Navigating the Disney Cruise Line Website to Select a Sailing

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At any given time, Disney Cruise Line has well over 400 different sailings available for booking. How do you narrow this down?

The Disney Cruise Line website has greatly improved its functionality over the past few years. It’s now possible to easily navigate the site to search for the right sailing for your family based on your vacation parameters. Here are some of the ways vacation planners might search for a Disney cruise and how to use the DCL website to execute those searches.

Date of Travel

Almost everyone has some constraints on when they can travel. If you have kids in your traveling party, you may be limited by their school or activity schedules. You may be limited by aspects of your job (an accountant might not be able to travel during tax season, for example). Even retirees may have to avoid travel during family events (can’t miss cousin Susie’s wedding), when appointments are scheduled, or when things like dog sitters are available.

Your first stop on the DCL website is thus likely to be the date search function. You can find this on the top left of the home page where it says “Leaving”.

The default is for the system to search for sailings on any date. But if you want to refine things, click on the tab and you’ll be taken to a calendar screen where you can select specific months. So if you wanted to limit your cruising to only your child’s February school break or to Christmas, your search might look like this.

Unfortunately, you can’t refine your date search more narrowly than by month. You can’t, for example, just look for sailings during a single week – but this gets you most of the way there.

Preferred Destination

If you want to cruise to a specific location, start by clicking the “Sailing To” button on the DCL home page.

You’ll be taken to a menu of places where DCL sails from which you may select a destination.

There are few nuances to be aware of with this list.

First, the names Disney uses are not entirely accurate. For example, Disney lists “Mexico Cruises” as a choice. However, clicking on this button will only reveal cruises that visit Mexico’s Western coast, even though many of the line’s Caribbean sailings visit ports on the other side of the country.

Additionally, using the “Destination” search in conjunction with the “Leaving” search will better showcase which sailings might actually suit your needs. If I first apply the dates I hypothetically need (February or December) and then click the “Destination” search button, I’ll find many of the possible destinations unavailable. This happens when Disney does not sail to a location during the selected time of year. For example, Disney does not sail to Alaska in the winter (indeed no major line does). If I have my heart set on an Alaska sailing, this shows that I’ll have to rethink my acceptable sail dates.

Preferred Departure Point

Disney is currently sailing out of 18 different ports. Some, like Port Canaveral, offer sailings year-round, while others only host a handful of sailings a year, or even every few years. As with selecting a sailing destination, if you first choose your preferred sail dates, then you’ll eliminate those departure ports that are not in use when you want to travel.

So why do you care about your departure location? If you happen to live within easy driving distance of one of DCL’s departure ports, then all things being equal, sailing out of that port can be a huge savings in time and travel expense.

For example, my husband recently decided he wanted to get away on a cruise ship to experience some “get away from it all” relaxation, but he didn’t really care about the ship’s destination. By far the easiest option for us was to sail out of the port of New York, in Manhattan, about 20 miles from our house. When we sail out of Port Canaveral (which we often do), we have to fly to Florida, then rent a car or hire other transportation, travel to the port and stay in a nearby hotel the night before. And then repeat the process in reverse at the end of the trip. Even for just the two of us, this can sometimes add about $1,000 to the cost of the trip and consume nearly a full day on either end of the sailing.

By contrast, when we sail out New York, we can take an $8.00 commuter train ride into the City and then walk to the port an hour before our port arrival time. During our most recent NYC sailing, we disembarked the ship at 7:30 a.m. and we decided to take an Uber home. We were back in our house by 8:05 a.m. and I was fully unpacked and folding my laundry from the trip by 10:00 a.m. If this had been a sailing from Port Canaveral, I would just be arriving at the airport for my flight home at this point.

Another reason to prioritize your departure point is if you want to explore a particular departure city. On our NYC sailing we met many passengers like us from the surrounding area, but we also met many other guests from Southern and Midwestern states who wanted to take in the sights of New York as part of their vacation. My family once prioritized a sailing out of Galveston because my daughters had never been to Texas.

Features of the Ship

Disney Cruise Line currently has five different ships (a 6th is coming in 2024). There are many commonalities between them, but each has some unique features. For example, the Disney Magic has a decided focus on the Disney version of the Rapunzel story. This is the only DCL ship that offered a Tangled/Rapunzel stage show and includes a Rapunzel themed restaurant with entertainment and related decor.

If you have a Rapunzel OBSESSED four-year-old, this may make the Magic the only ship you want to sail on, regardless of destination or departure point.

To limit your search to a particular ship or ships. First click on the “More Filters” button and then click the appropriate ship.

Special Events or Experiences

Similarly, if your child wants all superheroes all the time, you may want to limit your search to just sailings that feature a Marvel Day at Sea. Again, click the “More Filters” button and then choose the special event that interests you.

It bears repeating that selecting particular dates or departure locations may eliminate some special events from your search set. Understandably, Halloween sailings are only offered in September and October, and so on.

Length of the Trip

For some destinations there are both short and long sailings available. For example, if you want to sail DCL in Europe, you might decide to have as long a visit as possible and want to only focus on choosing a sailing of eight nights or more. Conversely, if you just have time for a weekend getaway, you might limit your search to just shorter sailings. Here too, click “More Filters” and then choose a length of travel.

And … one more time … many sail durations may not be available with certain date or destination selections.

Price

When examining these screens, you’ll note that there is no toggle button for “Price.” Unlike searching for shoes on Zappos, you can’t screen for DCL trips that cost between, say, $2,000 and $4,000. There are enough other variables that go into a cruise price that I understand why Disney doesn’t want to be entirely transparent on this point, but I am sure that many potential guests would find this helpful.

A Real World Example

Let’s say our hypothetical family still wants to travel in February or December 2023.

Selecting those dates turns the universe of 400+ possible sailings into 58 sailings.

They want to sail for a decent chunk of their child’s week-long school break, but not longer than that, so they select sailings of 4-7 nights.

This turns 58 sailings into 46 sailings.

These folks are U.S. residents and can’t take the time to sail out of distant foreign port, so they select just the United States departure points of Fort Lauderdale, Galveston, Miami, New Orleans, Port Canaveral, and San Diego, turning those 46 sailings into 41 sailings.

At this point, they might take a harder look at their calendar and decide to focus on just a particular month, or they might scan the list of 41 cruises to find just those that fit the one school break week. Or they might decide to only choose sailings that stop at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay (this is virtually all sailings in the Caribbean and Bahamas). Or they might further narrow their options by looking only at sailings from Galveston or San Diego because they hypothetically live on the West Coast. Or they might want to focus their attention on just DCL’s newest ship, the Wish. Any one of these choices will quickly turn their options to just a handful of viable selections, making it much easier to make a final decision.

If you need more information or help planning a Disney Cruise Line voyage, some great resources are: the Touring Plans travel agents, the Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line book (2022 or 2023 edition), or Becky Gandillon’s Touring Plans Teaches videos about DCL.

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), 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.

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