Five Things the Disney Cruise Line Website Can’t Do, But Should

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I’m a big fan of Disney Cruise Line. I am most decidedly NOT a fan of the Disney Cruise Line website. Even as an experienced user, I’m often frustrated when trying to navigate the site. I know the information is there, they just make it so darn hard to find it.

Here are some of the things I think the DCL website could do to improve the end user experience.

1. Allow you to search for any cruise within a range of dates.

The DCL home screen has a “cruise search” tool with three pull-down menus: Date, Destination, and Departure Port. To search for a cruise, you are forced to make selections for all three parameters. I’d love to be able to see all the cruises available using just one or two of the parameters.

For example, after our very active Adventures by Disney trip to Peru last Christmas, my family unanimously decided to be as lazy as possible during Christmas 2015, which means lounging on the deck of a cruise ship with umbrella drink in hand. Since the point of the trip is sitting and sleeping, we honestly don’t care where the ship is going. And since we’ll have to fly to get to any DCL voyage, it doesn’t matter much to us which port we sail from. I want to input the dates of my kids’ holiday break and see what all our options are in one swoop, but this is not possible. Instead, I have to run multiple searches, choosing the month desired AND a destination AND a departure port. I really don’t care if we sail out of Miami or Port Canaveral or if we go to the Bahamas or the Caribbean, but DCL forces me to make those choices. It takes too many steps just to figure out which sailings occur in December.

Why must I select all Date and Destination and Port every time?
Why must I select all Date and Destination and Port every time?

2. Eliminate empty set searches from the home page.

Looking again at that home page search box – if I select, for example, December 2015 as my travel date, all of Disney Cruise Line’s destinations remain in the second pull-down menu. I can select December 2015 and then select Alaska as my destination, which then changes my date selection back to “Choose a Date.” I happen to know that there are no DCL cruises to Alaska in December (because brrrrr), but if I were unfamiliar with the site or with cruising in general, I’d be very confused about what I was doing wrong.

The problem continues if you select a valid combination of date and destination. You can select, for example, May 2015 as your date, and California Coast as your destination, but you’ll still have Barcelona as one of your departure port options. Why?

If there will be nothing that meets your search criteria, then those search criteria should not be selectable. Disney, please eliminate Alaska as a destination option on the home page if the guest selects a winter travel date, along with all the other null set choice combinations.

Note: the DCL site does “gray out” null set selections on later pages, but not on the home page, where most new users start their search.

3. Sort port adventures by mobility criteria.

The DCL ships themselves are largely accessible to those with mobility issues, such as wheelchair or ECV users. However, depending on the port, a majority of the port adventures (excursions) may not be wheelchair or ECV accessible. DCL does allow you to sort by age or activity type, but there is no place to select something like “wheelchair accessible” when looking for excursions. Even selecting your activity type as “mild” does not necessarily help. For example, in Nassau, the Seaworld Explorer Semi-submarine excursion is listed as a mild activity, but wheelchairs and scooters are prohibited. It would be nice if wheelchair users didn’t have to click through every port adventure just to see which few are available to them.

Why is there no mobility access selection tool?
Why is there no mobility access selection tool?

 

4. Sort port adventures by price.

From a marketing perspective, I understand why Disney doesn’t allow guests to sort port adventure options by price. It makes sense that they want to get you, and your kids, fixated on the super spectacular dog sled and helicopter adventure before you realize that it could cost your family thousands of dollars for just a few hours. But many families are on a budget and need to carefully allocate their excursion spending. A sort-by-price feature would allow budget-conscious guests to more easily identify activities within their fixed price range.

5. Give more information and booking options to parties of more than four.

Back to that holiday 2015 trip I’ve been planning … One of the options we were considering was the December 26 sailing on the Fantasy. When checking availability, I entered my party size as 5, the number of people in my family. For a party of five, the DCL website shows that there is no availability on this sailing; it doesn’t even appear in my search results. Had I been new at using the site, or new to cruise planning in general, I likely would have given up at this point.

However, when I configured my search as a party of two and a party of three, many options appeared for that December 26 voyage. The DCL site sees that all my kids are all older teens; I was asked to enter their ages. Many families with teens are comfortable putting them in a nearby cabin. So, why doesn’t it offer a quote for two staterooms for my family? They at least should have given me a pop-up window saying that all larger 5+ person cabins were booked, but that we could be a accommodated in two cabins. A new user would have then known to try again.

These are just a few of my frustrations with the DCL website. The cruises themselves are so friendly, it’s really a shame that the website isn’t equally as welcoming. Do you have frustrations with the DCL website? Are there functions you wish it had? Are there things you think it does particularly well? Let us know in the comments below.

Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel at DisneyWorldMoms.com, a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater. Erin can be reached on Twitter @MsErinFoster.

15 thoughts on “Five Things the Disney Cruise Line Website Can’t Do, But Should

  • February 18, 2015 at 11:11 am
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    As a person with a family of 5, I really hate the frustration of item #5. Some (like Royal) don’t let you book online at all if your party is more than 4. Others (NCL, Disney) will let you book rooms that accommodate 5 passengers but nothing as far as splitting up parties into two rooms. An “adjoining room finder” would be a great feature for all cruise lines to offer on their websites.

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  • February 18, 2015 at 11:35 am
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    How about: When signed in, show your upcoming cruises without having to search by reservation number.

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  • February 18, 2015 at 11:42 am
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    I have similar issues with the DVC site- I wonder if they were built the same!

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    • February 18, 2015 at 1:09 pm
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      The Adventures by Disney site has many similar problems as well.

      Reply
  • February 18, 2015 at 11:46 am
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    Erin, I can relate to you in point #1. We love Disney Cruises because of the ships, not because of the itinerary or the port of departure. What I end up doing is an excel page where I write the results of my multiple searches, and then I can compare and do my own filters, but indeed, it is a work that not many people is willing to do.

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  • February 18, 2015 at 2:20 pm
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    Thank you, Erin.
    Articles such as this are why TP & the Unofficial Guide are the go-to sources for Disney vacations.
    I can only hope the powers that be read and heed this excellent advice. I would chime in with the difficulty I have booking a standard WDW vacation online: it used to be very simple, now built-in diversions mean backtracking or starting over. There is no reason for Disney’s online presence to be so un-userfriendly.

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  • February 18, 2015 at 2:54 pm
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    I agree, the search engine on the main page is horrible! But there is a much more flexible search engine as well… you just have to dig for it. If you go to ‘Search for a Cruise’ on the top menu bar (it’s above the man’s head in your first image) then highlight it, you will see an option to ‘Find a cruise’. That leads you to this page.

    http://disneycruise.disney.go.com/reservations/booking

    This search engine allows you to search by date OR destination OR ship OR length of cruise. You don’t have to input everything at once.

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    • February 18, 2015 at 3:39 pm
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      DVC has something similar. It’s confusing that Disney leaves the old search methods hooked up once they create something better.

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  • February 18, 2015 at 9:49 pm
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    I recently booked my tenth DCL cruise for the Star Wars Day at Sea (January 23, 2016) and for the first time ever, picked an ocean view in category 8A (you know, those unique, suite-like rooms?). We normally pick a verandah stateroom because of my son’s autism and my claustrophobia. The stateroom description in my reservation lists two large porthole windows yet I was not assigned at stateroom number, instead a GTY. When booking this category online, that GTY was not posted until after I paid the deposit. When I called DCL, the CM was being brash so I asked for a supervisor to explain what happened. I was told that I’d get that category or higher….but I told her I wanted one of those unique Cat. 8A staterooms which is why I booked that category and I also wanted to know when I’d be assigned a cabin number and was told I had to wait two weeks before sailing…..this is just over a year away…. a little flustered over here.
    My other concern is that no two CM’s share the same information on a variety of topics, believe me I know since I’ve booked all ten cruises on my own. That needs to be addressed.

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    • February 19, 2015 at 6:28 am
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      Jackie, Your blog is a useful, detailed and fascinating guide to Disney properties for anyone. Much gratitude for the effort, and best wishes to you & your family. 🙂

      Reply
  • February 19, 2015 at 9:54 am
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    If you download the icruise app you can search easily for cruises. You can put in the month you want to sail and choose disney as cruise line and it pulls up all cruises disney sails for that month.

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  • February 20, 2015 at 5:46 pm
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    My two DCL website wish list items:

    1-along with filtering port adventures by price or for wheelchair accessible, allow other filter by destination. For example, with the Alaska cruises, let me filter to all of the train trips in Skagway, or all of the glacier trips in Juneau. I ended up building a spreadsheet with every one & various options or meals or not, boat, bus, etc,,so I could do my own filtering.

    2- I am a first time DCl cruiser this summer, so I can’t book port adventures until 75 days out. I have to be OK with that, but I would really love to be able to log on now & see what is already filled up by the platinum and gold level folks, rather than not finding that out until I can log in at my 75 days out day, it would help with planning so much.

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  • February 22, 2015 at 10:00 am
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    Different but similar, when booking dining reservations for WDW, WHY cant they do an “add to cart” and check out once? It is so cumbersome going through the entire process for each day! Add to cart…. check out once. Disney IT needs to be reading these blogs!

    Reply

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