Don’t get me wrong, I love (read: am mildly obsessed) with Disney cruises, but yes, they can be quite expensive. Although I still find them to be a better deal financially than a theme park trip thanks to the inclusion of food and (non-alcoholic) drink in your sailing rate, compared to a lot of the other cruise lines, they’re pricey (case in point-I am sailing to Alaska with them later this year and yes, it’s costing a lot more than going on a line like Royal Caribbean or even Holland America).
However, I get why you want to sail with Disney (said by someone who’s sailed with them six times now and it isn’t because I live in Florida and the port is only a 30 minute drive from my house). So here are five things to help you save on your first or next Disney cruise.
Sign up for a Disney Visa credit card
Okay, let me preface this by saying I am not an advocate of signing up for every credit card imaginable just to get those “sign up perks.” I have a couple of credit cards, all travel themed (airline and hotels) even though I am forever saying no, I don’t wish to sign up for one from Kohls or Target. But I will give a nod to the Disney Visa credit card. Why, you ask? Well, for starters you only need to spend $300 in the first three months in order to receive the sign up benefit. Compared to other cards that require you to spend a couple of thousand, $300 is easily spent (sadly) in just a couple of weeks or less. And the benefit is a $200 Disney gift card which you can take to guest services when you board the ship and then put on your account. This can literally go for anything-babysitting, meals at one of the adults-only restaurants, port excursions, etc. You could also use it to make a payment towards your cruise balance. D signed up for one and we used the gift card on our Caribbean cruise last year. Every little bit helps.
Book another cruise while still on-board
This one applies more towards veteran sailers, but if you know without a doubt you would like to go on another Disney cruise, then book it while you’re still on-board your current one. Not only will you get a reduced deposit rate (and depending on how far out your cruise is, this can be really beneficial), but you’ll also receive a stateroom credit on your new sailing. These vary depending on the length of the cruise but for our seven night Caribbean cruise, we received $200 (the longer the cruise, the bigger the credit is). So between this and the gift card, we boarded already having $400.
Shop at home
While I love shopping on-board just as much as the next person, I’ve found that more and more cruise line-themed items are available on the Disney store website. I mention this because why spend full price buying those items on the ship when you can get them online and at times take advantage of the sales/reduced prices the store website is offering? The exceptions to this are items that are specially found on the Merrytime and Halloween-themed cruises, cruise-themed artwork, and items specific to certain itineraries. Just be discerning here.
Book port excursions on your own
While yes, it’s no doubt convenient to go right to Disney Cruise’s website port adventures and book all of your excursions in just a matter of moments simply by clicking “yes,” do yourself and your checking account a favor and don’t. What many cruise newbies don’t realize is that the port excursions Disney Cruise (and all the other lines) offer are contracted out to third party companies. The excursions are not being led and organized by Disney Cruise Line staff. With that said, you’re going to pay a lot more for an excursion you book through Disney Cruise’s website versus if you go directly to the tour operator’s website. Now obviously it might be a tad more difficult to determine a tour outfitter in a big city like London or New York since Disney Cruise doesn’t list the name of the tour outfitter, but for smaller ports, you’ll be able to determine that the fjord sightseeing cruise in Stavanger, Norway is this company. I did this for most of my excursions in Norway, simply going to TripAdvisor, entering the name of the port, then researching potential activities from there. I’ll be doing the same for my Alaska cruise.
Skip the balcony
Don’t get me wrong, I would book a balcony for every cruise I take. But staterooms with balconies come at a much higher cost, especially for those itineraries like Norway and Alaska. So the bottom line is, you need to ask yourself realistically how much time would you actually sit out on said balcony? Is it worth spending hundreds, possibly even thousands more? The thing to remember is that the balconies themselves are not completely private and depending on where you’re sailing to, it may be too hot (the Caribbean) or too cold (Norway) to really want to sit out there. If you can secure an awesome deal, I’d say go for it, but otherwise put your money towards more meaningful things like port excursions or maybe a meal splurge at Remy.
I often read how people say they’d love to go on a Disney cruise but would never be able to afford one for their family. Well, if you have your heart set on one, start saving. Even if you don’t sail till the end of next year (you can always book a cruise as more of a placeholder then change your date once new dates open up), saving now and putting money towards it means you’re closer to realizing that travel dream. And sail in hurricane season too; rates are often drastically lower and the odds of your ship actually being impacted by one are quite slim (two of my cruises have been in the height of hurricane season).
Are there any cost saving tips you’d recommend for a Disney cruise?