Choose Your Cruise: Disney Cruise Planning 101

Next year I am going on my very first cruise! My husband and I will set sail on the Disney Magic next May. It is over 300 days away and I’m already giddy with excitement.

In making our final decisions and preparing to book the cruise I realized the process of planning and booking a cruise is so different than any other vacation. I often have people tell me they are interested in a cruise but don’t really know where to start. So, I thought I would pass on some tips for those of you contemplating a Disney Cruise. This is not really a blog about the cruise itself…this is all about the initial stages of planning.

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Below are some things to consider though the order is not important. You may already know WHERE you want to go and need help figuring out the rest. Or you may live within driving distance from one of the ports so you have already narrowed down the port. These are just things to consider and talk to your travel agent about as you begin the process of planning and booking your cruise.

Narrow Down your Dates.
This can be the hardest part. Ships do not sail every day. So, unlike planning a Disneyland or Disney World Vacation, you can’t just pick up and go whenever you decide. If you have specific days you can use for vacation-you may or may not find a cruise that fits exactly with your schedule. That is why planning ahead and staying flexible will work to your advantage. You will need to narrow down a time frame and let your travel agent know some times you would be able to go. Then you can look at the itineraries and sail dates and see what might fit into your schedule.

Choose the Number of Nights.
If you have never cruised before, you might want to start with a 4 or 5 night sailing. Disney Cruises can range from 3 nights all the way up to 14+ depending on where you are sailing. Think about how many vacation days you have to use and factor in the transportation to and from the port (driving or flying).

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Choose the Port of Departure.
For some people, the port is not as important as the itinerary. For some, the port is the first consideration. For example, my husband and I live in Montgomery, AL. We can easily drive to Port Canaveral, FL. So when we started looking at cruise options we only looked at cruises out of Port Canaveral so that we would not have to drive or fly somewhere and add on to the cost and the days we were away from home. In the future, we may consider the itinerary before the port. But for this first cruise, proximity ruled our decision.

Choose your Itinerary/Destination.
Once you have narrowed down your time frame and/or port you will have a number of options for your itinerary. I would recommend looking at the itinerary as well as the activities available at each port of call (your travel agent can help you with this info and questions about each). Don’t forget to also consider how many days you will be at sea. The days at sea can be very relaxing and fun and give you time to really enjoy the ship and the on board entertainment. Again, you may decide to start with your destination(s) in mind and build your decisions around that. Bahamian, Eastern and Western Caribbean, Alaskan, and European cruises are available as well as some special cruise itineraries throughout the year.

Choose your Ship.
This may not be much of an option if you have already narrowed down some of the other options. However, this is worth mentioning because Disney Cruise Line has 4 ships in its fleet and they do have some difference. The Magic and the Wonder are sister ships and while they are the oldest in the fleet … don’t let that fool you into thinking they are any less grand, exciting, and fun! In fact, this fall (2013) the Disney Magic is undergoing a major renovation…this is actually one of the reasons we decided to sail on the Disney Magic once we narrowed down our Port and dates. The Dream and Fantasy are sister ships and both have the famous AquaDuck water slide. Your travel agent can help you determine the best fit for you if you cannot decide on the ship for your cruise.
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Choose your Stateroom Category.
This was a hard decision for us. Your stateroom decision is based on personal preference as well as your budget. Other considerations are your sensitivity to motion sickness, proximity to certain conveniences on the ship, and possibly the view. So be sure to write down any concerns you have about choosing your stateroom and communicate those with your travel agent. You can see online exactly where each stateroom is located and that can be very helpful in making your final decision on stateroom category. Talk to other people you know who have been on a cruise-including your travel agent. I found this very helpful in gathering the info I needed to make my decision. And if you know anyone who has been on a cruise, you probably know they are happy to talk about their experience!

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As you can see you will need to consider different factors than planning a Disney Parks vacation. You don’t have to decide on all of these right away, I just think it will help you when you begin the conversations if you know at least what you need to consider.

So… I hope this helps you in the initial stages of planning your Disney Cruise. Your travel agent can help you with any and all of these decisions so be sure to keep them in the loop. Your travel agent will probably ask about all of these choices I mentioned…If you haven’t decided yet-that is OK. That would be a good time to mention it to your travel agent and let them help you.

Are you considering a Disney Cruise and need help? I would love to help you plan the perfect vacation for your family. Contact me at Aleshia@travelwiththemagic.com or give me a call (toll free) at 1-800-670-4312 ext 139.

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