If you’re like many Disney Cruise Line (DCL) guests, you’ve booked your cruise at least in part because of the ship’s itinerary. You’re excited to explore the ports of call and see the cultures of new lands.
Some folks will “wing it” at the ports, hopping off the ship without a specific plan and going wherever the mood takes them. But most guests will disembark at port with a pre-planned, reserved activity – an excursion or, in Disney parlance, a Port Adventure. There are two ways to arrange excursions, on your own or through Disney. Here are the advantages to each method.
BOOKING PORT EXCURSIONS THROUGH DISNEY
- Convenience of selection. To book a Port Adventure through Disney, just head over to the DCL website. For each port you’ll see a menu of options, it’s a one stop spot for information including activity descriptions, age/height/weight restrictions, costs, and related data. If you find an excursion appealing, you can have it booked with just a few clicks.
- Convenience of billing. When you book your excursion through Disney, the fee appears on your stateroom bill, which you can pay using any of the acceptable DCL methods, in US dollars, British pounds, or in Euros. As an added bonus, you don’t pay a deposit and you don’t pay until you sail. If you’re booking an excursion in another country on your own, you may have to pay a large deposit, you may have to pay in another currency, or you may be limited to use of a particular credit card or other form of payment. And remember if you’re using Disney Gift Cards as a payment method on the ship, you may be able to have an effective 5% discount if you’ve purchased your gift cards through Target, or other discounts when purchasing through Sam’s Club, Costco, or another retailer.
- Safety. Of course, whenever you’re on a port excursion, you’ll want to exercise and abundance of caution, but if you book a Disney-vetted excursion, you know that they’ve done some of the work for you. Disney verifies that the excursions they offer are via legitimate businesses. They make sure that the transportation used is safe and that the guides are accountable for your whereabouts. If you book an excursion on your own, the onus is on you to do the research.
- Communication with the ship. When you book an excursion through Disney, they know where you are. If something unforeseen happens, they have representative who can contact your group and vice versa. If you book your excursion on your own, cast members on the ship will likely have no idea where you are. And they’re not going to wait for you if you don’t arrive back at the dock prior to sail-away time.
- Language issues. Booking your excursion through Disney means that the transaction will take place in English. If you’re booking an excursion on your own for a port in another country, the website or phone representative may use another language.
- Cancellation policies. Disney Cruise Line’s Port Adventure cancellation policy is clearly stated on their website. If you book on your own, you may be subject to an entirely different set of policies, which may or may not be clearly outlined, or fair.
BOOKING PORT EXCURSIONS ON YOUR OWN
- Price. Many guests have found that similar excursions to Disney’s can be booked independently at a lesser cost. Additionally, when booking on your own, you’ll be able to construct an excursion at a budget or luxury level that specifically suits your needs.
- More options. While Disney offers a range of excursions at each port, the list of options is certainly finite. If you book on your own, there’s no limit to the number of choices you might have.
- Customization. When booking on your own, you can often work with a vendor to construct an excursion custom tailored to your interests or hobbies. You might be able to combine visits to two disparate sites in one excursion. You might be able to skip part of a standard tour that doesn’t interest you. You might be able to linger longer at a favorite venue. Or you might be able to arrange for transportation which accommodates a medical need, such as wheelchair use.
- Booking window. On the DCL website, your ability to access excursion booking is based on your Castaway Club status. A first-time cruiser booking excursions through Disney might be locked out of some popular activities because they’ve become fully booked before they had access. When booking excursions on your own, you’re not subject to any waiting period. You can take a crack at booking whenever you want.
How do you prefer to book your port excursions, on your own or through Disney? Do you have any other pros or cons to a particular booking method? Have you found any helpful resources when looking for independent excursions? Let us know in the comments below. And to find more information about DCL, be sure to take a look at the 2015 Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line.