*DIS Contributors review cruises that they have paid for on their own vacations. They only utilize discounts and special offers if they are available to the general public. They receive no additional compensation for rooms, dining experiences, events, or entertainment so that they may give their honest opinions about price and value.
I started cruising on Disney Cruise Line in 2004 and have been hooked ever since. I have been to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mediterranean, Alaska, Mexico and have been on all 4 Disney ships. I learned about Disney Vacation Club on my second cruise and ended up buying a contract on the ship. A few years later, I added more points. Needless to say, I love Disney Vacation Club and Disney Cruise Line so I have always been intrigued by the DVC Member Cruises but have been hesitant to book one due to hearing about the increased pricing of these cruises. I finally took the plunge and went on my first DVC Member Cruise in July 2018 and faith would have it that this cruise set sail on my birthday!
This cruise was a 4-night Bahamian cruise on the Disney Dream leaving on July 23, 2018 out of Port Canaveral with two stops at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Booking this cruise was different than booking regular Disney cruises because it had to be done by calling Disney Vacation Club Member Services. Also, it is only open to Disney Vacation Club members who have purchased their points directly through Disney or have been grandfathered in with a resale contract purchased before 3/21/2011. My booking window opened on August 6, 2017 at 9 AM EST which meant that I had to be up at 6 AM on a Saturday to call in since I live in California. This cruise could be booked by using DVC points or paying cash or a combination of both. If paying cash, you must pay it all up front and can not make payments like you can on a regular Disney cruise. I was interested in booking a category 10A deluxe inside stateroom. For my family of 3 (2 adults and a 2-year-old child) the total cash price was $4880 or 655 points. I decided to combine cash and points to make it more affordable and paid cash for one adult and child then used points for the other adult so it came out to $2764 plus 284 points. I compared this cruise to a regular 4-night sailing on the Disney Dream with 2 stops at Castaway Cay in the same stateroom in July of 2019 and the total price for our family was $4881. I was surprised that in my case there was practically no difference in the price of the DVC Member Cruise versus a regular Disney cruise with the same itinerary.
I decided to look into a future DVC Member Cruise to compare pricing as well. In 2019, there will be two DVC Member Cruises; one sailing a 5-night Pacific Coast itinerary May 15-20 and one sailing a 7-night Bermuda itinerary October 5-12. In 2020, a DVC Member Cruise will sail a 7-night Alaska itinerary on the Disney Wonder from August 24-31. Interestingly, the 2020 DVC Member cruises sold out on opening day, but the two 2019 sailings are still available to book as of April 2019. I decided to look into the Alaska DVC Member Cruise to compare pricing since this seemed to be the more popular one. Our daughter had turned 3 in early 2019 and I did notice that the cash and point pricing was quite a bit higher for her now that she was 3. For the DVC Member Cruise, it would cost our family of 3 $8312 in a category 10A versus $6732 on a regular Alaska sailing – August 17, 2020 sailing in a category 10A room. One thing to take into consideration is that the DVC Member Cruises do include prepaid gratuity in the pricing while other cruises do not. The suggested amount to give is $13.50 per person per day. This means on the 7-night DVC Member Alaska cruise, $283.50 of gratuity is already included in the fare making the cruise a $1296.50 difference from the non-DVC Alaska cruise. So I had to wonder if it was worth going on a DVC Member Cruise for that much more?
DVC Member Cruises do include exclusive presentations, shows, and special guests. On the 2018 DVC Member Cruise, I enjoyed presentations from Disney screenwriters, directors, composers, and animators. Many of the presentations even had sneak peeks and insider information on upcoming Disney movies and projects. These were top secret shows and they screened anyone coming in for recording devices or phones, so I was unable to take any photos. We were even able to watch the entire Christopher Robin movie one month before its theatrical release. Some of the special guests on our sailing were Bill Farmer (the voice of Goofy), Bret Iwan (the voice of Mickey Mouse), celebrity chef, Art Smith and Disney animator legend Floyd Norman who was personally trained by Walt Disney. Best of all, Roy. P Disney, the grandson of Walt’s brother Roy O. Disney, was on our sailing. I especially loved the live interview by Disney author and historian Tim O’Day with Roy P. Disney and hearing his stories of him hanging out in Uncle Walt’s apartment at Disneyland and seeing photos of him as a child standing on a mound of dirt where the Magic Kingdom park stands today in Florida. One of the evening shows in the Walt Disney Theatre was a star-studded concert featuring Broadway singers such as Ashley Brown (Broadway’s original Mary Poppins), Kissy Simmons (Nala from Broadway’s The Lion King), Josh Strickland (Broadway’s original Tarzan) and Alton Fitzgerald White (Broadway’s Mufasa in The Lion King).
This cruise included special decor and theming as well. The ship was tastefully decorated with DVC logos and decorations. We had a special DVC Member Cruise menu each night at dinner and we were allowed to take the menus home as a souvenir. On our two Castaway Cay days, there was a special theme each day. The first day at Castaway Cay was called Member Mouse Party and we celebrated Mickey and Minnie’s 90th anniversary. The island had Mickey and Minnie decorations and there was a dish from Chef Art Smith at Cookies BBQ. That night, there was a Mickey and Minnie exhibit featuring treasures from the Walt Disney Archives. Later, there was a Member Mouse Party on deck with the biggest fireworks show in Member Cruise history which included a live singing performance by voice actors Bret Iwan and Bill Farmer singing the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song. This cruise also included a 2nd fireworks show on Pirate Night which was the same as you would see on the regular Disney cruises. The theme for our 2nd Castaway Cay day was Island of Heroes. On this day, the island was decorated with a superhero theme and the Disney characters were out in their superhero costumes. There was another Chef Art Smith dish available at Cookies BBQ on this day. We were all given a red beach towel as our gift that morning and were encouraged to wear it as a cape to go with the superhero theme, but I did not see many guests doing this.
One more thing that the DVC Member Cruises include are commemorative gifts. Twice a day when our stateroom host was making up the stateroom, he would leave a gift for each of us. We always enjoyed coming back to our room and seeing what gift was waiting for us. Some of the gifts we received were duffle bags with matching messenger bags, hats, shirts, wireless speakers, Tervis mugs, beach umbrellas, beach towels, Yahtzee games, “Eat Like Walt” coffee table books signed by the author, and much more. All the gifts had the DVC Member Cruise logo on them which made them unique and special. We loved all our gifts and felt they were good quality and not just junk that we would throw away later. We went home with an extra suitcase full of our gifts.
The July 2018 DVC Member Cruise was my 9th Disney cruise and I felt that this cruise was a nice change compared to regular Disney cruises. First of all, everyone on board was a DVC Member or guest of a DVC Member and I could see major Disney fandom everywhere! The shows, presentations, and special guests were all awesome and not something you would find on a regular Disney cruise. The decor and theming were a lot of fun and made the cruise feel different and unique. To top it all off, I loved all the DVC Member gifts we received.
I feel lucky that my July 2018 DVC Member Cruise pricing was not any higher than a regular Disney cruise because I definitely feel like it was worth more. As for the 2020 Alaska DVC Member Cruise, I do think that the extra $1296.50 is a reasonable amount for the special entertainment, guests, gifts, and experience. However, for people who have never sailed Disney Cruise Line, I would recommend a regular Disney Cruise sailing first. We did not do many of the activities we would do on a regular sailing on the DVC Member Cruise such as swimming, relaxing on the decks or going to the regularly scheduled activities because we were so busy attending all the special presentations and events. I think this would be overwhelming and take away from the Disney Cruise Line experience for first-time guests but for experienced DCL guests who are also DVC Members, it is a definitely an exciting change and well worth the money.
Follow me on my Disney adventures on Instagram @Farrisfamsdayoff.