Among the best-known cruise brands, Disney Cruise Line has one of the most modest loyalty programs — even after a recent upgrade that brought an all-new tier.
Unlike the programs of such cruise operators as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, the Disney Cruise Line Castaway Club, as it’s called, doesn’t offer members over-the-top perks such as a free cruise after reaching a top tier. There are no big discounts on shore excursions and spa treatments for members, like some lines offer.
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Still, Disney Cruise Line’s loyalty program does bring a few valuable perks at its higher-level tiers, including early access to new itineraries and onboard activities.
The program also makes it relatively easy to reach a high-level tier.
Ways to earn
Earning status in the Castaway Club loyalty program is about as simple as can be. You get a credit for every cruise you take — whether it’s three nights long or 10 nights long. That’s it. No muss, no fuss. Your status, as we’ll explain below, depends entirely on how many cruises you take.
Program tiers and benefits
There are just four tiers in the Castaway Club program, including a new top tier just unveiled in February 2023:
- Silver (after one cruise).
- Gold (after five cruises).
- Platinum (after 10 cruises).
- Pearl (after 25 cruises).
Once you reach the first tier of the program (Silver), you will be entitled to exactly seven perks. Perhaps the most notable of these is the ability to book in advance for onboard cruise activities such as ticket-only character greetings and specialty restaurant dinners up to 90 days before sailings. This is a big deal in the world of Disney cruises, where some of the hottest activities on ships sell out quickly.
Related: The ultimate guide to Disney Cruise Line
Silver members can also book new Disney cruise itineraries one day ahead of the general public. That may not seem like much of a head start, but it can be a real advantage when trying to snag the perfect cabin on a hot new itinerary. Disney fans are known to snatch up the best cabins — if not all the cabins — on unique new sailings very quickly.
In addition, Silver members get:
- Exclusive Castaway Club communications.
- A members-only direct phone line to call for information and assistance.
- A members-only check-in line at the cruise terminal.
- A welcome-back-aboard gift.
- Early access to select port arrival times (this perk was temporarily paused during the COVID-19 pandemic and has yet to be reinstated).
Upon reaching the Gold level, members get all the above perks with two notable upgrades. For starters, they have the ability to book onboard cruise activities up to 105 days before sailings. That’s 15 days earlier than Silver members. They are also able to book new Disney cruise itineraries two days ahead of the general public.
In addition, Gold members get:
- A private reception on sailings of eight nights or longer (this perk also has been temporarily paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
- Special discounts on voyages.
Related: 26 tips for sailing on a Disney Cruise Line ship
The third tier of the program, the Platinum level, extends the pre-booking windows even further. Platinum members are able to make advance bookings for onboard cruise activities up to 120 days before sailings. That’s 15 days earlier than Gold members and 30 days earlier than Silver members. They are also able to book new Disney cruise itineraries three days ahead of the general public.
In addition, Platinum level members are entitled to a free dinner at Palo, the upscale, adults-only Italian eatery on Disney ships — more on this in a moment.
The elite level that makes a difference
It isn’t really until you hit the new Pearl level of the Castaway Club that the perks start to get interesting. The big perk at this level is that you can book new itineraries earlier than everyone else. You also have the earliest possible access to reserve onboard activities.
Specifically, you can make reservations for newly announced itineraries four days before the general public. You can also book activities up to 123 days in advance of sailing.
Related: A beginners guide to cruise line loyalty programs
In the world of Disney, this is a very big deal. As mentioned above, Disney fans are known to snag all the good cabins for a popular sailing the moment a trip goes on sale. Ditto for onboard activities.
In addition, Pearl status also brings a complimentary unlimited digital photo package, which is a notable perk.
Disney has lots of official photographers on board its ships to snap photos of you and your kids with princesses and the like. However, it doesn’t offer those photos for free. Paying for even a relatively small number of photos taken by these onboard photographers — even in digital form — normally can cost hundreds of dollars.
Note that while the new Pearl tier and its perks were unveiled in February and are posted on the line’s website, the tier won’t officially become part of the program until May 1. So, if you’re sailing before then, you won’t necessarily receive the tier’s benefits.
Best elite perk
Unlike some lines, Disney doesn’t offer any truly over-the-top elite perks, such as the free cruise that top-tier members of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society get. It’s also skimpy on handing out big discounts on shore excursions, spa treatments and other cruise line-sold services to elite members — something some other lines do. However, there are a few perks that get us at least modestly excited.
The most enticing offering, in our view, is the free dinner that comes with Platinum status at Palo, as noted above.
Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises
The invitation extends to the elite member and any other adult passenger staying in the same cabin. Assuming there are two of you, that’s a $90 value. Palo normally costs $45 per person.
Disney Cruise Line offers a handful of decent perks to members of its Castaway Club loyalty program, including early access to new itineraries and onboard activities.
However, the Castaway Club loyalty program is not nearly as robust as the frequent cruiser programs of many other well-known brands, such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line. If you’re going to sail a lot with Disney, you’ll want to do it because you love the brand, not because you expect a lot of onboard recognition for your loyalty.
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