Our love for Disney Cruise line grows a little each time we set sail, and we like to think we are getting pretty good at this whole cruise thing. That is, until recently. We started working out the details of our Alaska Disney Cruise and had to book our Disney cruise excursions. So we’ve gathered some of our favorite tips for booking Disney Cruise Line Excursions to help you out!
Booking Disney Cruise Line Excursions
We are naturally explorers. And many times, we are choosing the cruise based on its itinerary, rather than any other factor. So we generally book cruises that we know a little about and want to explore more. Many cruise ports are set up for tourists; And there’s usually plenty of walkable things to do right off the port. Cruise excursions have always been more of an afterthought for us. And if we see something we particularly love and want to do, then we will book it, but otherwise, we just google what there is to do at each port and take time to explore and get to know the area a little.
We love having the freedom of being on our own; and have never been big travel tour people, so it’s always just worked. But there is a lot of value to port excursions. They often bring you to the most beautiful places at your destination! And when we started planning our Alaska cruise, we realized that our past history of exploring little towns by foot was not really going to work. We also realized how little we actually know about Alaska! It was actually a pretty overwhelming and stressful experience, simply because we weren’t prepared.
So after spending a lot of time researching cruise excursions specific to our cruise, we decided to create a little list of things we feel everyone should know about booking excursions, and what to do if you don’t.
Plan to book excursions early
Whether you’re going somewhere you’ve been before or somewhere completely new, start your research early. Decide what you’d like to do in each port, whether or not you plan to get off the boat and do some research to see what excursions are available at each port of call.
Make a budget and use it as a guide as excursion prices can be all over the place. Rank your favorites and decide how much time you’re ok with being in the port, or how much time you’re willing to be on the boat in each port. While we think every port deserves to be explored, sometimes you’ll find certain places you’d rather stay on the boat, and that’s fine too. Decide which is the best option for you and go from there.
Not every port will require you to book any excursions as they are lovely all on their own, but it’s good to know which ports you should have a plan for and which are ok to wing it.
For example, in Alaska, the joy of taking this cruise is that you are IN Alaska. So getting off the boat at each port is a must do in our opinion, because if we really just wanted a cruise vacation, we could have gone somewhere less exciting for a heck of a lot cheaper.
Everyone does things differently and that’s ok, but making a plan early will help paint a picture of how you want your vacation to look.
Join a Disney Cruise Facebook Group
Ok, ok, hear me out. I am not even a Facebook person. Sorry it’s really just not my thing. But I can say there is so much value to being in a Cruise Specific Facebook group. Not only can you ask questions about different ports of call, or different excursions, but you can also search the page and see what else other people are asking; which can be so helpful to bring things to mind you may not have thought of.
Book as soon as your window opens up for Disney Cruise Line Excursions
We have talked about the Castaway Club Membership before and this is where it really helps to have a higher ranking in the Disney Cruise Line loyalty program. When new itineraries and excursion bookings open up, the higher level Castaway Club members get first dibs.
Each level has its own booking window, and it opens up at midnight on the day of allowed booking. This booking window will allow you to choose your Port Arrival Time as well as your excursions. Being one of the first people to sign on during your booking window can literally mean you can board earlier or snag that coveted cruise excursion. Don’t want to stay up late to book some of the most popular excursions?
Some of these excursions go quick, so if you have your heart set on a specific excursion at a specific port of call, do not be late to your booking window. Many of the most popular excursions will be taken before they even reach silver level, meaning that first time cruisers really don’t even have much of a chance at snagging one. That being said, it’s best to plan to stay up late on the date of your booking window so you can have the best chance at getting what you want. These situations are when it’s helpful to have an authorized Disney Travel Planner. A Disney Travel Planner can take care of booking your excursions for you while you are fast asleep in bed.
Use a Disney Travel Agent for Your Disney Cruise
Did you know that Disney Travel agents are 100% free to use? It’s true! When you pay for a Disney vacation, their fee is built in. So you’re not paying any less by not using one. Having a Disney Travel agent makes booking a breeze. As mentioned before, they can book your excursions for you. And if by chance something you want sells out, your Disney Travel agent can keep an eye out for any new openings.
Interested in working with a Disney Travel agent for your cruise? Click here for a no obligation Disney Cruise Line quote!
Know when payment is due for Disney Cruise Line Excursions
For most excursions booked through Disney Cruise Line, your payment for excursions will be due when you settle your onboard account on the cruise. So if you’re still seeing some sticker shock from making your final payment, never fear, you still have some time to save up the extra if you need to.
Most of the cruise excursions can be cancelled within 3 days of your sailing without penalty; but keep an eye on your cancellation dates to avoid any unwanted fees.
Find third party options for excursions
Whether you missed out on your top excursion pick or are just looking to save a few extra bucks, be sure to check out reputable third party options. While this may not seem like the best idea when you’re traveling somewhere new, finding a reputable third party can be a lot easier than it sounds. Remember that Facebook Group I mentioned earlier? Many of the members in those groups have invaluable information. And can offer recommendations you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere on the internet.
Third parties can also offer excursions and experiences that maybe aren’t offered through Disney Cruise Line. And they are worth checking out for that reason alone! Don’t count out third parties; many of the companies that Disney Cruise Line uses for its own excursions are actually just trusted local companies that you can book on your own for a fraction of the price.
If at first you don’t succeed…..
Try, try again. Remember that phrase? Yep it works here too. Sometimes people book cruise excursions and then have to cancel later. Or sometimes people cancel their entire cruise, making any excursions associated with their reservation become available. Just like Fast Passes and Dining reservations, cancellations happen all the time. And could mean a Disney Cruise Line excursion you’ve been hoping for might just open for you at the right time.
In addition to this, there are usually spots that open up while you’re on your Disney Cruise vacation. We recommend checking in the Disney Cruise Line app when you first arrive onboard. There may be available openings. You can also check with guest services, which tends to be quite busy at first, so check the app first.
Know what excursions are popular with Disney Cruise Line
Here’s a tip. Any of the onboard fun activities that include alcohol will generally go quite fast. So if you want to get in on a Bourbon or Wine tasting, try to secure that early. In addition to onboard fun, there are actual port excursions that will also fill up fast. This is where research and even the Facebook group I mentioned earlier will help you.
We hope these tips make planning a Disney Cruise a little less stressful! And always remember, you’re going on a Disney Cruise, so its going to be fabulous no matter what you do!
Melanie Renee is a photographer, writer, designer and mom. Visiting Disney destinations since 2010, she is also an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. When she's not creating her next coffee recipe, or designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's seeking beautiful sunsets and planning her next trip .