It’s that time of year when we are all thinking about money! Oops, I mean gift giving! But money is usually a part of that right? So let’s talk money onboard a Disney Cruise.
I am often asked how much money you should budget to spend onboard. My answer is – that totally depends. I’ve been on cruises where my final bill was over $1000, and I’ve been on cruises where my final bill was $11. How much you spend onboard will truly be up to you.
Note that I am not including gratuities in this discussion. Gratuities are an unavoidable expense (unless you are truly channeling the spirit of Scrooge), but you can prepay them before you board. See my Tips on Tipping blog post for some clarification there.
So let me try to help you plan! Here are 10 ways Disney Cruise Lines tries to tempt you into spending even more onboard!
1. Excursions – The first chance to spend money onboard actually starts before you even get onboard! You can book excursions online as soon as your booking window opens, and they will be charged to your onboard account. You can cancel your excursions up until 3 days prior to your cruise departure date. If you change your mind onboard, Disney will often let you change excursions as long as the price stays the same or goes up. Depending on the ports you are visiting, you could drop a lot of dough here. The operative word there is “could”. Excursions are in no way mandatory and there are other options. Many ports have nearby beaches you could take a taxi to and/or fun towns to walk around in. You could also book excursions directly with the tour operators and save money that way. Finally, you could just stay onboard! You’re on a beautiful ship with plenty to do! Nobody is making you get off! Well not until the end anyway. Sadly, I can promise you that they will make you get off on the end.
2. Souvenirs – The second most tempting thing for me to spend money on is souvenirs! Although the ship doesn’t have a lot of space for stores, they make good use of what they have! You’ll find watches, jewelry, pins, Vinylmations, Dooney and Bourke, Vera Bradley, Nike, Tommy Bahama, costumes, stuffed animals, and just about any article of clothing you could ever need with a Mickey theme. There are also Duty Free sections if that’s your thing! It’s amazing how many things you can convince yourself you need as you roam around these stores. How many Mickey purses does one person need? A lot apparently. One other souvenir opportunity to be aware of is your child’s band from the Oceaneer club. They’re pretty cute and you can keep them for a small fee. They also unlock exclusive content on Disney Infinity!
3. Photos – Photo ops abound onboard and Disney has their photographers there to help you out. Photographers are at most character meet and greets, out around the ship on sea days, in the restaurants, and even on some Disney excursions. They also frequently set up with professional backdrops. The official photographers are not allowed to use your camera to take pictures, but there is always someone around who you can pass a camera to, like the character attendant or the next person in line. They do a good job! Disney does sell packages of prints or digital files but they’re expensive! You can save a little by pre-ordering online. You could also just resolve to only buy a select few of your favorites once onboard. No matter how adorable little Johnny looks when he’s hugging Mickey, do you really need 5 different pictures of it?
4. Food – Doesn’t it seem silly to spend money on food when you are on a cruise ship that’s overflowing with free food? It does to me! The only food I recommend spending money on once you board is Palo and Remy (with the possible exception of Vanellope’s which I discuss below). They’re both worth every penny! But be aware, there will be other opportunities to lighten your wallet. Whereas room service is free for the most part, there are a few items like packaged snacks and canned drinks that cost extra. There are also popcorn, snacks, and drinks sold outside the theaters. The Disney Dream recently added a couple of new spending opportunities – Vanellope’s Sweets and Treats and bar food with a charge in 687. I actually wanted to try the bar food at 687 and never found an opportunity to be hungry enough for it! Especially when there were free snacks right outside 687 late night when those hunger pains start. We also wanted to try Vanellope’s and passed on dessert at dinner one night so we could. It was quite yummy, and there are enough tempting sweets there that they may be hard to pass up for an entire cruise. But seriously. There is free food everywhere. If you’re spending much on food, you’re doing it wrong.
5. Internet – Internet onboard is not cheap! My first piece of advice is – unplug!! You’re on a cruise for Pete’s sake! But I fully understand the need to update social media from time to time, so I have spent too much on internet myself. Make sure you sign up for the free 50 MB of data on the first day, turn off everything that will use unwanted data, and take advantage of free Wi-Fi in ports and you can keep this cost down! Pro tip: as soon as you board, go visit the Internet Help Desk and ask them to help you turn off all the ways your smart phone or pad can leak data. Believe me, there are a lot of ways your 50 MB of free data will disappear unintentionally the first time you connect your phone!
6. Alcohol and Specialty Drinks– Alcohol bills can really add up. That Drink of the Day is not free! If you imbibe, you may want to take advantage of Disney’s alcohol policy (revised as of September 30). Each guest age 21 or older may bring on two bottles of unopened wine or champagne or 6 beers (12 oz or smaller). You will be charged a $25 corking fee if you bring a wine bottle to dinner. You can restock under the same conditions at each port. You can also pay for specialty coffees at Cove Café and other locations (standard coffee remains free at the drink stations and in the dining rooms). If you pay for your entire cruise with a Disney Visa you may qualify for a $50 onboard credit from them that can only be used for specialty drinks (alcoholic or otherwise), so make sure to call and get that applied or have your travel agent do it!
7. Classes – Speaking of alcohol -there are a few alcohol-related classes onboard that may or may not just be an excuse for cheap drinks. On boarding day you can sign up for various beverage seminars that take place throughout the cruise. Choices may include wine tastings, mixology, beer tastings, chocolate tastings (with alcohol pairings), etc. The prices are usually quite reasonable for these seminars starting at $20.
8. Spa – All spa treatments onboard are extra. If you’ve dreamed of a massage at sea, or maybe a haircut before formal night, you will pay extra for those. If you’re not sure it’s for you, take a tour of the spa the first afternoon and see if anything appeals to you. If you don’t want to spend any extra on it, stay far far away. That’s not hard.
9. Onboard Activities – There are a couple of other activities onboard that cost extra like the sports simulators on the Dream and Fantasy and the arcades that are still on the Fantasy and the Wonder. The arcades have been taken out on the Magic and Dream, so I would be surprised if they survive the upcoming dry-docks for the Fantasy and Wonder, so these probably won’t threaten your wallet much longer. As for the sports simulators, check them out on the first afternoon onboard when they are often free.
10. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and Pirates League – The Dream, Fantasy, and Magic now all have a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique that transforms into a Pirates League on the day of Pirate Night. If your little ones want to be made over as a princess, knight, or pirate, you will want to budget a little extra for here! And make sure you book it online as soon as you can. It’s quite popular!
Bonus – One last thing you may spend money on while onboard – your next cruise! If you rebook your next cruise while onboard you will save 10% off the cruise fare, only pay a 10% deposit on cruises of 7 nights or more, and get an onboard credit on that next cruise. If you’re not sure of the date for your next cruise, or it hasn’t been released yet, you can book a placeholder cruise for $250 to lock in the benefits for the next two years.
So did I forget anything? Do you have any questions? Just ask!
Tammy Whiting is the owner of Storybook Destinations Travel. 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.