Disney Cruise Line has announced a major policy change for guests booking a future cruise whilst onboard a Disney ship. Booking onboard gives you a very substantial 10% discount and this will still remain.
However there are some significant changes to the other benefits of onboard bookings.
The Disney Cruise Line policy used to be that you got the discount, a 50% reduced deposit and an onboard credit of either $100 or $200 per stateroom.
Many guests made a ‘dummy booking’ meaning that they booked a cruise for a date far in the future and for the lowest price possible. They could then change the booking any time prior to the balance due date on the dummy booking, and transfer the benefits to the new booking.
The new policy limits both the way you can use the existing booking and also the actual benefits that you will receive.
The 10% onboard discount remains and this is a significant benefit. The 50% reduced deposit will only apply to sailings of 7 nights or longer. This means that it will not apply to any of the current itineraries for 2014 or 2015 for the Disney Dream, and will also not apply to a significant amount of the Disney Wonder bookings as many are 4 and 5 nights (it will still apply to the Alaska Disney Wonder sailings).
As from 12th November 2013 all new onboard bookings must complete travel within 18 months from the date booked in order to maintain the onboard booking benefits. If you travel outside of that window then you will lose all of the onboard booking benefits.
If you, like me, already have a booking then you will be given an additional 6 months on top of the 18 months re booking deadline. I fully intend to sail on my next cruise where I have the discount, but as I booked a year ahead, to get the stateroom and cruise that I wanted for September 2014, I will only have until November 2015 to take another cruise if I have to cancel this one.
I would have preferred that Disney make the 18 month deadline applicable only to new onboard bookings rather but I can see that perhaps it affects such a significant number of bookings that they feel that they need to do this.
Disney are clearly trying to prevent the practice of dummy bookings. This is understandable as if you were completely working the past system you could accumulate a significant number of dummy bookings and clog up the bookings for people who actually did want to book those dates. Scarcity means prices go up, so not only did these dummy bookings mean that availability went down but it may also have meant that prices went up too.
Whilst they are thinking about policy changes perhaps Disney Cruise Line would also want to restructure their Castaway Club benefits. Moving up through the Silver, Gold and Platinum tiers is based on number of sailings, rather than the number of nights sailed. This means that a cruise who takes longer cruises can have spend much more time on a Disney ship and still be a Silver Member than one who is a Platinum but has only take 3 night cruises. For example you could spend a total of 30 nights onboard and be a Platinum Member but have taken 10 different 3 night cruises. At the opposite side you could still be a Silver Member and have spent 70 nights onboard if you have taken 5 cruises of 14 nights – they would only be a Gold Tier Member on the next sailing even though they have spent many nights at sea on a Disney cruise. Perhaps it is time for a revamp of this system too ( together with a rethink and upgrade on the benefits for those loyal to Disney)
Let me know what you think. Will you be affected by these changes to Disney Cruise Line onboard booking policies? Do you think they are reasonable?
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Alison Meacham is the founder of EverythingMouse Disney Blog. For over 15 years she has shared her love of Disney Parks, Disney Cruises and Universal Orlando. In over 30 years of Disney Travel she has spent countless months in Disney Parks and has sailed on over 45 cruises. A British native and now a United States resident she splits her time between California, Florida and the UK. And spends a serious amount of time sailing the seven seas. She helps over 200,000 people per month follow their Disney travel dreams.