Saving money aboard a Disney cruise

Mom Dad Daughter beachIn a previous post, I covered ways you can save money when booking your Disney cruise. Here are a few more ideas for saving money while aboard.

Keep it simple. A friend who took the western Caribbean cruise booked an excursion at every port—and regretted it. Excursion costs tend to be high, particularly if you book with the cruise line, and they often aren’t necessary to have a great time. We booked just one real excursion, a day-long snorkel trip, that we found using TripAdvisor. We also bought the “extreme getaway” package for Castaway Cay (a “stingray adventure” and rental of snorkel equipment, bikes and floats) which turned out to be extreme overkill. I was the only one to ride a bike, and nobody took advantage of the floats. The stingray encounter was cool, though, and Disney’s snorkel garden is not to be missed.

Another option at most ports is to simply wander off the boat and try to arrange an excursion, but our experience is that the best providers are often booked up by the time the ship arrives.

Don’t save at another’s expense. Disney adds $12 per person per day to cover tips for the people who clean your stateroom, serve your meals and keep the ship looking tidy. That added up to $336 for our party of four. You can add to this tip amount—we did—plus you’ll also need tip money for:

  • porters who help you with your bags at the port,
  • your guides on excursions and
  • the waiters who bring room service and who serve you at the adult-only restaurants.

Don’t like to tip? There’s a simple solution: don’t cruise. There are plenty of do-it-yourself vacations where you can reduce or eliminate tipping. When you cruise, though, tips are part of the package and an essential supplement to the low wages most cruise workers earn.

Beware the budget busters. Unlike most other cruise lines, Disney doesn’t charge extra for sodas at meals—but it does charge for alcohol, and that can add up fast. Visits to the spa can add several hundreds of dollars to your bill, as can professional photography and Disney souvenirs.

You can choose to eschew these extras or budget for them in advance. For example, we set a $15-per-day limit for spending for our tween daughter and her friend that they used for popcorn (movie snacks are extra), stuffed animals and pins (trading Disney pins on board with cruise employees and other guests was a favorite activity). My husband and I also bought week-long passes to the spa, which was well worth the charge of about $100 per person. We ate at the adults-only restaurants Palo ($35 per person supplement) and Remy ($85 per person) and enjoyed them immensely.

You can use your stateroom key to charge just about anything you want to buy to your room, which is convenient and dangerous at the same time. The guest services desk will give you printouts of your bill any time you ask so that you won’t be surprised by how very much these add-ons add up by the end of your trip.

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