Most people know that Disney Cruises don't come cheap. Anyone who have compared the prices to other cruise lines may have wondered if there are any tricks to getting lower prices or saving money. One thing you need to know before we get started is that EVERYONE (DCL, travel agents, person sitting at home on their computer, etc) 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 an on board credit as an incentive (more on that later). So, don’t waste your time searching the internet for a cheaper price on a certain sailing because you won’t find one. They are all the same, although some may vary slightly due to whether or not they are including all taxes & fees. Now, here are 6 things that I have discovered that seem to be the best way to get the lowest prices and money back in your wallet:
1. Use a Disney Travel Agent That Gives an On Board Credit
I am not tell you this because I am a travel agent, but because there are some Disney Travel Agents that give a nice on board credit just for booking through them (me included). Unfortunately, DCL has recently decreased the commissions for travel agents and thus the agents have decreased their onboard credits, so the amounts aren’t quite as high as they used to be. Some people prefer not to use a travel agent because it means giving up control of certain aspects of their reservations, but for some families, the on board credit is just too much to turn down. Note that any on board credit from your travel agent is independent of any on board credit you receive from an on board booking, so you can receive both for the same cruise (although some travel agents give lesser amounts for on board booking vs, direct, new bookings). If you are counting, this means that more than once, our family has started a cruise with at least a $650 on board credit. You may wonder if you could possibly spend that much money while onboard, and there are 2 ways you can: tips and shore excursions. Shore excursions (if you book them through DCL) quickly add up if you have more than a couple of people in your party, and tips do as well. For example, for our family of 5, the standard tips for a 7 night cruise add up to $450.
2. Book as Soon as You Can
Generally speaking, the prices for a specific sailing are the lowest on the day the sailing opens for booking and only rise from there. How fast they rise depends on how quickly the sailing is filling up – the faster it is selling, the faster and more the price will rise. This is not always the case – sometimes prices either don’t rise, or barely rise, for those sailings that fill up more slowly than others (i.e. less popular itineraries and dates), but it is generally the case. Some of the most popular itineraries will have huge price increases over time for the exact same room.
3. Cruise Off Season
One thing that surprises a lot of people are how much the prices change for the exact same itinerary depending on the time of year. Prices are much higher, sometimes even double, during times of the year when most schools are out like summer vacation, Spring Breaks and the holidays. I know that a lot of people have to go by the school calendar so this is not an option for everyone, but if you can sail during the off season, you can save a lot of money.
4. Re-book While On Board
This one does not apply to first-time cruisers, but when you do finally get on board, I HIGHLY recommend making an on board booking to save money on your next cruise. When re-booking on board you will save 10% off the regular cruise fare plus receive an on board credit. There are some restrictions and requirements, so be sure to read all of the details before booking. You can cancel and get your money back if you get home and change your mind, but you can’t get the discount once you're off the ship so if in doubt, book it. The on board credit ranges from $100-$200 and the 10% off can really add up if you have a large family and/or are sailing on a more expensive itinerary like Alaska.
5. Sale Rates!!
These are the only cruise sales that DCL have used historically and here’s how they work. Shortly before the sailing (usually around 60 days or so) they will release sales in given room categories (IGT for interior, OGT for Oceanview, and VGT for verandah) which will be much cheaper than the most recent prices, but probably about the same as the prices were the day they were first released. There are restrictions, such as needing to pay in full upon booking and being non-refundable. These also really only work well for a maximum of 4 people, unless you are willing to have 2 rooms that might be no where near each other on the ship. Before you consider this, I recommend becoming familiar with all of the rules & restrictions that come with these fares. Also, these obviously only work well for people who can plan vacations on short notice.
6. Use a Disney Visa Rewards Card
This will only apply to those people that use credit cards, but if you do, you may be able to save some money by using the Disney VISA rewards card. You can get a $50 on board credit if you use the card to pay for all of your cruise, and you earn “Disney dollars” every time you use the card which you can redeem at WDW, DCL, or the Disney Store. Depending on which type of card you get (premier or regular), you earn a certain amount of reward dollars every time you make a purchase and these can really add up.
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