Disney Cruise Line Planning Guide

Disney cruise ship

You have decided that you want to go on one of those big, beautiful Disney ships, but are not quite sure where to start. Am I right? Well, if that is the case, you are in the right place!

How To Book

There are essentially two ways to book your dream Disney Cruise. You can choose to book it yourself on disneycruiseline.com or by calling Disney Cruise Line at (800) 951-3532. You can also book your cruise by contacting a reliable, trustworthy and knowledgeable travel agent who will help you every step of the way. Travel agents offer as much or as little help as you wish and they can play a vital role in planning your magical vacation.

Choosing Your Dates

One of the most important details that you need to know before booking a cruise is when you want to go and how long you want to go. At least try to narrow it down to a couple different time frames so it is easier to compare and contrast ships, itineraries and departure ports. Disney Cruise Line itineraries range from 2 nights to 14 nights with the majority being 3, 4, 5, or 7 nights. There truly is something for everyone.

When You Can Book

Once you know when you are wanting to sail, it is important to know how far in advance you can book your cruise. As of January 2020, sailings are available to book through May 2021.

Here is a small synopsis on how Disney Cruise Line releases their itineraries:

  • January through May 2020 were announced on 9/27/2018
  • May through September 2020 were announced on 2/28/2019
  • September through December 2020 were announced on 6/9/2019
  • January through May 2021 were announced on 9/28/2019

Once the itineraries are announced, there is a sequence in the way they are available for booking. This is based on Castaway Club level. I will use the January through May 2021 sailings as an example.

January through May 2021 itineraries were announced on September 28th, 2019 as I mentioned above. Platinum cruisers (10+ Disney cruises) were able to book on September 30, 2019. Gold cruisers (5+ Disney cruises) were able to book on October 1, 2019. Silver cruisers (1+ Disney cruises) and DVC members were able to book on October 2, 2019. First time cruisers were able to book on October 3, 2019.

Itineraries And Destinations

What itinerary and/or destinations are you interested in?

  • Caribbean~~Western, Eastern, Southern
  • Bahamas
  • Panama Canal
  • Mexico~~Baja, Mexican Riviera
  • Hawaii
  • Alaska
  • Canada
  • Transatlantic
  • Bermuda
  • European~~Norwegian Fjords, Northern Europe, British
  • Isles,Mediterranean

Additional Details

After you figure out when you want to cruise and how early you can book, there are still a few decisions to be made. They do not necessarily need to be made in a specific order.

What port do you want to leave from? Does it matter to you?

~~Some itineraries only leave from certain ports, so this answer may be based on which itinerary you have chosen for your cruise.

What ship do you want to sail on? The dream class ships or the classic ships?

~~The dream class ships are the Dream and Fantasy. Both leave from Port Canaveral, Florida. They are the newer, larger ships that sail to the Bahamas and Caribbean. The classic ships are the Magic and Wonder. They are the older, smaller ships in the fleet. These ships have different departure ports based on season. These ships cover all cruises not in the Caribbean or Bahamas, however, during the winter months you will find these ships sailing Caribbean and Bahamian itineraries. Again, this could already be answered by which itinerary you have chosen.

Choosing A Room

Cruises offer a variety of different stateroom options. The cheapest option is an inside stateroom and the most expensive option is the concierge royal suite with verandah.

Here is a breakdown:

  • Inside Staterooms are the most affordable.
  • If you desire a window you will pay more.
  • Dream of a balcony? The price point is going to be high.
  • If you want more space along with the luxuries of a concierge stateroom, the cruise fare is going to be significantly higher.

The inside staterooms on the Disney cruise ships do not have a view to the ocean. The Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy feature magical portholes that provide guests a real-time view outside of the ship via high definition cameras on the exterior of the ship. You may even see Rapunzel swing by or Scuttle and Flounder peek in as they fly by. Unfortunately, the classic ships do not offer magical portholes. The inside staterooms sleep 3-4 guests with a square footage ranging from 168 to 214 based on the category you book.

Oceanview staterooms are also available. The Oceanview staterooms offer one or two porthole windows so you can see the ocean and ports from your room without the added expense of a verandah. The Oceanview staterooms can sleep 3-5 and they range from 204 to 241 sq. feet.

My favorite stateroom category – Oceanview stateroom with verandah! The Oceanview staterooms with verandahs offer cruisers access to their own private balcony to enjoy scenic views and landscapes. These staterooms can sleep 3-5 guests and are anywhere from 246 sq. ft to 304 sq. ft.

It is important to note that the verandah is included in the stateroom square footage. For me, sailing with a verandah is the only way to go. So much of the ship is enclosed that when you do not have a verandah it seems as though you have to make a conscious effort to go out onto a deck to hear the ocean and feel the breeze.

Finally, you have the concierge staterooms. All of the concierge staterooms feature balconies, but the four different categories vary greatly in size.

  • The Concierge Family Oceanview with Verandah, which is the smallest of the concierge staterooms on both classes of ships.
  • The Concierge 1-Bedroom Suite with Verandah, which is also on both classes of ships.
  • Classic ships offer a Concierge 2-Bedroom Suite with Verandah, but the Dream class ships do not.
  • The Concierge Royal Suite with Verandah, which is the largest and most expensive stateroom on the four Disney ships. The concierge staterooms sleep 5-7 guests and vary in size from 304 sq ft. to 1,781 sq ft. Again, the square footage includes the space of the balcony. In addition to these stateroom amenities, concierge guests enjoy a plethora of other luxuries.

Stateroom Categories

The staterooms on the Disney cruise ships are categorized by a combination of letters and numbers. Concierge rooms are organized by letters only. The letters are R, S, T, and V in that respective order. The lower the letter, the better the room. Therefore, the Royal Suite is indicated by letter “R” and the Family Oceanview is represented by the letter “V”. The Oceanview Verandah, Oceanview and Inside staterooms are categorized by numbers and letters combine.

All four ships start with 4A and go down to 11C. The lower the number and letter, the better the stateroom selection. Category 4A is a Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom where as 11C is a Standard Inside Stateroom.

Selecting Your Room

Once you have selected a category on the ship, it is now time to pick your room. Do you want forward, midship or aft? Do you want starboard or port side? Are you thinking what does this even mean? Forward is the front of the ship. Midship is the middle of the ship. Aft is the rear of the ship. Starboard is the right side of the ship. Port is the left side of the ship. If you are prone to motion sickness, midship is probably your safest bet.

Choosing between aft and forward is directed a little more toward preferences. Many adult cruisers choose forward to be closer to the adult only pool and spa areas on the ship. The theatres are also on the forward portion of the ships. In the aft of the ship you will find Cabanas along with two of the main dining rooms.

Guaranty Categories

Guests are often confused when they go to book a Disney cruise and see “choose guarantee (GTY)” with the stateroom category. By selecting GTY, you are guaranteeing the ship, sailing date, category (or better) and rate. For example, on my last cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy, I selected a 5E GTY category. This means that Disney Cruise Line would assign me a stateroom in the category 5E or better.

When you select GTY, it does not guarantee that your stateroom will be on a particular deck or location on the ship. If you are traveling as a party, Disney will also not guarantee multiple rooms to be near each other if they are booked as GTY rates. A guarantee booking is just like any other booking, but you are waiving your option to select your stateroom.

One downfall to this is that you may not know your stateroom until you arrive to port and check-in. Though it rarely happens, this can be very stressful to some guests. On our last sailing, Disney assigned our stateroom approximately 60 days in advance.

Restricted Categories

During the year, it is not uncommon for Disney to open availability for staterooms with restrictions. This category of staterooms can provide a guest booking a new reservation a substantial savings. The restricted fares require payment in full, do not allow you to choose your stateroom location and the reservation is non-refundable. Name changes and itinerary changes are also not permitted. The restricted categories are as follows:

  • IGT = Inside Stateroom with Restrictions
  • OGT = Outside Stateroom with restrictions
  • VGT = Guaranteed Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah

Just like with the GTY staterooms, Disney does not have to provide you with your stateroom number until you arrive to port. Although, in most cases, you will know 2+ weeks in advance.

Other Package Components

When you book a cruise through Disney Cruise Line, you have the option of adding airfare, ground transfers, travel protection, and prepaid gratuities.

Travel Protection

When purchasing travel protection through Disney Cruise Line, the price varies based on the itinerary, so I cannot give you an exact price. As a baseline, I will tell you that on our last cruise, which was January 4, 2020 for 7 nights with 2 adults and 2 children, we paid $473.24 for travel protection. My honest opinion is that you can find better coverage at a cheaper price through other travel protection companies such as Travel Guard and Allianz. Since I am not an insurance agent, I cannot go into the specifics of the insurance policy offered through Disney Cruise Line. You can, however, find further information by clicking here.

Ground Transfers

Ground transfers is another component of a Disney Cruise Line package that differs based on which port you are leaving from, so we will only discuss the price for itineraries leaving from Port Canaveral, Florida. Disney Cruise Line transportation between MCO airport and Port Canaveral or a WDW resort and Port Canaveral is $39 per person one way or $79 per person round trip. Yes, you can mix and match.

You can be picked up from a WDW resort prior to the cruise and taken to MCO airport after the cruise. It will be the same price. Another option is the Minnie Van service. This will run you $250 each way for up to six passengers. This service is NOT booked via the Lyft app. You or your travel agent have to call embarkation services to add this amenity to your reservation and it must be paid in full when reserving.

There is also the option of parking your car or a rental at Port Canaveral. This can run you $60 for a 3 night cruise and $120 for a 7 night cruise. Preferred parking is also available for an additional fee.


Disney Cruise Line offers two way to incorporate airfare into your reservation.

Flex fare gives you the option to customize your own flight schedule and provides you with a payment plan and the ability to modify or cancel your airfare. The cancellation schedule is as follows (information direct from disneycruise.disney.go.com):

For itineraries with all flights within the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands:

Days Prior To Vacation Commencement Date and Fee

  • 56 Days or more~~No fee
  • 55 – 30 Days~~$200 per guest
  • 29 – 0 Days~~$300 per guest

For itineraries with any flights outside of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands:

Days Prior To Vacation Commencement Date and Fee

  • 120 Days or more~~No fee
  • 119 – 56 Days~~$300 per guest
  • 55 – 0 Days~~$500 per guest

The second airfare option provided is restricted fares. Restricted fares guarantee you the best available, but non-refundable airfare offered by Disney Cruise Line at the time of booking. Restricted fares are not eligible for modifications or cancellations and must be paid in full when booking.

One key point to keep in mind is that Disney only works with a select number of airlines and you or your travel agent may find cheaper fares elsewhere.

Florida Resident Discounts

Disney Cruise Line offers Florida Resident rates periodically throughout the year. These rates are typically released very close to the sailing date and often due in full at the time of booking due to the proximity to sailing. For example, today is February 3, 2020 and Disney Cruise Line is currently offering four Florida Resident Rates between March 21 and May 11, 2020.

Only one guest in the stateroom needs to be a Florida resident to receive the discounted fare. To take advantage of Florida residency cruise rates, at least one adult in each stateroom must provide proof of qualifying residency within 48 hours of booking. Failure to submit qualifying identification will result in a cancellation with applicable cancellation fees. Proper form of verification must be sent via email to offerverification@disneycruise.com.

Proof of residency must be valid at the time of sailing. Proof can be one of the following:

  • Florida Driver’s License
  • Florida Identification Card
  • Florida utility bill with Guest’s name and address
  • Florida voter’s registration card
  • Renter’s lease agreement

Military Discounts

Disney loves to honor United States military members, so of course they offer Disney Cruise Line military rates. Again, just like the Florida resident rates, military rates are often released very close to sailing requiring payment in full when the reservation is made. A U.S. Military service member (or spouse) is required to sail to take advantage of this offer. Activated members (or spouse) of the U.S. National Guard or the U.S. Army Reserve must also show active duty orders (active duty papers must be dated as of January 1st of the previous year to qualify). Active and retired members (or spouse) of the U.S. military must provide valid identification at time of check-in.


When booking a Disney cruise, all itineraries require a 20% deposit. The only exception to this is for cruises booked on board and select cruises booked during the 50% off deposit sale that happens once a year typically between December and February. In these two instances, 10% deposit is required to secure the sailing.

Final Payment

Final payment for non-suite and non-concierge staterooms on cruises 1-5 nights in length will be due 90 days prior to the sailing. Cancellation fees begin at 89 days.

Final payment for non-suite and non-concierge staterooms on cruises 6 nights or longer will be due 120 days prior to sailing. Cancellation fees begin at 119 days.

And, final payment for suite and concierge staterooms will be due 120 days prior to sailing for 1 to 5 night cruises and 150 days prior to sailing on cruises 6 nights or longer.

Cancellation Policies

Disney Cruise Line cancellation policies differ based on length of sailing or type of category booked.

Stateroom Categories with Restrictions: Reservations for Inside, Outside or Verandah Categories with Restrictions are NONREFUNDABLE and NONTRANSFERABLE. A 100% cruise cancellation fee applies from time of payment.

The other cancellation fees are broken down below (information direct from disneycruise.disney.go.com):

Cruises 1 to 5 Nights (Excluding Suites and Concierge Staterooms)

Days Prior To Vacation Commencement Date and Fee

  • 89 – 24 Days~~Deposit per Guest
  • 44 – 30 Days~~50% of Vacation Price per Guest
  • 29 – 15 Days~~75% of Vacation Price per Guest
  • 14 Days or less~~100% of Vacation Price per Guest

Cruises of 6 Nights or More (Excluding Suites and Concierge Staterooms)

Days Prior To Vacation Commencement Date and Fee

  • 119 – 56 Days~~Deposit per Guest
  • 55 – 30 Days~~ 50% of Vacation Price per Guest
  • 29 – 15 Days~~75% of Vacation Price per Guest
  • 14 Days or less~~100% of Vacation Price per Guest

Suite and Concierge Staterooms: All Sailings

Days Prior To Vacation Commencement Date and Fee

  • 90 Days or More~~Deposit per Guest
  • 89 – 56 Days~~50% of Vacation Price per Guest
  • 55 – 30 Days~~75% of Vacation Price per Guest
  • 29 Days or less~~100% of Vacation Price per Guest

Transferring To A Travel Agent

If you have booked a Disney cruise within the last 30 days and are finding yourself overwhelmed with information or not knowing where to turn, there is good news! As long as you have not paid in full and booked your reservation within 30 days, you can transfer your booking to a knowledgeable travel agent who will guide you every step of the way to create a customized and magical Disney cruise.


As you can see, there are so many variables that go into booking a Disney cruise. Disney Cruise Line vacations can be completely customized to your wants, needs and budget to ensure that you have an incredible vacation at sea that you have been dreaming of.

If this all sounds like too much, I highly recommend working with a travel agent who has experience in sailing and booking Disney Cruise Line vacations.

About The Author

My name is Hunter Keeling and I am concierge travel agent as well as General Manager of Friend Like Me Travel Co! I love helping families and couples create memories that will last a lifetime by planning and booking the vacation of their dreams. 

One of my favorite vacations to take and plan are Disney Cruise Line vacations. In fact, I have been on 23 (& counting)! I love everything from the crew members, unlimited ice cream, Disney’s private island, character interactions, Broadway style shows, and so much more. For me and my family, it is the perfect mix of Disney + beach and relaxation. 

My love for Disney does not stop at cruising. There isn’t much that beats walking up Main Street USA admiring the castle. If you are planning a Walt Disney World or Disneyland vacation, I will work closely with you to make sure you get the accommodations and reservations that you and your family desire. And, if you do not know, that is okay, too! I will be there to guide you every step of the way. I have years of first hand experience and knowledge to make sure you have an incredible trip. 

Having a wealth of Disney and other travel knowledge from personal trips, research and lots of prior planning, you can be assured no detail will be missed for your vacation. 

I have personal travel experience with:

  • Walt Disney World
  • Disneyland
  • Disney Cruise Line
  • Aulani
  • Adventures by Disney
  • Hawaii
  • and many Caribbean destinations! 

I look forward to planning your next vacation very soon!

Website: www.friendlikemetravel.com/plan

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