Rob and I knew that if we were going to take our family of 5 on a Disney Cruise, we were going to have to be somewhat frugal and get the most for our money. This post is going to include some tips that we found helpful in accomplishing this. Now…I don’t know that there is such a thing as a “cheap” Disney cruise, but there are plenty of ways to make it less expensive!
- The travel agent- We have used vacationstogo to book several cruises. They have always been wonderful, and we have had no complaints. We have also used Sam’s Club and the actual cruise line as well. This time we went with Disney directly. I am so glad we did because they knew all of the ins and outs, and were dollar for dollar with vacationstogo.
- The specials- I looked online to see the “Special Offers.” There were a couple we could choose from- Florida Resident and Kids Sail Free. The Florida Resident was a better option because we were able to go earlier and longer for less money. I feel like this is an advantage of using Disney direct. Our poor Disney agent was a doll. He ran numbers and options until we got the best deal for our family. He knew all kinds of loops and options that I would have never thought of.
- The ship- Disney has 4 ships. The Wonder and the Magic are the older two, while the Dream and the Fantasy are the newest. Obviously the two newer ships have better pools and slides, and I am sure they are nicer all around. Our first choice was to take the Dream out of Port Canaveral. We have seen the ship in port before, and Cade was salivating over the thought of the Aqua-Duck (the really cool slide.) We took the Wonder for Cade’s third birthday and knew it wasn’t too shabby. When we started running the numbers, it was $1500 cheaper to go out of Miami on the Wonder, and one day and night longer. To me, that was a no- brainer.
- The rooms- We never spend the extra money to get a nicer room on a ship. Truth is, you spend very little time in them, so I see it as a waste. However, be sure and ask your booking agent about all options available. If a verandah room is available for small additional fee, you may feel it is worth it. Sometimes, depending on the special and time of year, you can get a verandah room for the same, even less than the others. Just check!!! Because we were last minute booking, and we had a family of 5 using the Florida Resident discount, they made us purchase 2 staterooms. Both were ocean view and they were 6 doors down from one another. They didn’t care if we all piled in one room to sleep, but they made us purchase the additional room. At first, I was really upset because the more in a room, the cheaper per guest. However, I am so thankful that God works these things out. Traveling with a 3 month old takes a lot of luggage. We used the second room to store all of our luggage and souvenirs in, so our sleeping quarters weren’t so crowded. We were also able to split up taking showers and baths. It worked out perfectly.
The NUMBER ONE tip for saving money on the initial cost would be to BE FLEXIBLE!!! Be flexible with the dates, with the ships, and the rooms. I’m telling you, you won’t regret it.
- Snacks and Drinks- Disney is one of the only (if not THE only) cruise line that offers sodas and milk at no additional costs. There is no cup to buy, no soda card nothing. They are all included. Except…if you order a soda or milk from bar service (like during a show) you are charged $2.01 for a can of soda. If you are off of the ship, you pay for soda. There is a soda fountain that is open 24 hours a day onboard. We took our own sports bottles and filled them up with soda and ice before shows, before we got off the ships, and before we went to bed. I know this sounds like a lot of soda, but there is also pink lemonade, juice, etc. But hey…we were on vacation! I did pack some bottled water for the baby, and to take when we got off the ship. I also packed some snacks like goldfish, granola bars etc. for us to eat while we were off the ship. Food on the island is EXPENSIVE!!! And I hate to pay for food when we spent all of that money to eat on the ship! On our shore excursion, our lunch was not included. So I packed some peanut butter crackers, goldfish, cookies, water and we had our sodas. It worked out great!!
- Shore Excursions- Because we had saved so much money on our initial cost of our cruise, we decided to splurge on a shore excursion. Let me start by saying that you would never be bored if you stayed on the ship the entire time. There is so much going on onboard, that if you decided to never get off, you wouldn’t miss anything. But we decided to do an excursion in Nassau since we have been there before. We have always wanted to do the dolphin thing. But it is always SOOOO expensive. I talked to our Disney fellow about his thoughts. Our options were the Atlantis or Blue Lagoon. Now the Atlantis has an aquarium and a water park, both of which are amazing!!! But again, you pay for that amazing. That is also the number one tourist attraction (next to the straw market) in Nassau. So we opted for Blue Lagoon. This excursion offered the same dolphin experience for a total of $150 less for all five of us. And…..it wasn’t crowded at all. It was very relaxed and beautiful. We did purchase ONE picture of all of us, because we were able to take our own camera as well.
- Pictures- This is where we always spend WAY TOO MUCH MONEY! I am a sucker for memories, so I always get reeled in. Cruise ships take amazing pictures, and who doesn’t want to remember all of your fun times? One 8x 10 is $20.00. A 6x8 is $12.99. There are soooooo many photo opportunities on a Disney Cruise, especially with the characters. The really awesome thing about the photo staff is that you are able to use your own camera at EVERY photo opportunity. And they will even take them for you! This will save TONS of money. Now…I was so stressed out making sure I got EVERY.LAST.SHOT I wanted to get, that I was missing out on watching my kids interact with the characters. We made friends with one of the girls at the photo store and she told us about the picture CD. The actual cost of the CD is $230, and it has each and every shot of you and your family on it. They swipe your room key at each photo, so it is easy to keep up with. You can go at any time and check the kiosk to look at all of the pictures. They still print all of the hard copies too. For an additional $50, you get each and every hard copy print as well. While this was a splurge, Rob and I decided that we would do this for our souvenir. I don’t regret it. If you saw my photo album in the previous post,I think you would agree that we got our money’s worth. And that wasn’t all of them! We didn’t decide until late day 2 that we wanted it. They only do 100 per cruise, so we knew we better take advantage of it. I don’t regret one cent of that purchase!
- Costumes- Dress-up for Pirate Night is a must!!! No it is not a requirement, but you will be wishing you did it when you see everyone else in their costumes. We were so blessed to be able to borrow our costumes. Emmy’s costume had to be made, but we did that on a dime, too. Mrs. Stacy made the tutu and the bow, I made the onesie with a rhinestone iron-on that I found on clearance at Michaels for $2.99. We already had the leg warmers from Christmas, and I think she looked pretty cute!!! Rob’s costume was one I had made for Cade’s 4th birthday. We purchased the mask, then I made the rest from a consignment shop. I also made the crab claw. We had sold this costume to our friend, Tim in the Keys. When I called him to ask him if he still had it, he told me he would ship it to me. That’s what he did!!! He still had all of the pieces! If you have little girls, they are going to want to dress up like the princesses. Bring your own! They sell them in the shop for a whopping $75, and that does not include a crown, shoes or anything other than the dress. Pack one in your suitcase. You’ll be glad you did!
- Souvenirs- On the ship they have a shop or two. It is pretty much the same stuff you can buy in the parks. Kelly had given me some good advice to go to Walmart, the dollar store or anywhere else that may sell Disney paraphernalia. We got several items for Cade and SG, and had them on their pillows at night. SG thought it came from the characters. Cade is way too old for that (so he thinks.) My friend, Amanda, told me about the autograph options onboard. Per her suggestion, we bought pillowcases for each of the kids. Our friend, Robyn, put their names on them for us, along with the year (including the Mickey Ears.) We took them, along with a sharpie, to Guest Services once we got onboard. They had every single character sign the pillowcase, and had it waiting on their bed the last night. Stress Free!!!
SG’s and Emmy’s were the same and included the princesses. Cade’s was red with yellow embroidery, and he didn’t care to have the princesses on his:) This is something they can use and can have forever, for a total of $10 each!!! My sister did give each of my children spending money, so they were able to buy some things in Nassau and onboard. But that’s what Aunts are good for:)
This post is getting really long with lots of information. I will do a separate post tomorrow with additional tips and tricks to make your vacation as stress-free as possible!