In addition to new itineraries and cruise dates, this week Disney Cruise Line also announced a change in the time limit for using an onboard booking and receiving the benefits.
Prior to November 2013, you could book a future cruise while onboard your Disney Cruise and use it anytime in the future. This led to many bookings that would need to be moved to a new date before the penalties set in. Some reservations had been moved many, many times! At some point, there needed to be the realization that you weren’t going to use that reservation.
That’s when Disney changed the policy and added a limit. Bookings made prior to November 2013 were given until November 30, 2015 to be used or the onboard booking benefits would drop off of the reservation. Any future bookings, however, were only given 18 months to be used.
This arbitrary number of months caused a lot of problems for future cruisers. We started hearing a new reason for cancellations – “I can’t use the booking before the benefits will expire so I might as well cancel.” We also were hearing back from those just off cruises that they didn’t book onboard due to the new time limits.
We figured that 18 months was a problem from the start. There are a different types of people who make an onboard booking. I’m going to focus on just two types. Both of them are trying to save money on their future cruise and therefore have done their research. They know that booking onboard is one of the ways to get a discount and onboard credit.
The first group are those who cruise every couple years. They cruise pretty much at the same time each year due to the kid’s school break schedule or vacation time from work. The problem is that 18 months is not long enough for them so they wouldn’t book onboard.
The second group are those who cruise every year. Clearly, 18 months should be enough, right? No, because they understand how to get the best price with Disney. You book as soon as the dates are released. That means if you normally cruise in January every year, if you book onboard your cruise, you would have to book for the following year. However, to get the best pricing, you should have booked as soon as the following year’s bookings opened. By the time you get onboard, you already have the next vacation booked, so it doesn’t do you any good to book onboard as you would need to use that booking within six months of your next cruise.
It seems as though Disney noticed this was happening and this week modified the time limit to now be 24 months. While I would have preferred to see three or four years like Norwegian Cruise Line allows, or at a minimum 25 months (to account for shifts in school breaks/holidays/etc.), I think this is a vast improvement.
If the reason for the change is the reduction in the number of onboard bookings being made, I do think they will see an increase now. If it is due to the number of cancellations, I don’t thing this will help. Remember, when the rule went into effect, everyone booking before the rule was given approximately 24 more months. It was only the new bookings that were given 18 months. That means the majority of those who cancelled due to the time limit, were doing so because the limit was 24 months, not 18.
I am happy with the change however. There was a need for it to happen. For those who are sorry they didn’t book onboard or cancelled existing reservations due to the limits, don’t feel bad. You helped Disney to see that the 18 months was too short a time. Without your actions, there wouldn’t have been a reason to change it. You sent a message and it appears it was heard loud and clear.