Disney Offers a Deal to Fans Booking Another Cruise

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It's getting more tempting to book your next Disney (DIS) cruise while you're still on a current one. The family entertainment giant has tweaked the way it lets existing passengers square away future cruises on any of Disney's four richly themed ships, and the strategy is shaping up to be a big win for consumers but an even bigger win for Mickey Mouse.

For years, Disney has let passengers prebook their next trips at a discounted rate with a few additional perks. Guests receive a 10 percent discount to prevailing rates and onboard credit in exchange for placing a reduced deposit on a preselected future sailing.

The new tweak -- as reported by Disney travel site TouringPlans.com -- allows guests to lock in the perks without having to single out an exact return sailing. All they have to do is plunk down the $200 advance deposit per stateroom, then they have 24 months to complete the follow-up cruise.

Come Sail Away

Savvy travelers knew a workaround to the old system. They could start by choosing a date during the initial booking, only to contact the cruise line later to change it to a more convenient sailing. It was a popular trick, but obviously it's not something that everyone knew about. The new process makes it easier for everyone to play along, and it wouldn't be a surprise if advance bookings bump higher after this update that takes place immediately.

There's no shortage of fans when it comes to Disney's watery journeys. Disney's cruise ships have cultivated a pretty devoted following, so getting folks to book a repeat voyage isn't exactly a tall order behind the high financial hurdle of the premium travel experience. There are nearly 285,000 followers of the line's official @DisneyCruise feed on Twitter (TWTR), and that's nothing compared to the more than 1.4 million fans on Facebook (FB).

Bon Voyage

Cruising is a big business for Disney that didn't exist until Disney Magic set sail during the summer of 1998. The similar Disney Wonder joined the fleet a year later. The two vessels with capacity for 2,400 passengers apiece weren't enough to satisfy market demand, leading the media giant to add Disney Dream in 2011 and Disney Fantasy in 2012, with passenger capacity of 4,100.

Having four ships has allowed Disney to dabble into more exotic ports of call. The 2016 itinerary that was recently announced now finds cruises going through Alaska and hitting 15 European countries.

Disney doesn't break down how much revenue it generates from its cruise line. It's part of the theme park's subsidiary that generated an operating profit of $2.7 billion on $15.1 billion in revenue in Disney's latest fiscal year. However, it's clear that getting a captive audience -- and you can't be any more captive than when you're enjoying an actual Disney cruise -- to commit to a future adventure is going to be a winning business move. As long as passengers don't find themselves living beyond their means in a vicious cycle of repeat sailings, hitting the high seas under the Disney banner isn't a bad way to spend your next -- and next -- vacation.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Facebook, Twitter and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Looking for a winner for your portfolio? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.​
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