Thinking about a Disney cruise? Read this.

Mom daughter cruise worldIf your kids aren’t bugging you about taking a Disney cruise, then either you don’t have kids or they can’t talk yet. The idea that any child would be immune from Disney’s marketing might is hard to fathom.

Disney cruises are pricier than most others for good reason, as I explained this week in my Reuters column “How to get a Disney cruise for less.” Disney markets to families but aims for a luxury experience several cuts above the bargain brands. The company also uses demand pricing, so fares tend to go up over time, not down.

We took our first Disney cruise last month after (of course) extensive research and reading just about every “tips and tricks” article I could find. We scored a decent deal on our fare, but we also made a mistake or two—so I hope you can learn from those as well.

Here’s what we learned:

Go when others can’t. Most families have to book during school breaks. If you can go later or earlier, you can get lower fares. Our fare for two adults and two tweens in a stateroom with a balcony was about $6,000 for a 7-night eastern Caribbean route at the end of August, when many kids are already back at school. The Dec. 19 sailing for the same cruise costs twice that. (Actually, fares currently range from about $9,700 for an inside stateroom to about $31,000 for a one-bedroom concierge suite).

Inside is okay. While the veranda was nice, Disney’s inside cabins may be a better deal since you’ll spend far more time outside of your stateroom than in it. Inside cabins are usually the first to sell out, though, so you’ll need to plan in advance.

Check for deals. Mousesavers, an excellent tip site for all things Disney, keeps a running list of “Great Dates” that offer especially good fares.

Consider shorter cruises. The per-night cost tends to shrink when you take longer cruises. But the 3- and 4-night itineraries can give you a taste of Disney cruising for less overall. The Caribbean and Bahamas routes include a stop at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas that’s a real highlight.

Take the bus (or a limo). Disney figured out that one of the biggest downers of cruising (and traveling in general) is dealing with the luggage. So if you book their transfer service, they’ll whisk your bags from the airport baggage claim to your stateroom while your family rides to the port on a luxury bus. The cost is $70 per person, though, so I tried to save a few bucks by renting a car. The one-way rental cost was less than $75, but picking up and dropping off the vehicle would have been a major hassle even if I hadn’t run into a massive traffic jam caused by a brawl at another rental car company. If bus travel isn’t your thing, another option to consider is a private sedan or limo. (Again, Mousesavers has recommendations.)

I have a few more tips for saving money once you’re on the ship that I’ll post later this week.


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