Onboard Booking Offer Policy Revised: Use It or Lose It After 18 Months

This is a big news this week, following the release of early 2015 itineraries, Disney Cruise Line revised their onboard booking offer policy.  As of yesterday, November 12, 2013 all NEW onboard bookings must be used within 18 months, or you will lose any associated onboard booking benefits.  This means that you can no longer book a dummy date while onboard, and move it indefinitely while maintaining the onboard booking offer benefits associated with the reservation beyond 18 months. Remember that nice 50% discount on the deposit when booking onboard, this is now limited to sailings of 7-nights or longer. This effectively means you will not get a reduced deposit for any cruise on the Disney Dream. The 10% discount on prevailing rates is unchanged.

So, what happens with all those guests who already have an onboard reservation? Guests with future onboard booking benefits are not immune to this new policy. DCL decided to start the clock on all currently held onboard bookings with one caveat, instead of 18 months like a new reservation Disney is adding on an additional 6 months. This means that anyone with a future booking will have until November 30, 2015 to use the benefit.

DCL TA Emai Onboard Booking Program Update November 2013

The new onboard booking policy states that if you are unable to sail within the timeframe any onboard booking benefits will be removed from your reservation.  It is important to keep in mind your reservation will still exist, but any onboard credit you received from Disney and the 10% fare discount would be removed. The new policy at its core is use it, or lose it!

Disney Magic Future Cruise Sales

Clearly, this is the next step Disney Cruise Line is taking to limit dummy bookings. Last spring, the policy was tweaked to limit the number of onboard bookings from a per person to per stateroom. Then, later in the year the onboard booking agents, if you told them, or they determined you were trying to book a dummy date would just book a predetermined sailing in an attempt to control inventory for others who actually wanted to sail on the cruise that was being held as a dummy booking.

From my perspective, I would much rather have the option to purchase some sort of voucher with associated benefits for a future Disney Cruise, and avoid the song and dance of picking and managing a dummy date. A voucher system would free up stateroom inventory from those camping to guests who actually want to sail on that particular sailing. The 18 month expiration date is fair going forward, but not grandfathering previous reservations will likely effect some guests who have accumulated many onboard bookings over the years, under the previous set of guidelines. Furthermore, the 18 month policy is a bit restrictive if you look at a scenario where current guests sailing today who would like to book a Summer 2015 cruise cannot because they would be unable to move the booking out past May ’15 and keep the OBB benefits. The reduced deposit is not that big of a deal considering it is simply an offset of the total cruise fare and most importantly the 10% discount is still a perk to re-booking onboard.

What are your thoughts about the onboard booking policy change?

25 Replies to “Onboard Booking Offer Policy Revised: Use It or Lose It After 18 Months”

  1. Kelsey

    I don’t see why they wouldn’t have just limited to 24 months. It seems to make more sense. What’s six months to the cruise line? It’s a lot to me and my family. We try to go every two years, and like to cruise in Jan/Feb/Mar. That means for the Feb cruise, if we book onboard we would be looking at either another cruise a year later (out of the question for financial reasons — unless its a really short one — but I like to save up and go on the longer cruises!) or a cruise in July if we stretched it to the limit. I’m not interested in sailing then, so it’s a dilemma. The onboard booking is such an incentive… it will be interesting to see how it affects our family.

  2. Gina

    We are 3 days away from our very first cruise (Fantasy) and our plan was to book the Alaska cruise for July 2015 while we are onboard. With this 18 month policy, we would have to cruise to Alaska in May. We can’t go in May because the kids are still in school. I am so disappointed by this. The policy changed 3 days before we set sail! I agree with Kelsey that a 24 month policy makes more sense. It allows for more flexibility. I also really like Scott’s idea of the voucher. I guess I’m out of luck and will not be able to book my next cruise while onboard. I am so bummed by this. 🙁

    1. Diana

      Gina – I hope you have a great cruise, it will still be fun, promise. The July, 2015 sailings won’t be out for a while. They only released the 2015 sailings through April. I am SURE they will head back to Alaska, but I just wanted to give you the heads up incase you get onboard and see they are not booking them yet (but, since it is Disney, they might be able to book those sailings while the public can’t). I am more concerned with the changes with the reduce deposit. This is what got us to always re-book onboard. Now you only get it if it is a 7+ night sailing, so that basically leaves out any sailings on the Dream. 🙁

    1. FellowCollector

      Yeah, we had the same thought last night, too! Also, without the reduced deposit on the 3, 4, and 5 day sailings, as well as at least 2 years to actually take a cruise in case we have to change the date, this policy will essentially eliminate back-to-back bookings for us. Perhaps this is part of DCL’s strategy to limit dummy dates as well, but for those that really want to do back-to-back and later find out they can only take one at that time, it has been nice to be able to change the other. UGH!

  3. Janet

    I think Disney is really making a mistake with this. As parents that don’t feel it’s appropriate to take our son out of school for a vacation, we limit ourselves to summer trips. So for us, this policy now means we would only get the benefits if we sailed every summer. Not only is that financially difficult, we like to experience different types of vacations. Believe it or not, there is a world outside of Disney! When you are on the ship having a wonderful time you are thinking about how much you want to do it again. Adding in the 10% discount entices us to go ahead and book that next cruise, locking customers into another Disney vacation. With this new policy, there will be no reason for us to book while on board. Once we are home and months after the pixie dust has disappeared from our brains, I’m sure we will consider a wider range of options in planning our next vacation.

    1. Kelsey

      I agree Janet. My husband and I are spending thanksgiving in the London and Paris… and I’d really love to get him to Cameroon where I worked for awhile. Then there Malaysia, India, Japan. The on board booking has always assured we’d go on another Disney cruise every other year, and we looked forward to that. It will no longer be an incentive. Now who knows! Hopefully this void will be filled with other discounts that will entice us.

    2. Jeff

      We are in the same “boat”. We can’t cruise every year so, with this new policy, we may be considering other vacation options.

  4. Bert

    The dummy date system never made sense to me. We dummy booked last fall for our 2014 cruise because the schedule wasn’t out yet for the dates we were looking at. I agree some kind of voucher makes much more sense.

  5. JJ

    This is foolish. I understand that all companies are tightening the belt so to speak. However, considering the Magic refurb debacle, DCL could really, really use some goodwill press. This is just the opposite.
    Just to state that I’m not armchair quarterbacking, I sailed the Magic on 11/1-11/6. The problems go beyond plumbing and the faint odor of sewage in the aft sections of several decks. Service from the kitchen was unbelievably slow along with several other service problems. DCL just put lipstick on a pig. This was not what we expected after several prior Disney cruises. We plan to DCL one more chance next year on the Fantasy.

    Bad move with this onboard booking policy change Disney. I truly though you were smarter than other cruise lines. Definitely not “Magical”.

  6. Chrissy

    I agree 100% about the vouchers for future sailings. I emailed them that very thing yesterday. Please, if you have a moment, write to Disney Cruise Line through their website and let them know how this will affect your family. I think 3 years is ideal, but at least 2 years, considering as many of you have said, that you go once every other year this new policy excludes you from being able to take advantage of the offer. I feel like, from a marketing perspective, Disney Cruise Line is opening themselves up to lost sailings as guests will not be tied to them when they decide to book their Alaska or European sailing. Their clients will be more open to influence from offers from other cruise lines whereas if they were pre-booked and looking forward to using their on board offer they would not look at other cruiselines of offers. I never liked the dummy booking idea, either. It is silly to tie up space on a future cruise you don’t plan to take, so that needs to change, no doubt. They could create a “cruise ship” for booking purposes called the “Disney Future” and just make the deposit a flat rate and the final balance due 70 days from 2 years from the date booked with sail date “Sail by 24 months from Today” or something like that. It doesn’t seem like rocket science to create a system where the on board offers are not tying up ship space.

  7. JRL

    This will likely be a deal breaker for us. For the past 10+ years, our family has taken a DCL every 3 years, with the next scheduled in 2014. The onboard booking discount was key to us, as it helped bridge the giant gap in price between DCL and other available options. I certainly don’t have any interest in cruising more often than every three years, so this will likely keep up us off DCL for good, once we finish our 2014 trip. Very unfortunate, but if DCL thinks they can churn different customers and sell the rooms for more, then they should do that, but we won’t be back.

  8. Paul

    I understand Disney not wanting to clog up their reservation system with a lot of dummy reservations, but otherwise this move baffles me. Considering how much of a premium DCL charges compared to other cruise lines, the reduced down payment, OBC and reduced fares were a nice perk, and it’s always easier to convince me to book another trip while I’m onboard that when I’m at home. But not everyone can commit to taking another cruise within 18 months – and maybe that’s the point; Disney would rather have people who want to book another cruise but can’t do it soon to pay the full fare without perks.

    Scott, I like your idea of offering DCL passengers who want to book a cruise onboard but are unsure of when they want to go some sort of voucher that they could use to complete booking reservations at a later date. This change by DCL seems to me to be pennywise but extremely pound-foolish.

  9. FellowCollector

    We currently have 5 future bookings. 2 we are definitely taking; they are paid in full and non-refundable; we don’t buy trip insurance. 2 of the remaining 3 we’d really like to take, but we can’t submit DH vacation requests more than 6 months in advance, so don’t really know yet. 1 of these we definitely have to change since I found out about 2 weeks ago I will be working during that time. That was originally booked 10/31/12 and currently scheduled for May, 2014. There is no way we could take this by April, 2014 if subject to the 18 month change. We might be able to do it by October, 2014 is subject to the 24 month change if it were retroactive.So, we’re glad existing bookings have until November, 2015.

  10. FellowCollector

    Is the onboard booking and changing policy posted anywhere on DCL’s official website? We were told during the Magic 2-day launch that we could still do 2 bookings as long as they were back to back. Since the cruise we wanted only had 12-day sailings either before or after as a dummy date, it didn’t make sense, so we only did the one future booking we really hope to take. Now we’re glad we didn’t book the 2nd as a dummy because we couldn’t take 7 cruises before November, 2015 under this new policy.

  11. Benzmum02

    I’ve been a reader on this blog for a few years now and have to say hats off to Scott and his wife for such a great site! This is my first post. Reading these posts make me chuckle. No offense, but fellow posters take a look back and re-read what you’veposted….ie We are so upset that we’re can’t book 16+ months out…we are intitled to the 10% off…it’s a deal breaker…we like to travel to more places than just Disney…These posts just sound like spoiled people trying to take advantage of an incentive that is offered to cruise more. My oh my one person has 5 cruises booked and now ‘seems’ irked because they can’t keep moving their dummy cruises. Personally, I think dummy cruises are wrong, my thoughts are you are taking up space and perhaps driving up the cost for others who at this moment know definately when want to sail. Oh I realize that I’ll have 100+ people against me. Try to be open and re-read these posts…..The word ENTITLEMENT comes to mind. We are Disney people through and through DVC owners at BLT and GFV and Gold Club in Castaway. I thank God every day for our blessings. Great to get a discount but surely we are not entitled to them….Have a great day!!! Let the bashing begin 🙂

  12. Janet

    The fact that you believe anyone disagreeing with you will be “bashing” you speaks volumes about your own mindset. But I feel compelled to make a response (in the kindest, least entitled, least bashing way possible). If you go back and look at many of these posts objectively, I and many others were simply pointing out that this is a bad marketing strategy by Disney. In no way do I feel that Disney “owes” me a discount. All that I was saying is that once the incentive to book while on board is gone (which it is for those of us who only cruise every two years) there is a very real possibility that we will choose a different vacation. When you are on a cruise (any cruise, frankly, not just Disney) you feel removed from the world, in this perfect little bubble of vacation fun. You just want to schedule a time to do it all over again. By offering discounts, that makes it all the more likely that customers will book a future cruise. But, and I’m only speaking of our own experience here, once you get home and start thinking about the other endless, non-Disney options available I know we will be much less likely to book another cruise right away. All that many of us are trying to point out is that this policy will reduce Disney’s advantage of having a “captive audience” so to speak and encouraging them to book again. I don’t think that makes me spoiled. It’s just being realistic and being open to the fact that there is a whole big non-Disney world out there waiting for us to explore!

  13. Pingback: Disney Cruise Line Announces Changes to Onboard Booking Policy for Guests | DisZine

  14. Jodie

    Clarification needed: Disney’s verbage says that travel must be COMPLETED 18 months from the time of booking. Scott, do you know if that is being communicated onboard? For example, if I rebook on Jan 3, 2014, I will be expected to COMPLETE my cruise by July 3, 2015. In other words, I cannot board on July 2nd??

  15. Steve

    I may have overlooked this, but what about onboard credits for onboard bookings? Is it still $200 OBC per stateroom for booking future cruises of 7 nights or more and $100 for cruises less than 7 nights?

  16. Kelly Waddell

    I am trying to understand the whole online booking policy and keep getting different information. I know the policy changed and it must be used within 18 months. But they have changed so much since our last cruise, I’m not sure what is what anymore. We are going on our 2nd Disney cruise in May. We hope to book again when we were onboard, but would like to book 2 cabins (1 for us and 1 for family). Is that allowed? We have had different answers from different sources. Some said you can book up to 2 cabins/staterooms, but others say we are only allowed to book what we will be staying in. And I know we get 10% discount, but do we still get the 10% deposit, or has that changed too?

  17. Anne

    I can understand Disney trying to limit people from booking a dummy date and then transferring the date over and over. I just think this is a little short sighted on their part. Not everyone can afford a Disney cruise every 18 months and anyone who can probably isn’t too worried about at 10% discount or onboard credit!!. The people who rely on the 10% discount are the ones being punished. Of course, everyone likes a discount in any form but 18 months seems like a pretty small span. I agree a 24/36 month window is a better idea or maybe even a one date transfer limit- you can change it only once. It is also pretty poor for Disney to apply this to bookings made prior to this change in policy. Yes, they say it can change at any time but it is poor business practice to apply it to people who have taken you at your word. Our family will still cruise Disney but this opens the door for us to look into other cruise lines. We have cruised Disney every other year and without the extra incentive to come back in two years, we aren’t inclined to be as loyal. I guess it’s only fair since Disney isn’t being too loyal to their guests.


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