1 – Order the free planning DVD and buy a travel book. My favorite is the “Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line”. This book is by far the most comprehensive and has updated editions every year.
2 – Pick the destination you would like to cruise to. Options include Alaska, Caribbean, Europe, Mexican Riviera, Northeast/Canada, Hawaii, or other special itineraries for repositioning.
- Money Saving Tip – book for a sailing during off-season. January, early/mid February, May, Late august, September, early October, early November. Disney rarely runs sales and prices only increase over time as the ships fill up.
3 – What type of stateroom you need? Each stateroom type has a different price-point and amenities. The least expensive room is an inside stateroom with no window on a low deck, with prices traveling upward all the way to a concierge suite with bedrooms, kitchen, and a private deck. Visit my stateroom guide to help you pick the best stateroom for your family.
- Money saving tip – once you’ve decided on the stateroom type, check the different pricing options for that particular type. For example, a room with a verandah on deck 6 will likely cost less than the same room on deck 7. Or a room towards the forward or aft of the ship will cost less than a mid-ship room. My personal favorite place to book a stateroom is in the aft, as far to the center as possible within the aft category. That way I get the lower price for the aft, but I’m not too far on the end of the ship.
4 – Book online or call Disney Cruise Lines to book for you. Have all of your plans up to this point ready to go, including sailing date, location, and the stateroom you want. Be ready to pay your deposit as well. This is typically approximately 15% of the total price. You have up to 90 days prior to sailing to pay the rest of the balance. I like how you can make payments online whenever you want and as often as you want.
- Money saving tip – Book as close to one year in advance as possible. The prices will steadily increase as the date gets closer. Some room types will no longer be available as well.
Consider the extras Disney will offer you while booking. These extras include ground transportation (usually needed), vacation protection plan (roll of the dice!), and airline booking.
- Money saving tip – book your airfare on your own separate from Disney. They charge an adder for doing this for you. Even though it will have built-in travel protection, airlines will let you reschedule tickets for a fee that is sometimes less than the extra paid to Disney for the service. Disney also contracts with certain airlines and you may not have the same freedom as booking on your own separately.
At booking you will also choose your dining time – 5:45 pm or 8:30 pm. This is your dinner reservation time for the entire cruise.
5 – Research the port adventures you’d like to do at each destination. Port adventure booking begins at 75 days before sailing for first time cruisers, or anywhere between 90-120 days before sailing, depending on your Castaway Club membership level. You can book all shore adventures online under your reservation.
6 – Add extra magic! Schedule a free character call for your kids at a date and time of your choosing to announce the cruise or just to generate excitement the evening before. Also download the Disney Cruise app to get the cruise countdown (you’ll also need this app onboard the ship). Within your advance reservation window, book a Bibbidi-Bobbiti Boutique appointment for your princess or pirate, make reservations for the Royal Tea Party, reserve a spot at the princess meet-and-greet, or book a character breakfast (on 7 night or longer cruises). Read more details about each of these magical opportunities here.