Disney Cruise Line has given our family a whole new way to vacation. After sailing Disney for three amazing, magical voyages, I have a much better idea of how much value you REALLY get with a Disney Cruise! The idea of booking my cruise, and then not HAVING to spend anymore once I get onboard is amazing! And while I am a sucker for a new DCL Tervis, or an exclusive Pandora bead from that ship, it is fantastic to know that we can have a perfectly awesome vacation without spending a single cent onboard. I am going to share my tips for how to stretch your money and get the most out of your experience on your next Disney Cruise.
Book your ship and sail date as far in advance as you possibly can. I cannot stress the importance of this enough! If you want lock in the best cruise fare, the cabin type you want, and work payments into your budget, you absolutely must book ASAP. Disney Cruise Line does not offer discounts like they do for Disney Magic Your Way packages in the parks. If so, they are to a very limited group of guest, such as Active Military, Florida Residents, and sometimes Canadian Residents. So, in order to get the best cruise fare, book it sooner rather than later. The farther you are from your sail date, the better your fare will be. Let me use my own cruise as an example. We booked our first cruise in February of 2015, very shortly after itineraries for January of 2016 were released. We locked in a rate of $3072 for a Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah for our family of 5. If I had waited to book that same voyage until late September, my total would be $3710! I saved $700 by booking my cruise as early as possible.
Board your Disney Cruise ship as early as you can. Boarding begins around 11:30AM. Your boarding time is determined by several factors-mainly how you are getting to the cruise port, and what boarding group you are assigned. During the Online Check In process, you can choose your Port Arrival Time. This is NOT synonymous with when you will board the ship. Our personal preference is to choose a time around 1PM. We have done this on all our cruises, and it works well. By that time of day, the terminal is fairly empty. We are not waiting in a long line to get our Key to the World Cards, and we are not separated into a boarding group. We check in, and literally walk right on. We go straight to Cabanas for lunch, and then go to our stateroom or the pool, and start getting settled before dinner. Also, be sure to have your swimsuits packed in a day bag. There are changing facilities and you can begin using the pools as well. Want to explore the ship and sign up for activities? You can do that before you leave port as well! One great way to get more for your money is to embark as soon as possible so you can start using the ship’s amenities and have lunch!
Book your next Disney Cruise while onboard. Disney Cruise Line offers great incentives when you book your next cruise on board. For a $250 deposit, you can book a Placeholder Cruise. This means that you have 24 months to use that placeholder, or your $250 is refunded. The other option is to book an actual itinerary while you are onboard. This gives you the same onboard booking benefits as the placeholder. You will get an onboard credit to use toward your next sailing, a reduced deposit, and a percentage off your cruise fare. I am of the mindset to NEVER get off a Disney Cruise ship without at least a placeholder for a future sailing!
Book the least expensive stateroom option for your family. Far and away, Inside Staterooms are the least expensive on most Disney Cruise Line ships. These rooms are interior of the ship, meaning there are no windows to the outside . However, the magical aspect of these rooms, is the Real Time Porthole. Sometimes you’ll see your favorite fish, Nemo, floating right by your magical porthole! These are great for smaller families. They can also be a great option for families of 5 or more who require two staterooms. Rooms are priced based on category, which is location and room type on a cruise ship. The great thing about a cruise is you can choose exactly the room you want, and lock it in!
What items can I bring onboard to save some money? First, bring your own travel mug onboard. The cups they give you at the drink stations are sort of small, and using your own cup is more convenient. Second, bring your own Pirate Night outfits. You can schedule a family night at the Pirates League to get everyone dressed up. But, go with the red/white/black color scheme, some bandanas and patches from the Dollar Store, and you are all set! Also, bring your own princess dresses. Like the Disney Parks, there are characters all around the ship. Little girls can visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, if your ship has one, but it’s cheaper to dress her in her own dress and put some sparkles in her hair! Disney Cruise Line also allows guests to bring aboard their own alcohol. It is in limited quantities, and types, but still. Bringing your own aboard can be much cheaper than buying it onboard!
There are so many other ways to get the most out of your money on Disney Cruise Line. When are you setting sail on a magical voyage?