnival cruise and they wanted $100 just to look at it, not including what they needed to do) so that can be helpful if something like a smashed toe on a lounge chair happens (again!). Our insurance for the trip was around $100 total for the 3 of us, not bad for peace of mind and the just in case.
4. Speaking of extra purchases...buy airline tickets, hotel stays or anything else you need as a package with Disney!
We winded up getting a free hotel stay the night before our cruise because we purchased our airfare with them (if you buy airfare with Disney they have you arrive the day before your cruise so you don't risk missing the ship due to late flights). Also, it is covered in the insurance. The wonderful people at Disney (they are seriously amazing and answer every request you have!) will track our flight and if there is a delay THEY will move our flight, call us and tell us where to go. Uhm, talk about not having to lift a finger. All we have to do is pay, show up and of course...have fun! They think of and do everything for you. Need a pack 'n' play for your stateroom?..they have them, need a high chair? they have them...they even have diaper genie's for the staterooms! They will also arrange free of charge (or included, however you want to look at it) shuttle transfer from the airport to hotel, and from hotel to ship both before and after your cruise. I was able to also request a crib/pack 'n' play in the hotel and they took care of that as well. I am very impressed with their customer service in the booking process!
5. Consider the upgrade if possible.
When we started looking we were set on at least an ocean view room...I need at least a window. After picking our cruise date/destination we found out it was only $90 more for a verandah. For us...it was worth the upgrade. Yes, we haven't sailed yet but let me explain why it is already worth it... we are traveling with a toddler...a toddler who will still be taking naps..what better way to spend his nap time than my husband and I sitting on our private verandah while he naps in the room. Room service is free! Order some food and enjoy a snack or meal while your little one naps. How about a late night snack on the verandah while your kids watch a movie in the room before bed? How about sitting on your verandah while you pull in to each port and get some amazing photos? If the price is right...do it! We had the choice between the navigator's verandah and the normal open verandah. We went with the navigator's because I am one of those freaked out mom's who thinks her kid will try jumping over the railing on the more open ones. The navigator's verandah's are also more private and closed in with a large oval (wonder has oval, magic has smaller round cut outs) cut out with a bench and table and chair, seems a little more private to me. another plus of the navigator's verandah is that they are located at the forward and aft parts of the ship..there are only 4 rooms after ours...big bonus of that? not as much foot traffic near our stateroom late at night/early in the morning.
Okay...for now that is all I have (pinterest is a great place to find more tips and info for actually cruising time tips). I will post more about planning the actual parts of the trip and all that fun as the time gets closer! And be looking for my post about Fish Extenders!!! (we are excited to do them as well!)
DIS Boards link : http://www.disboards.com/forumdisplay.php?f=9
Disney Cruise Line Blog Link: http://disneycruiselineblog.com/ships/disney-wonder/
Until Next Time...