Disney Cruise Line Series: Back-to-back cruising

If you are fortunate enough to have sufficient vacation time and money, you may have the unique opportunity to book back-to-back cruises on the same ship.  I had the pleasure of doing my first back-to-back in January of 2016 on the Disney Wonder.  I took a repositioning cruise from Galveston to San Juan, Puerto Rico and then followed it up with a Southern Caribbean cruise.  Today we’ll learn about what you should do to book your cruises, how to get ready, and what to expect on the day you transition between cruises.

Booking your cruises

Booking back-to-back cruises can be a bit painful.  Let’s talk about the easiest scenario first, booking while on-board another cruise.  It’s a known fact that the best cruise price you are going to get is on-board another cruise.  You get 10% off the “prevailing rates”, a reduced deposit, and usually some kind of statement credit.   I recommend filling out the cruise request form you get at the future cruises desk or with your navigator on certain days and dropping it off.  That’s because the process that the future cruise salesperson has to go through to book you is quite painful on their end.  They literally have to open up each cruise and toggle back and forth to find a room that is available on both dates.  If you are booking multiple cabins it gets even trickier.

If this is your first cruise with DCL or you didn’t book a cruise while you were on your last, your best bet is to call DCL.  Normally, in the travel industry, I wouldn’t ever recommend calling for anything but this is one of those special cases.  You can book back-to-back cruises yourself online but you have to do all of the hard work yourself of finding a room that is available on both cruises.  You then still have to call DCL and tell them you are doing back-to-back so they don’t kick you off the ship immediately on the last day of the first cruise.  Remember you want to be in the same room, so that you don’t have to pack up everything you have and move to a different room.

Once you are ready to book, you will have to put down a deposit for each cruise.  Keep in mind they are completely separate cruises and you are billed separately.  The final payment dates will also vary slightly between the two cruises.

Getting ready for your cruises

To get ready for your next cruise, it’s not all that different than getting ready for one.  However, you will have to deal with either bringing more clothes or doing laundry.  When you get your cruise booklet in the mail be sure and read the identification requirements for both cruises.  For example, repositioning cruises require passports.

Once on-board

Once you are on-board, have fun and tell the cruise staff you see frequently that you are going to be with them next week.  Whether, that’s your dining staff, bartender, a random officer, or party host, they will likely be excited to that you are sticking around with them.  A day or two before the end of your first cruise, you will get a letter from the officer that deals with the port about when and where to meet on the day you transition from your first to second cruise.  This is usually one of the lounges such as Wave Bands or Studio Sea.  The nice thing is you don’t have to be there until 10:00 am.  So skip the early breakfast and go to the buffet right before it closes.


A view of the port at San Juan, Puerto Rico.


Here you have an option of either going out and visiting areas around the port or getting off the ship and right back on.  If you do go out and about make sure you have everything you need including identification.  You’ll then have to check back in with all of the new people getting on the ship.  Keep in mind there aren’t any port adventures on this day so you are on your own if you go out.  Just make sure you are back in time to check in and get on the ship before it leaves.

Transition Day

Let’s be honest the day of your transition is pretty much shot.  You’re dealing with everyone leaving the ship and all of the new people coming on it.  If you are choosing to just get back on the board, after you have breakfast, go to the lounge you were told to meet in.  Bring your identification and Key to the World card.  Once in the lounge, you might have to wait a while for the officer to show up.  For example, ours was delayed due to paperwork issues at the port.  Hopefully, you don’t have to wait long though.

The officer will then escort you off of the ship and down to the port.  I recommend being a little aggressive and trying to be in the front of this line as it will give you a few extra minutes in the port.  Once you get to the port, you will notice it is eerily empty because no one else is there checking in yet.  Go check in to your next cruise just like you would any other and get your new Key to the World card.  Your old card will no longer be used.

Now, if you were and got to the front of the line, you have a few precious minutes to stop at the local gift shop inside the port terminal.  The key thing here is that many of these sell wine, beer, and liquor.  If you are interested in that kind of thing, run over there and grab what you can and put it in your bag.  Chances are you will be able to bring it on the ship without DCL noticing which is a win for you.  While you are at the shop though, keep an eye on the officer because you don’t want to get left behind when he or she walks everyone back onto the ship.

Back on-board the ship

It’s usually only 11:00 am or so by the time you make it back onto the ship.  During this time, you will see cast members frantically running around the ship making it ready for the next set of guests.  During the time, most ship services are suspended so there is not a whole lot you can do.  It’s ok to go to your stateroom though (even though the people boarding soon can’t).  This is an excellent time to go do laundry as the machines are not very full during this time.  However, don’t be surprised if you get an error when trying to swipe your card to pay for laundry.  While the system is “resetting” for the next cruise, there are periods of time where you can’t get the machines to work.  We had to come back an hour or so later.

The rest of the day is just like any other first day on the ship.  The usual mass chaos of family’s trying to discover the ship, people running into you while getting out of elevators, and of course the safety drill in the afternoon.  Just because you did it last time, doesn’t mean you are exempt this time.

At dinner time, you’ll more than likely have the same wait staff whom will welcome you back.  Hopefully, you left them a good tip on the first cruise!

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