Thursday, April 21, 2016

5 Tips for Getting the Cheapest Price for a Disney Cruise to Alaska

Alaska Trip posts:
Booked at Last! A Cruise to the 49th State

Getting the Cheapest Price for a Disney Cruise to Alaska

Last week, I shared the news that we finally booked my bucket list cruise to Alaska! Now that I've had a week to jump for joy at taking the first step in making this trip a reality, it's time to start a game plan for paying for this vacation. But first, I want to share some tips for getting the best price on a Disney Cruise to Alaska. And would you believe that we did not choose the cheapest price for our cruise???

I've written before about how to get the cheapest price on a Disney Cruise, but Alaska cruises have some nuances that make it a little more difficult to get a cheaper price.

1. Choose to sail in a cheaper peak time. Unlike cruises to the Bahamas and the Caribbean which have much better off-season prices in winter and fall when school is in session, Alaska cruises don't really have an off-season. Cruises only sail to Alaska in the summer from about the last two weeks of May through the first week of September. But based on current prices, there are some weeks that are slightly cheaper than others:

Cheapest: End of May and beginning of September 
Next Cheapest: First two weeks of June and last two weeks of August
Most Expensive: Mid-June until mid-august

Unfortunately, for most families, pulling kids out of school in late May or early September is not ideal because the school year is just ending or just beginning at those times.We chose a cruise in the next cheapest time frame. If we were to move our cruise to the most expensive time frame of summer, it would cost us 12% more. If we could move it to the least expensive time frame, we would save 19%.

2. Forget about the verandah. On our last Caribbean cruise, we could have upgraded from an oceanview porthole room to a verandah room for about 15% more. On Alaska cruises, there is a much bigger jump to get a verandah room. These rooms are priced at a premium due to the fantastic wildlife and glacier viewing on the cruise route. 

On the Disney Wonder, my family of 5 cannot fit in the lowest category inside room, or even in one porthole room. So our options are more limited than the options for a smaller family. 

For our Alaska cruise, we would need to pay about 38% more to switch from two connecting porthole rooms to one verandah room for 5 people. For two people in one room, the jump from porthole to verandah is over 50%, or more than a 75% increase from an inside stateroom (with no porthole window) to a verandah stateroom.

For my family of 5, these are the options we had, from cheapest to most expensive:

Two category 11 inside rooms with no portholes. These are the smallest cabins that do not have a split bathroom like most Disney Cruise Line cabins. There are no category 11 cabins that connect together, so we would have to split our cabins up by gender since my kids are not old enough to have a completely separate room from us.

Two category 10 inside rooms. These cabins are slightly larger than category 11 inside rooms. They have an split bathroom and connecting rooms are available.

Two category 9 porthole rooms. These cabins have two small porthole windows or one large porthole window to see the scenery. The price is cheaper for rooms on lower decks (decks 1 and 2) vs. the higher decks.

Cabin with porthole window

One category 4 verandah room that fits 5 people. The room includes a queen bed, a bunk bed and a pull-down bed.

One category 7 verandah room (fits 4) with an inside category 11 room nearby. This is not ideal for us, since we would still be split in non-connecting rooms.

One concierge verandah room, available in a standard size or a suite. (Dream on!)

My frugal, planner self tends to gravitate to the cheapest option, but my husband is a good counter balance to me. We will enjoy this trip more if we can have connecting rooms with the kids in a room by themselves, so the lowest level inside staterooms are out. While we don't need the verandah since there are a few public decks where we can enjoy the fresh air and scenery, my husband convinced me that we should splurge on porthole window rooms. After all, this entire trip is a splurge and not something that we will repeat year after year.

3. Book a placeholder cruise with on-board booking benefits. Obviously, this will only work if you are a previous DCL guest. If you book a future cruise or a placeholder for a future cruise while you're currently on a cruise, you get 10% off the cruise fare and an on-board credit for your next cruise. The on-board credit from DCL is $200 per cabin on 7+ night cruises and $100 per cabin on cruises less than 7 nights. Since we booked two cabins (cheaper than one verandah room), we have $400 on-board credit from DCL to spend on our Alaska cruise. This is in addition to credit from our travel agent! We also saved about $1000 off the cruise fare by booking two cabin placeholders on our last cruise.

4.  Book on opening day, or soon after. Opening day is when DCL announces and releases new future cruises, and last week it announced summer 2017 cruises. 

Disney has historically priced its cruises in tiers, with the prices going up as more rooms are booked. Sometimes, it will publish last-minute discounted rates for military personnel and Florida residents. Also, occasionally there are *GT fares offered 30-60 days prior to the cruise that are discounted and must be paid in full at the time of booking. However, in looking at this upcoming 2016 Alaska cruise season, I'm not seeing many of these last-minute discounts. In fact, as of yesterday I only see one *GT discounted fare, and the price is only $42 cheaper per person than opening day prices. Even if a cheaper last-minute discounted fare opened up, it would be very challenging to book flights and schedule excursions late in the game.

The Cruisefish website tracks prices for many cruise lines, and by using the "finder" feature I can see how the prices of the DCL Alaska cruises have risen over time. It's definitely cheaper to book earlier!

5.  Use a travel agent. Many travel agents give back a part of their commission to you in the form of an on-board credit that you can use for tips, souvenirs, excursions, drinks, etc. The on-board credit we will get from our travel agent will cover the cost of the excursion we are eyeing in Ketchikan. But in addition to the on-board credit, our travel agent has provided us with great service during the booking process all the way up to our trip departure! She has done things like talked to a DCL supervisor to get us moved into cabins that were blacked out, changed our dining time and rotation, and booked on-board services like Rainforest Room.

I've always wanted to go on a Duck boat--it goes right from land to the water!
 Next week, I will be blogging about saving strategies to pay off a big trip.

No comments:

Post a Comment