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Guest Post: Hip Tips to Save on a Disney Cruise

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How to Take a Frugal Disney Cruise

Guest Post by Julie Harrington-Travel Planner

Think a Disney cruise is out of your budget? Well, think again!!! Below are some great ways to save money when booking your next cruise while still snagging all the same pampering perks as everyone else….

(Photo Credit: Free Gift Cards Guide)

* If you ever come upon discounted Disney Gift Cards at your local Warehouse store (i.e. Sam’s Club or Costco) or at your local grocery store, be sure to snatch them up! You can then use these cards to either pay for your cruise or you can deposit them in to your on board account.


* Will you be celebrating a birthday on board?! Instead of paying $49.99+ for the Birthday Celebration Package that includes a Happy Birthday door magnet, streamers, Happy Birthday banner, table decoration and a cake, consider putting together your own birthday party package (or a package for other special events) for a fraction of the cost. Just head to your local dollar store, grab some decorations and pack them in your suitcase. When you arrive to your stateroom and meet your stateroom host/hostess, you can pull them aside and ask them to put up the decorations during the nightly turn down service and surprise the member of your family that way. Your stateroom host/hostess will be more than happy to do this for you.

* Souvenirs?!? We all know how much those can cost and just how impersonal they can be. Here’s a creative idea if you’re looking for something unique, inexpensive and memorable. So put down that $25 water globe or $40 T-shirt! Instead, grab yourself a white pillowcase, photo mat or anything you can dream of (that is easy to pack), some colored sharpies (fabric markers if you are using fabric) and bring all these items to the Guest Services Desk on the first night of your cruise. Make sure you note your stateroom number. Then, on the last night of your cruise, you will have an autographed souvenir by all the Disney Characters waiting for you.  This service is completely free; however, I would encourage you to consider bringing a small thank you to the Guest Services Desk when you drop off/pick up your item to be autographed.

* Wow! Did you know that Disney Cruise Line is the ONLY cruise line that allows its guests to bring their own alcohol on board?! So if you like to have a few drinks, but don’t like to pay the high costs at sea, then you may want to consider this option. Just be sure that the amount of alcohol you are bringing can fit in a carry on size suitcase/bag and that the bag can fit through the security scan at the port terminal. There is no extra fee for this. The only fee connected to bringing your own alcohol is if you bring on a bottle of wine and want to drink it at dinner; you will then be charged a cork fee to have the bottle opened and used during your dining.


Calling all wine drinkers! During your Disney cruise, you will have the same dining servers/staff that will rotate to different restaurants throughout your cruise. The first night of your cruise, you will be offered a special wine package price which allows you to purchase 4 bottles of wine (Classic or Premium package) for 25% off the cost if you were to purchase each bottle separately each night. You can choose to drink as many or as few bottles per dinner. If you do not finish the bottle, you have the option to bring it back to your stateroom to finish or your dining team will have it ready for you to finish at your next night’s dinner. If you do not drink all 4 bottles, you are allowed to take home up to 2 bottles of unopened wine.

Do you have any hip tips to share? If so, please share them with us in the comments below!

(A BIG thanks to Julie Harrington-Travel Planner with Family Time Getaways for all these awesome tips! If you need help planning an upcoming Disney vacation, you can contact Julie via email julie@familytimegetaways.com or follow her on Facebook.)

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73 Hip Readers Commented

  • Misty says:

    I TOOK A DISNEY CRUISE LAST YEAR…..WE HAD A BLAST…

  • Collin, Thanks for letting me share these tips with your readers. I love being able to help budget savvy families make their vacation dreams come true.

  • Carnival also allows you to bring your own alcohol and soda. Here is an except from their guidelines (http://www.carnival.com/core/faq.aspx). “At the beginning of the cruise during embarkation day, guests (21 years of age and older) may bring on board one bottle (750ml) of wine or champagne, per person, only in their carry-on luggage…On embarkation day, each guest may bring a small quantity of non-alcoholic beverages on board and only in their carry-on luggage. A small quantity is considered a maximum of 12 bottles and/or cans, 20 ounces each or less.” Another way to save.

  • carla says:

    I’m not a drinker, but we went on a cruise with my in-laws, and my mother-in-law brought 2 bottles of wine on board. This was Carnival and it was allowed. So, I’m guessing the other cruise lines have taken Disney’s bring your own alcohol too. :)

  • Myrna says:

    Question,What do you consider a small Thank-you , I would not want to insult anyone.

  • Claudia says:

    If you are trying to stretch your vacation dollars, I don’t think a Disney cruise is the way to go. My family has cruised Disney, Carnival, and Royal Carribean. The Disney cruise was great, but so were the others. Both Royal Carribean and Carnival offer fabulous children’s programs, and the cost for the cruise was less than half of a Disney cruise for my family! We just didn’t see enough differences on Disney to justify their high prices.

    Also, Carnival does allow you to carry on wine, champagne, and soda, so the statement that Disney is the only line allowing alcohol is untrue.

    • Claudia, Thank you for your thoughts. You are right, there are other options for a family on a budget to take a vacation. Disney is just one of the many destinations to consider. If a family did want to go on a Disney cruise, these tips can help them save the extra money to be able to take that cruise.

      Also thank you for clarifying there was a mistake in the original post about bringing alcohol on board.

    • Deb says:

      Totally agree, Claudia.
      We’re a frugal fam-who isn’t these days? I’ve researched Disney but always found them to be over-priced.
      Carnival is just as fun & they have great ports of call too. There are numerous sites to begin researching. Have fun (on the cheap)!

  • Brittany E says:

    I have been on a Disney cruise and it was amazing. Some things to keep in mind before planning your trip…the mexican riveria is one of their cheaper cruises and often has great deals. My family of 4 went for 2,000 total. Pretty cheap. The off times are better to go if you can. Also, they periodically offer military rates if you are military so check into that! It was well worth the money and we had a blast!

  • Melanie says:

    We’ve taken our family twice on the Disney Cruise – there was something for every age (even mom and dad!) We loved all of it and plan to take one again – it really is the only way to cruise! We live in Tampa and have been able to get awesome Florida resident discounts – if you live in the Sunshine state, check it out! :)

  • lindsey says:

    We signed up for the Disney card before our trip to Disney World last year. When we signed up we got a $200 disney gift card (which our kids used as their spending money there) and you earn $1 for every $100 you charge. We’ve been putting everything on the card and paying it off each month. We started this in Feb and already have $112 toward our Disney cruise. They don’t expire for 5 years, so that’s the plan, 5 years a Disney cruise and a chunck paid for.

  • Mrspurple says:

    We are going to Disney world pretty soon (staying off site)… anyone have any last minute good suggestions? I am looking for deals on t shirts, pj’s, souvenirs, etc…

    • Mrspurple,

      Have you purchased your tickets yet? I can help with that if you would like. Disney store right now has a deal on pj’s. Check out their site. I think they are like 10.00$ Also if you go to the Walmart near Disney they have a HUGE section of souvenirs. There is even a store at Downtown Disney that has everything for $20 or less. Shoot me an email julie.harrington@mousetalestravel.com

    • Kathryn says:

      How ironic? So are we! We leave in 22 days! ahhhhh, so excited.

    • Melissa says:

      A big thing at Disney for the little kids is to get an autograph book for all of the characters to sign. You can often find these books and pens much cheaper at any of the souvenir stores outside of Disney and just carry them in with you. Also, in Disney they sell the spray fan water bottles. They keep them in ice, so they stay super cold during the day and when it is super hot, those spray bottles start to look very tempting. To save $$ and still have the luxury of a spray fan water bottle, buy one at Wal-mart before hand. Fill the water bottle 3/4 of the way full the night before and freeze it. When you wake up fill the rest of the bottle with water and take it with you. The ice melts throughout the day and keeps the water at a great temp to cool off throughout the day.

      • tabitha says:

        I found a princess one at walgreens for .50 with a pretty feathery pink pen—my daughter loved it! Love the spray bottle idea—def doing that :)

      • Candi says:

        I found small Disney spiral notebooks in the dollar section at Michaels and my kids used those at Disneyland.

    • Megan says:

      I love to get a silhouette picture of my daughter made. The silhouette artist is on Main Street before the bakery (at least they were in January) and I think there is also one at Epcot. It’s only about $10 for the picture and $10 for a frame (which I do recommend getting unless you can find an oval frame cheaper) and it’s unique.

      I also purchase the Disney Junior Animated Character Encyclopedia on Amazon and have the characters sign their page. Since it hasn’t been updated in a few years, some characters will be missing, but I just had them sign inside the covers which are blank. It’s fun to read about the characters and the pictures are fun to look at too.

      Also, I bought some Disney stuff before the trip and brought it with us. I pulled something out each day for my daughter and she loved it. She didn’t beg for us to buy her something constantly and I paid much less for the souvenirs than if I had purchased them at the parks.

    • mary says:

      oh you can buy the disney pins inexpensive on ebay

  • Rebecca says:

    We just went last month, it was fun but I DO NOT recommend bringing children under 3, childcare is $6.00 an hour, must be arranged in advance, and is more of a pain on the boat! -We went Disney Magic 5 day Caribbean!

  • Kathy says:

    Disney Rewards Program has a $10 Disney gift card reward for 1,000 points which can be used on the Disney Cruise. Thanks to Collin for letting us know whenever there are new Disney Rewards points.

    • CW says:

      Kathy I did exactly that! I got my card faster than the 6-8 weeks posted and just put it on my onboard account yesterday :)

  • Maggie H says:

    What rooming options would you suggest for a family of 6 (kids ages 16-7)? I am usually more confused after looking at their website. Also do they still have a cruise/theme park deal to do both?

    • Maggie,

      They do not over the land/sea package, but you can easily book a cruise and then book your Disney World part separately. It is very simple. For a family of 6 I would definitely go with either 2 oceanview rooms next to each other or 1 Verandah room and 1 inside stateroom across the hall. That way you get the luxury of the balcony but don’t need to pay for 2. Shoot me an email julie.harrington@mousetalestravel.com and I can get you some prices.

  • tabitha says:

    Disney cruises are the best for younger kids! We’ve been on Carnival & Royal Carribean also. A disney cruise is just magical—only ship that has fireworks (as far as I know). My daughter felt like a princess! We already booked another one & cannot wait! It was actually cheaper for us to get 2 rooms—we have a family of 5! If your kids are 10 and up then it is def smarter to do a different cruise line–but u can’t find a cruise like Disney for younger ones—the shows are amazing & they don’t have shows like that on other cruise lines. Movie theatre is definitely a great plus! The kids programs are awesome—my daughter loved Snow White’s visit teaching them the seven dwarfs dance—I couldn’t get my kids to leave—had to go hang out with them in there!! It is a whole different environment—no casino, not a lot of drinking or partying—def family oriented! This will be my third one :) I love the tips though—esp the autograph one—def doing that—thank you!

  • Jillo says:

    Just went on a Disney Cruise in Feb. It was well worth the extra $$$. Disney does everything right! We booked another one while onboard for next year. Can’t wait!

  • Latasha says:

    My parents said that when each grandchild turns 4, they want to take them to Disneyland (we’re in northern CA). My neice just went in February and my son will turn 4 in July 2013. I think a cruise would be more fun for our family (my son isn’t into rides) and wanted to look into it to get an idea on the cost to see if my parents would be interested in doing a cruise for a week vs. a trip to the park for 2 days.

    Where do these cruises start and end? If we had to travel to Florida to hop on a boat, it would cost us more than a trip to the park. I’m definitely interested in more info!

  • mgat5 says:

    Disneyland options… one child, parents plus one set of grandparents… when is the best time to travel? Off season months… when are they? Is it really cheaper to stay on-site? Thanks for the tips Julie!!

  • CW says:

    I have been on the Wonder, the Dream (twice) and I’m going on the Fantasy in a few days. We always book our next cruises on the ship itself because you not only get a discount (10%), you get a $200 onboard credit most of the time too! Disney cruises are a million times better in service than the other cruise lines. You pay for what you get. When we got off the Dream in the spring, we met a family who tried to do a cheap Carnival cruise. They were so disappointed in what Carnival didnt include and the kids activities are nothing like what is available on the Dream or Fantasy! They let you tour the kids areas before the muster drill and not one adult wants to leave the kids areas! Disney is far superior! My husband and I dont even have kids and we have never even heard a kid cry on 3 cruises regardless of being on the family beach, adult beach, later dinner, earlier dinner, etc. :) I also love that you’re not tripping over or dealing with drunk college students on a Disney cruise. You can enjoy the adult clubs and people have some level of responsibility on the ship.

    Tip – book a 4 day on the Dream instead of a 3 day. Every single time we’ve done the Bahamas, the weather did not cooperate. When you have a 4 (or 5) day, you have a bit of wiggle room if the Captain cannot dock the the ship at Castaway or Nassau due to weather. They will flip flop your itinerary and try to give you another shot at docking.

    Second Tip- if you do Remy’s for dinner (the 7 course adults only meal, $75 a person) and have kids, plan on at least 3 hrs or longer in child care. Its a long meal! None of us knew that when we got on the Dream when it was brand new. We were sitting amongst adult that only made 1 hr child care plans, lol.

    Third Tip – no one else has this…. on the Dream and Fantasy – RIde the Aqua Duck! A waterslide rollercoaster. FUN and not as rough as some of the ones at Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon.

  • I would love to plan a Disney cruise for our family of 6, but when I compare it to Carnival, it just cost too much. I’ve only found cruises for about $4000 on Disney whereas on Carnival I’m ale to find some that are $1200 for 7 nights.

  • Riley says:

    I have an insider’s tip for anyone planning on going to Disney World! I use to work for Disney’s YES program, and we tell everyone this. In order to help save on parking costs, you can park at the Caribbean Beach Resort at Old Port Royale. It’s completely FREE to park there because they have a restaurant and a small mall. No one will ever hassel you either because outsiders are free to come and shop or eat. Once you park there, just catch a bus to what ever park you are going to. I believe the busses come every 15 minutes, so you do not have to wait long (plus they are air conditioned) :) I hope this helps someone save a little bit of money on parking!

    • Riley,

      I would be careful suggesting this to people. Disney has always been very strict on parking at Resorts, even if those resorts have restaurants and shops. If you are not a resort guest you must park at the theme parks and pay for parking.

  • jessica says:

    Disney Cruises no longer allow you to bring things to guest services to be signed. The cast members were getting overwhelmed by the amount of things that people wanted them to sign.

    • Jessica,
      When were you on your last Disney Cruise. We just got off our cruise in April and had no problems getting our shirt autographed. Let me know when you were denied this service.
      Thanks

    • Cw says:

      We just got off the Disney Fantasy today. They still do take items at Guest Services on the ship. Do send them a thank you treat with the items. They deliver the item you give them to your stateroom the last night.

  • Karla says:

    2 more great saving tips. 1) Purchase Disney gift cards from Target using the Target Debit or credit card and you will get 5% Off each gift card. I saved about $500 on our cruise last month doing this. 2) Re-book on board, you save 10%, pay a reduced deposit and get on board credits on yoru next cruise.

    • tabitha says:

      so when you pay for your cruise you can use the gift cards to pay for it?

      • CW says:

        As long as the Disney Gift Card says valid on Disney Cruise Lines. I’ve gotten tons of them as gifts and used them for that.

      • Karla says:

        yes but keep the gift card. If you need to cancel or get anything refunded they wii put it back on the gift card. You can also use the gift cards to pay for any on board spending. Make sure the gift card does show DCL.

  • Marci says:

    How much is it per person to go on Disney cruise Im planning on taking some people on it with me i need to know how much it will cost per night for 10 people

  • pixietrips says:

    Marci.
    Feel free to email me julie.harrington@mousestalestravel.com. I would love to get you some pricing for this. Disney has also just released some great discounts and HALF off deposit promotion for their cruises.

    Thanks Julie

  • 11madman11 says:

    how are you?

  • Kathy Chevalier says:

    Wow, lots of great information here, thanks! Wish I’d seen the t-shirt idea a few years ago; my kids may be too old to want autographs on their shirt. ;-)
    We purchased our own wine before our Disney Alaska cruise to take on board, but we had a few days in Seattle to do so. This time we are leaving from Florida and won’t have as much time prior to sailing. It looks like Florida allows wine sales in grocery stores; do you happen to know if there one in the port area where we could go on Saturday morning?

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