Well we had to pick a date. Alaska cruises are generally offered from the end of May through the first of September. Which date should we go? We wanted to go when there were less people vacationing. Doing a cruise when most schools were still in session seemed like a good idea. That left about three weeks to choose from. We picked the first Alaska Cruise of the season in May. It fit our schedule well, it was before school ended, and as a bonus, because it’s when many people don’t vacation, the prices were probably going to be a bit lower. Great. So now we had to wait. We decided all of this around January. We were cruising in May – THE FOLLOWING YEAR and we had to wait till the cruises were open for booking. Since we were first time Disney cruisers we had to wait until the new cruisers booking date opened. Lots of websites list the dates once Disney publishes them. And we were checking daily. Finally we found out that we could book our cruise come March, 16 months before our sail date. It should be noted here that Disney releases all their cruises for a season at once, so we could book our cruise to Alaska in May 16 months earlier in March, but people cruising in August could also book in March. Knowing those dates is key. If you book on the first few days the cruise is offered you usually get the lowest price offered, as well as first pick of your stateroom. And that was next to come for us. Thanks to all the endless research and reading, we knew we had to decide a few things before our booking date became avaliable.
Picking a room
First we needed to decide WHAT type of room we wanted to book. There are a TON of different categories. But I’ll try to break it down to the basics. Cheapest to Most expensive.
There are Inside staterooms- They have no windows, balcony etc.
Oceanview staterooms- They have a porthole or two, but they don’t open up to enjoy the breeze.
Verandas staterooms- These have a private verandah that you can walk out onto and enjoy the view.
Concierge- Special service with perks and nice rooms.(hint this was not in the budget so we looked a those for about 6 seconds) including huge suites on the ships.
Within each main category you have different levels. These are based on the views, size, and placement in the ship(basement level 2 or upper level 8). We really debated what room type to get. Weeks of back and forth. Do we want a verandah so we can enjoy the view? Will we actually sit outside since it’s Alaska and cold? Ok maybe a porthole to enjoy the view, but it doesn’t open for fresh air so do we really care? Inside stateroom, do we want the family suite that is bigger or should we go smallest and cheapest?
Well after a redicuously long time debating here’s what we decided and why. We went with an inside standard(read: smallest size) stateroom, but not the cheapest level because we decided we wanted a specific room. We picked an inside stateroom that was off in what we hoped was a quiet area of the ship. We didn’t want to hear 6 yearolds running around outside our room yelling MICKEY MOUSE at 6:30 in the morning. There are lots of room reviews and hints out there to pick rooms. Some rooms are a better category, they have a porthole, but are priced as a Inside room because the view is partially blocked due to ship design etc. We read a lot of room reviews, but we did obstain from looking at YouTube video tours of rooms because we prefer to enjoy the first time experience when we actually arrive (we do this with ride through videos, new shows etc at Disney Parks as well).
We ended up picking the Inside standard with an upper deck location because of a few things. We loved the idea of a Verandah room on the Alaska cruise because everyone says the views are amazing and if you ever splurge on one this is the cruise to do it. But one of us hates being cold, and sitting on a balcony when it’s 45 outside didn’t appeal. Really it came down to price. To have that small little balcony, it was over double the price of an Inside room. Oceanview was ruled out because for the price, you got a window that didn’t open. And the price was still pretty steep . We decided we’d rather take the savings from not having a window or balcony and put that into some epic adventures once we were in Alaska.
So there it was, we picked out the room we wanted, and had several alternatives in case when it was time to book someone had already taken our first choice.
Next up was deciding when we wanted to eat. Disney has two dinner settings. An early seating and a late seating. While in Alaska the early seating is at 5:45pm and the late seating is 8:15pm. One of us likes to eat early, one of us is used to eating late due to schedules. So there was some push and pull. We ended up deciding on early because it made the early eater happy. And the late eater who also happens to be the food lover, decided if they ate early, it just left more time for snacks later! Win Win!
So next came a rather serious and unfun decision. Trip insurance. Do we, don’t we? We looked into the trip insurance Disney offers and (gently but firmly) recommends. We also looked into other options not through DCL (Disney Cruise Line) and they had better coverage for less. When we looked at what was and wasn’t covered under insurance, we ended up deciding that the few things that would make us have to cancel the trip would be things we’d probably know about not to long before the trip. And you have until you make your final payment for the cruise (which is due about 5 months before the trip) to decide if we wanted insurance. So at the time of booking we decided we would decline. This is also because up until about 5 months before your cruise (at the time of our booking, things always change) you could get a full refund if you canceled your trip. We figured we wouldn’t loose anything if we had to cancel because of something unforeseen and after we got within 5 months of the trip, we’d have a much better idea if we’d have any chances of things happening that the insurance did actually cover. It’s also fair to note here that we were going to Alaska. A pretty safe destination. If we had booked to somewhere in the Carribean and then the Zika virus had come out, we might not have wanted to travel, and would have needed to use that insurance. But we figured Alaska was a pretty safe place. Even if we were injured while on the cruise, getting home wouldn’t be a disaster, we were not in a foreign country.
Ok so now it’s countdown to booking day!
Follow along from the beginning: Disney Cruise Alaska Part 1.