This post brought to you by Christina Wood of Pixie Vacations, the preferred Disney vacation travel planner of The Disney Blog.
Planning a cruise is not as difficult as planning to Disney World, where I regularly encounter my clients’ six-page spreadsheets, make multiple dining changes, and spend a couple of hours just picking out fastpasses. While it’s not as simple as just showing up for your cruise, cruising, truthfully, is easy. That’s what makes it so great. Booking your cruise, however, can be a little bit tricky. Here are some pointers to make the process a little less confusing.
5. Book as early as possible.
The biggest reason to book your cruise as early as you can is that you’ll pay less. Cruise lines all raise prices based on availability–as room categories fill up, the price of the remaining rooms under that category increases. It’s simple supply and demand.
In addition to saving money, booking early allows you to get your first pick of dining times. If you have young children, an early dining time is usually ideal. Finally, booking early allows you to pick your cabin, so you have more deck and location choices. While deck choices are a personal opinion, most guests like mid-ship, so those will fill up first.
4. Don’t pay for insurance until you’re final payment is due.
You can cancel your cruise for any reason prior to your final payment date and get a full refund, no question asked (exceptions for concierge), but if you have insurance added, you won’t get that money back. Since you can add insurance any time before final payment, just wait until then and then add it. But don’t forget–otherwise you’re probably out of luck.
3. Skip concierge.
I think the idea of concierge service is a nice one: Someone bringing food to your room, extra towels, helping you plan shore excursions. Oh wait. DCL already does that for all guests, regardless of room category. In fact, most of the perks of being a concierge guest are already extended, albeit at times to a lesser extent, to non-concierge guests. Unless you’d really like to experience it, skip it and save the money.
2. If you’re flexible, book closer to travel.
At about six to four weeks out, DCL discounts certain room categories that have not been filled yet, usually veranda and, to a lesser extent, ocean view staterooms. The problem is, you can’t predict the availability of these rooms at all. For example, some ships cruising during off season won’t have them at all, which seems counter-intuitive, whereas I’ve seen them pop up for Easter week. The only catch is that you have to pay in full at the time of booking and the cost is non-refundable. You also need to be completely flexible about your travel dates, have the time to watch for these fares, and be willing to gamble that you’ll be able to cruise at all in the event that these staterooms don’t become available.
1. Ask for an onboard credit.
Onboard credits (OBCs) are a touchy subject: some agents offer them, some do not. If you have an agent you’re comfortable with, her guidance is probably not worth shopping around for someone who will give you a couple hundred dollars from their commission, but if you’re someone who usually books on your own, why not find someone who can give you the biggest onboard credit? Just be sure that in addition to giving you the credit, you actually get service. Don’t be lured in by the biggest OBC–some agencies are famous for the fact that you’ll never talk to a live person in exchange for the money they give you. You need to find out what you’re comfortable with before going in.
Once you book your cruise, most of the work is done. You’ll want to make your dining reservations for special dining options at 75-days out. Weigh the benefits of booking excursions early, however, since you may find you’re busy enough on board you don’t want to take one!
I’d be happy to hear your cruising tips in the comments.