Rachel Medlock was thrilled when Disney Cruise Line announced at its D23 Expo in September that it would launch its first ever South Pacific cruise itinerary. She refers to her and her husband, “those Disney Adults” — which is a reference to people who, for good or bad, love Disney like it’s their religion.
Medlock is a freelance copywriter in Australia and sought a place on the cruise. The cruise departs Honolulu and then travels through American Samoa (Fiji), New Caledonia, and New Caledonia to arrive in Australia.
Two scheduled sailings have been added to Disney’s South Pacific cruise. One is in October 2023, and the second in February 2024. The itinerary follows a similar route, but in reverse. The first bookings were opened on October 20,22. This was limited to Disney Vacation Club members and repeat customers with Castaway Club status.
However, even Medlock’s fandom was not enough to get early access. She claims that every cabin on Disney’s website had been booked long before the sales opened.
Medlock was optimistic that someone’s deposit would fall through, and she’d grab a room. Her husband refreshed her about every hour. They finally secured the spot they wanted two days later.
South Pacific cruises in demand
Tracy Sannes, who owns The Disney Cruise Family Travel Blog, believes that the rush to book Disney’s South Pacific cruise was an anomaly. The Disney Cruise Line spokesperson stated that the route is very popular and informed NerdWallet in an email that all bookings made through their website have been cancelled. However, Expedia and other online travel agencies do offer the option of bookings.
Sannes states that the last Disney cruise I can recall selling out so quickly was the one from Vancouver to Hawaii. The cruise was originally scheduled for spring 2020, but it was never cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With cabins still available, the route is being rescheduled for 2023/2024.
Disney isn’t the only company that will be cruising the South Pacific this year for the first-ever time. Variety Cruises will also launch its first ever Tahitian cruises beginning in January 2023.
Royal Caribbean operated South Pacific cruises before the pandemic. In October 2022, sailings from Sydney were resumed for the first time in 22 years. Royal Caribbean also launched in November its first ever South Pacific voyages from Queensland, which include stops at Vanuatu or New Caledonia.
Why South Pacific cruises so popular
It is not easy or cheap to plan a vacation to the South Pacific islands. It is difficult to find flights that aren’t long or expensive. Many tourist hotspots have high-end luxury resorts as their lodging options. This means that you will pay high prices for food, accommodation, and excursions. It can be difficult to choose which island to visit, with so many to choose from.
Cruises can solve many of these problems.
Long-haul flights are not necessary (or maybe just one way).
Jetlag is almost inevitable when you fly between the U.S.A and South Pacific. It takes less than eight hours to fly from Los Angeles to Tahitian island Mo’orea, and 11 hours to get to Fiji. This is assuming you can find a direct flight, which can sometimes be difficult.
Scott Keyes, who manages Scott’s Cheap Flights deal-tracking website, says that the biggest driver of low prices is not distance or cities but competition between airlines. “Right now the number of scheduled Pacific flights is down 50% compared to 2019 .”
Some major airlines are seeing an increase in flight availability. As of mid-December, Delta Air Lines jets off three times a week on a never-before-operated, nonstop route from Los Angeles to Tahiti. Hawaiian Airlines will launch flights between Honolulu, Hawaii and the Cook Islands starting May 2023. However, that flight will only run once per week.
Keyes, who regularly sends alerts to his readers when he finds extraordinary deals, claims that South Pacific airfares have increased in price since the pandemic. According to Keyes, the average cost of South Pacific flight deals that he emailed his subscribers in 2019 was $672. It was $828 in 2022.
However, when choosing an itinerary such as the Crown Princess’s 28-night cruise through Hawaii and Tahiti, Mo’orea, Western Samoa, which begins and ends in Los Angeles, West Coasters may not need to fly.
Transpacific cruises eliminate at least one-way airfare and jet lag. The one-way flight from a major city usually means that there is more availability. Los Angeles, San Diego, and Honolulu all have common docking points. On the other end is Sydney, Brisbane, Australia or Auckland, New Zealand.
Conveniently see multiple islands
It can be difficult to decide which South Pacific island to visit. However, it could be more challenging to spend a large portion of your trip in airports where you can island-hop.
Cruises are efficient and can take you to your next destination in a matter of minutes. You’ll also only need to pack once.
Prices may sometimes be less expensive than other cruise itineraries
The 13-night South Pacific itinerary by Disney starts at $2,400 per person if two people are sharing a room.
Although Disney cruises can be expensive compared to other cruise lines, the South Pacific itinerary actually costs less than other Disney cruises of the same length. The nine-night Disney Alaska cruise starts at $2,800 per person in summer 2023. The 10-night Caribbean cruise for summer 2023 costs just over $4,000 per head.
The cost is comparable to other cruises that do not leave Australia, but it’s twice as long. A December 2023 Disney cruise departing from Brisbane to Sydney costs $1,800 per person, which is about 25% more, but lasts six nights.
“Flights to Hawaii, a week there, and then jumping on the Disney Wonder to Australia, it’sn’t that much more than what they charge for a week in Australia,” Medlock said.
This cruise is known as a “repositioning” cruise.
The Disney Wonder will be sailing from the U.S. West Coast of America to Australia in October 2023 for winter (as it is summer down under). The Wonder will be returning to the U.S. in March 2024 for its spring and summer itineraries that include San Diego and Mexico. Disney’s South Pacific itinerary allows them to keep the ship full while they make any voyages that they would like to.
Medlock states that repositioning cruises offer a better value than any other cruise line.
Budgeting is easier
Disney’s $2400 cruise includes 13 nights of dining, plus 24 hour room service, shows and pools, character meetings, nightclubs, kids clubs, and nightclubs. Extra charges may apply for alcohol, spa services and port excursions.
Sometimes, extras can even be paid in advance, and sometimes at a discount.
Mirela Letailleur runs The Travel Bunny, a blog about travel. She says that cruises offer packages that include transportation, lodging, meals and activities. “Travelers don’t need to stress about booking multiple hotels and flights. This could quickly add up and increase vacation expenses span>
Cruising is one of the most affordable ways to see the South Pacific
Expedia discovered that the average 2-week vacation package between Seattle and Sydney costs between $2,400 to $3,400. This is just the flight and hotel, it does not include meals or activities. Expedia spokesperson stated that prices can rise to $4,200 if you book a la carte instead of a package. Expedia offers discounts when booking multiple trip elements span.
Disney’s cruise is $2,400. However, other companies may be cheaper. Royal Caribbean’s 17-night cruise from Australia to Hawaii in April 2024 starts at $1,300 per person, which is just half of Disney’s.
Letailleur says that many cruises offer discounts for children or groups. This can make cruising a great option for families.
You don’t have to cruise on floating cities if you’re not interested in cruising. Variety Cruises offers a 10-night round trip Tahitian cruise that takes you aboard a small boat with 48 passengers. The cost of the cruise is approximately $3,100 per person.
The downsides of cruising in the South Pacific
There are some trade-offs to cruising. Avichai Ben Zürr, who has written numerous South Pacific travel guides for his website X Days in Y, has been on multiple South Pacific cruises. He said he wouldn’t recommend it.
He says that it’s difficult to feel the magic of the South Pacific islands when there are so many tourists visiting them. The magic of the South Pacific islands can only be felt if you spend the night on them and interact with the locals span>
Even if you choose to cruise transpacific, there are tradeoffs with other routes. You can expect to spend several days at sea before you set foot on land. The 18-day Royal Caribbean cruise from Sydney to Oahu, for example, leaves French Polynesia on Day 12, but you dock in Hawaii only 18 days later. This leaves passengers with five full days at sea for their final cruise.
Ben Tzur stated that cruising is sometimes the best way to see remote islands, especially if there aren’t any hotels or airports. Ben Tzur advises against itineraries that stop at large ports. Instead, he suggests that people choose one area to focus on and explore rather than trying to see all of it.
He advises that you should focus on one region and make the most out of your once-in-a lifetime trip. This is the key to avoiding disappointment .”
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