By Paul Motter
Disney Cruise Line will triple its capacity in the next 18 months. The first new Disney ship since 1999, Disney Dream, will debut this January, 2011, and the inaugural cruise of the sister ship, Disney Fantasy, was just announced for April 7 of 2012. Disney Dream is already on sale while sales for Disney Fantasy will officially begin this week - on October 20.
To celebrate the opening of cruise sales for the inaugural cruises of Disney Fantasy, Disney Cruise Line is offering significant bargain prices on all of its ships for the 2012 season.
Disney Fantasy will sail alternating eastern and western Caribbean itineraries. The eastern route sails from Port Canaveral to St. Maarten and St. Thomas, while the western itinerary sails from Port Canaveral to Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Both itineraries include a stop at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.
Rates for the seven-night Caribbean cruise itineraries on Disney Fantasy start at $959 per person for a standard inside stateroom.
Sister to Fantasy, Disney Dream, will debut this coming January, 2011, sailing on three, four and five night cruises from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas and Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. Five-night itineraries include two stops at Castaway Cay. Rates for 2012 sailings (January through August) on Disney Dream start at just $333 per person.
Disney Magic and Disney Wonder are the small ships already in service, but if you were to book a last-minute cruise on these ships right now you would pay $1911 per person for an inside cabin and $3010 for a verandah cabin for cruises sailing this December.
But to coincide with the announcement of the Disney Fantasy debut, the 2012 prices for these ships are also on sale:
Disney Wonder will sail seven-night Mexican Riviera cruises from the Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Rates for the seven-night cruises sailing January through April of 2012 start at $658 per person.
Prior to the Disney Fantasy entering service on April 7, 2012, Disney Magic will sail out of Port Canaveral on the same alternating eastern and western seven-night Caribbean itineraries described above. But if you book now for a Disney Wonder cruise sailing January through April of 2012 the rates start at $707 per person.
All rates are for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy.
As you can see, these are significant savings. There are many cruise lines and agencies that try to tell you it's a good idea to wait until the last minute for the best bargains. Not so with Disney, always book early for the best prices. If you are wondering why the answer is in their history.
Disney Cruise Lines came on the scene a long time ago - ordering its first two ships way back in 1995. At the time the prospect of such a powerful travel and entertainment company entering the cruise market seemed daunting. Would they "dwarf" the newly prospering cruise industry that included Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess and NCL?
Even back then Disney already had the marketing and distribution network to create a cruise powerhouse. They still own the ABC television network, dozens of cable channels like A&E and Lifetime, 226 television stations, 227 radio stations and magazine and book publishing companies.
But throughout the last decade Disney Cruise Line surprised us by staying small and exclusive, with just two modest-sized ships of 900 staterooms apiece. The company practically occupied a parallel universe to the rest of the cruise industry; rarely marketing to regular cruisers but rather targeting Disneyphiles, many of whom had never seen a cruise ship. The small supply of cabins led to considerably higher demand and prices.
But the two new Disney ships, Dream and Fantasy, are 128,000-tons and can carry about 4000 guests apiece, compared to 83,000-tons and 2400 guests for the Disney Wonder and Magic. Anytime you add supply to the market you have to sell harder, and right now these future cruises have bargain prices, but you can be sure those prices will rise as these ships sell out.
Disney certainly had the financial backing and structure in place to build a cruise powerhouse, but the fact that they did not shows us they are more concerned with providing the Disney experience on a cruise ship than they are in just offering cruise vacations. They could have built many more ships, but it would have been much harder to maintain the unique Disney product across such a large fleet. Even with these new ships, the onboard experience remains unique to Disney, unlike any other cruise line.
Discuss the New Disney ships here: Disney Dream is Coming.