Disney Cruise Line

10 Steps to Making a Budget for Your Disney Cruise

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Budgeting for a cruise…  I see a lot of questions about how to budget for your Disney cruise, but the good news is that it’s not as hard as you think.  I find budgeting for a cruise much easier than budgeting for a lot of trips.  One of the greatest unknowns for me when I budget a trip is food.  Are we going to be starving and willing to spend a lot?  Stuffed and just wanting to share meals? Or are we going to have ice cream for dinner? (No, I didn’t mean after dinner–I meant FOR dinner) There are just so many unknowns for food.  But not on a cruise!  Almost all food is included.  Easy!  So let’s look at the things you will need to budget for…

1. Cruise Cost – The first and most obvious thing you will need to budget for is your cruise. Your cruise cost will vary wildly based on how many people will be traveling, itinerary, stateroom category, and time of year. Luckily, this cost is the easiest to figure out.  You can go online today and get prices on current itineraries.  You should be able to go online very soon and find summer of 2019 itineraries.  You can also use our Fare Tracker to get an idea on past and current prices, not to mention to get an idea of whether you should book now or later!  Verdict – You’ll spend anywhere from $1,200 to $32,000.  (Maybe more if you’re going for the Roy Disney Suite on a longer cruise.  Let me know.  I’ll come visit.)

2. Insurance – Insurance on a cruise is an optional cost, but perhaps shouldn’t be. Trip insurance on a cruise is a must for me! I wrote a previous post on travel insurance and things to consider.  Disney’s insurance is approximately 8% of your cruise fare, so the cost is easy to figure once you have a cruise in mind.  As I discussed in the post mentioned above, there are other companies you can purchase insurance from, sometimes saving a great deal.  If your insurance starts rising above $1,000, I’d definitely recommend looking at other options.  But however you get it, do get it.

3. Travel Costs – Your travel costs will also vary depending on how you are getting to the port, so here are some things to consider. If you are driving, you are budgeting for gas, food, and maybe even tolls along the way. If you’re flying then you are budgeting for plane tickets, bag fees (if applicable), and that Starbucks you always get in the airport.  If you are flying or driving a long distance, I recommend coming in at least one day before, or getting close enough for a short drive the day of.  In that case, you will need to add the cost of a hotel to your budget.  If you drive you will need to budget in the cost of parking your car at the port or a local hotel.  If you fly, you will also want to budget for parking at the airport and transfers to get to the port.  Those will vary based on which port you are going out of and whether you decided to rent a car, Uber, or take official transfers.  I have a blog post to help with that planning as well!

4. Gratuities – This is an easy one once you have your cruise picked out. Standard gratuities are charged to your onboard account on a Disney cruise and are paid to your Server, Assistant Server, Head Server, and Stateroom Host or Hostess. The total paid to all four positions works out to $12 per guest per night.  That’s for every guest no matter how big or small, no matter how much they did or didn’t eat in the main dining rooms, and no matter how dirty or clean they left their room.  Often the people in these positions do such a great job you’ll want to throw in a little more.  Other gratuities are much smaller amounts and are for things like room service, bar tabs, bag handling, etc.  I wrote a blog post with tips on tipping that will give you some ideas on the cost for this one.

5. Upcharge Dining – Whereas most food on board is completely and totally included in your fare, you will have a few opportunities to spend money on food if you so choose. Room service is mostly included, with the exception of a few pre-packaged snacks and drinks that are clearly marked. While there are often free snacks in the lounges, there are also a few upcharge items like pretzels and sliders. The Dream and the Fantasy have ice cream shops with amazing ice cream and gelato. (But don’t worry–soft serve ice cream is still available for free on all four ships.) The two most obvious upcharges for dining would be Palo and Remy, which are the two adult-only upcharge restaurants.  Palo has brunch and dinner options, and either meal will cost you $30 per person plus a gratuity.  Remy (found only on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy) has several options, dinner with and without the wine pairing, champagne brunch, dessert experience, and a tasting tour.  Depending on what you choose, those will cost you between $50 and $200 per person plus gratuity.  To sum up, food and dining can cost you anywhere from zero dollars to a few hundred.  You are in control of that one.

6. Drinking  In the same way, whereas there are a ton of free drinks on board and you are never in danger of dehydration, you may find yourself wanting to spend money on drinks. You can drink your weight in soda on a Disney cruise and not pay a dime extra, but if you order canned soda from room service or soda from a bar, you will be charged. If you are picky about your coffee, you may also skip the free coffee on board and budget for some specialty coffee.  For the kids, there are upcharge smoothies that can be purchased. There’s a fantastic additional cost juice bar in Senses on the Dream and Fantasy for all you health-conscious cruisers. You’ll also find a few opportunities for free alcohol on a Disney cruise, but if you imbibe, you will probably want to budget from some onboard drinking.  Depending on how much you like to imbibe, you may want to budget a healthy amount here!

7. Excursions – Believe it or not, you have a lot of control over how much you spend on excursions. I have gotten off in a port before and spent exactly $0, and I have gotten off in a port before and spent several hundred. On shorter cruises, many guests choose to stay on board and enjoy some more time on the ship.  Cost of that?  Well that’s included!  Many of the ports Disney ships frequent have a little shopping area right at the port if you want to just get off and walk around without necessarily spending any money.  You can also save money with “do it yourself” excursions including taking a taxi to the nearest beach, or booking directly with outside vendors.  Now if you want to go the official excursion route, you’ve definitely got some great options, and the costs are on Disney’s website, so it’s super easy to budget.  Add a little to that amount for a gratuity for the tour guide/driver and you’re all set!

8. Extra Activities – There are a few more activities on board that you may want to budget for. If you are a spa person, you will want to spend some time in Senses Spa on board. The current prices for most treatments are on Disneycruise.com.  If you enjoy a little alcohol while on board, you may want to budget for a mixology class or tasting!  You can budget $20-$35 per person per event for those.  If you are traveling with children who will want a princess or pirate makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, budget for that as well!  If you are traveling with a little one under 3, you may want to budget for the nursery while you are doing some of these extra activities!  “it’s a small world” nursery is $9 an hour for the first child, and $8 an hour for an additional child in the same family.

9. Internet – Ah the internet on board. First ask yourself if you really need it. It is, after all, a vacation!  Regardless, get your free 50mb on the first day, lock down your phone, and use it very sparingly.  If you do need/want additional internet data (and hey, it’s your vacation, so you do you!), here are some prices for you:  pay as you go is $.25 per MB which can add up very quickly.  I’d recommend one of the packages.  A 100 MB package is $19, a 300 MB package is $39, and a 1000 MB package is $89.  I have a blog post on how to use the internet efficiently and not rack up unnecessary data charges.

10. Souvenirs – Everyone needs a souvenir from their vacation right? Okay, maybe “need” isn’t the right word here. I’m guessing most people come home with some kind of souvenir though!  Disney is never one to leave a dollar on the table, so you’ll find plenty of options for souvenirs on board.  There are stores full of clothes, toys, stuffed animals, purses, jewelry, and more.  Set yourself a budget here and stick to it!  Photos are a great souvenir, and there is no shortage of photo opportunities on board.  The professional photos are not cheap, but most are well done.  A digital file of all your photos is available and the price is based on the length of your cruise.  That deal starts around $200 and goes up from there.  You can find your price here, and save a little bit by pre-purchasing.  You can also buy individual photos, or smaller packages, on board for around $15 and up.  If you are happy with your own camera, you can always take your own, or get a character handler, or even the guest behind you in line to take one for you with your camera!

Can you think of anything I left out?  Let me know in the comments!

Tammy Whiting is the owner of Storybook Destinations. Did you know Storybook Destinations offers a complimentary subscription to TouringPlans with qualified Disney and Universal bookings? Click here for a no-obligation quote on your next vacation.

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Tammy Whiting

Tammy has been a lover of all things Disney for most of her life. There’s nowhere on this Earth she’d rather be than on a Disney cruise with her family. She’s a Space Force wife and proud mom of two wonderful children and one beautiful daughter-in-law . She fulfilled a lifelong dream in 2008 and became a travel agent specializing in Disney vacations. She now owns her own travel agency - Storybook Destinations. You can reach Tammy at Tammy@StorybookDestinations.com.

4 thoughts on “10 Steps to Making a Budget for Your Disney Cruise

  • I just wanted to give an additional “yes” to trip insurance. While on our Disney cruise my wife came down ill and spent a few hours in the shipboard medical facility (which is a first class emergency department by the way). The bill was a little over $600 which was billed to our room. We submitted the claim for the insurance and were reimbursed within 2 – 3 weeks. Also remember most cruises need to be paid in full at least 90 days prior to sailing. Anything can happen in that time and cancellations are covered as well (depending on insurance options).

  • I well understand wanting to control costs on an expensive vacation. But we learned the hard way that budgeting $0 for extra activities and excursions is a way to be disappointed with the whole enterprise, especially when it comes to port experiences. Be judicious – some of the classes are only $25 but they give you more than $25 in quality materials and you’re still spending less than the $125 + for the wonderful spa. Check out the sites that review excursions. We’ve found lots of delightful 4 Star excursions that cost $60 or less and had a great time despite not shelling out $250+ for other tours.

    • That’s great input, Kathryn! I agree, you can get some great excursions that are reasonably priced. 🙂


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