While Disney Cruise Line can be shockingly expensive for some routes on some dates, it is possible to sail DCL on a relatively modest budget. For purposes of discussion, let’s set $3,000 as the maximum budget we have for our hypothetical Disney cruise trip.
Before I get started on how much the cruise portion of your vacation will cost, lets back up and discuss the cost of travel to and from your home to the port. Obviously this price will vary depending on where you’re coming from and the dates you’re traveling. I live in the New York City metro area. As this is a major metro area, I’m calling it a fair representation of the transportation costs you might encounter. Obviously, if you want to sail out of Florida and you live in Europe your air fees will be much higher and if you live in Central Florida, you’ll have no air travel costs. Even from New York, I could decide to drive and save a bit and so on with other bits of tinkering.
When I sail out of Port Canaveral, coming from New York, I can typically find flights from JFK or LaGuardia for about $300 round trip (sometimes a bit less, often a lot more, but again, we’re doing hypotheticals here). For a hypothetical party of two, that’s $600 in airfare. We also need to budget for transportation to/from the home airport or parking at the airport. In the New York area, this can be a major expense. I’m going to call it $150, but this could easily be more.
Let’s also budget about $150 for a hotel in Florida the night before the sailing (NEVER fly in the day of your cruise). Again, you might find a hotel for a few dollars less, or for hundreds of dollars more. Then you’ll need transportation from the Florida hotel or airport to and from the port. I’ve recently been able to find rental cars for about $80 per day, plus gas. Or DCL offers transfers for $39 per per each way to/from Orlando International airport and the Disney World resort hotels. Using either of these options puts us at about $160 for transfers. Don’t forget that you’re likely to have some minor food expenses during travel. (Ready to make plans? See Where to Stay Before Your Disney Cruise From Port Canaveral.)
In sum, a party of two is looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,100 in travel expenses coming from the New York area to Florida, before even pricing the cruise. If your total vacation budget is $3,000, you could easily be spending more than a third of this just on transportation.
Choose Your Port Wisely
If you’re on a budget (and isn’t everyone), choosing the right departure port can make a huge difference in your cruise vacation enjoyment. Most DCL cruises sail out of Florida ports, but not all of them do. In the United States, DCL sails at various times of the year from Port Canaveral, Miami (which will switch to Fort Lauderdale in late 2023), New Orleans, San Diego, and New York. DCL also sails Alaskan routes out of Vancouver, Canada, which is in driving distance from some Northwest US locations.
While most of my DCL sailings have involved air travel, I have also sailed several times out of the port of New York, about 20 miles from my home. Most recently, I sailed out of New York in October 2022. My husband and I walked with our rollaboard suitcases less than half a mile to the nearest commuter train station. We paid about $9.00 each for the train into the City. Then we walked about 1.5 miles from Grand Central station to the port. Our round trip transportation cost to/from our home and the port was less than $40.
Obviously choosing a departure port near your home can reap considerable travel savings leaving you more money to spend on your actual cruise.
The cost of a DCL sailing includes the price that you’ll be quoted by the DCL website or your travel agent, which includes DCL’s rate plus taxes and destination port fees. In addition to that cost, the only real non-negotiable fee is a baseline level of gratuity for the crew members who serve you closely in the dining rooms and your stateroom. While many guests choose to give more, the minimum suggested gratuity rate is $14.50 per guest, per night (this is the total amount, which is distributed among the relevant crew). So, two guests on a three-night sailing would pay $87 in gratuities. Two guests on a four-night sailing would pay $116 in gratuities. On a five-night sailing they’d pay $145, and so on.
Three and Four Night Sailings
With a $3,000 budget, minus likely somewhere in the $1,200-1,300 zone for travel and tips, that leaves about $1,700-1,800 for most parties of two guests to spend on their actual cruise. Note: the prices pictured below were available in late November 2022, prices vary.
And good news – there are plenty of two, three, and four night DCL cruises that fit the bill.
For example, many of the three-night Baja sailings of the Disney Wonder are priced under $1,500 for an inside stateroom. A few even have oceanview staterooms for less than $1,500. If you live in Southern California, you might have minimal travel expense and can easily sail for less than $2,000 total. Or, you can add items like fine dining, and port excursions and still keep your total well under $3,000.
Some three-night sailings of the Disney Dream and Disney Magic out of Miami are also well under $2,000 for an inside stateroom. One particularly interesting sailing is the May 24, 2023 three-night sailing of the Magic, which is currently priced at less than $1,500 for a party of two in a verandah stateroom.
You can also find some four-night sailings priced under $1,700 for a party of two in verandah rooms. Date flexibility is a huge factor when you’re looking sail inexpensively. In the example below, you can see that four nights on the Magic out of New Orleans will run $1,622 in a verandah room if you depart on February 27, 2023, but if you leave two weeks later, on March 9, even an inside stateroom will be $300 more than this.
After your departure port, the date of sailing can be one of the largest factors in determining the price of your cruise.
In addition to the many less expensive three and four night sailings on DCL, there are also a few 5 and 6 night sailings that a party of two can find for less $2,000 in an inside stateroom. These would allow for travel expensive and many some minor onboard perks to keep the total vacation spending under $3,000.
If air travel is not a factor, then several 5-night sailings also have oceanview rooms that would allow you to stay under budget.
You might even find a rare seven-night sailing for a party of two that skirts under $3,000 in an inside stateroom, which will keep you to budget if you don’t have travel expenses.
Disney’s Newest Ship
Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Wish, was launched in summer 2022. Is it possible to sailing this shiny new vessel for less than $3,000?
Yes, but just barely. The DCL website shows that prices for two guests on a three-night sailing on the Wish start at $1,823 in an inside stateroom, which as you can see below, are fully booked on some sailings. (The first sailing we found with availability at this price is on February 3, 2023.) If you live in the Southeastern US and can drive to Port Canaveral, then you can choose one of these sailings, pay your gratuities and the port parking fee, and still have a bit left over for fruity cocktails and a massage. If you’re past driving distance, you’ll likely have to spend a bit over $3,000 total for a vacation on the Wish.
We’ve seen that there are many options for DCL vacations under $3,000 for parties of two. What happens if you have a larger family?
As noted above, you’re likely looking at an extra $300 or so per person if you’re flying to your embarkation port, reducing the amount of your total budget that’s available for the cruise. With three people, if you need to fly to your cruise, the amount that’s left for the cruise itself is closer to $1,500 if you need to keep the total under $3,000.
There are some limited way to do this. For example, a three-night Baja-cruise would work in an oceanview room for a party of three (two adults plus one child under age 10).
The math starts to get much more challenging if you want to sail with a party of four. If you’re paying for airfare, then keeping to a total of less than $3,000 is likely prohibitive.
If you don’t have significant travel expense, then you can find some three and four night sailings for a party of four (two adults and two children under age 10) that are in the $2,000 range for an inside stateroom.
Putting two adults and two kids into an inside stateroom could be, in a word, torture. Inside staterooms are small. Like really, really small.
A much more sanity saving choice would be an oceanview, or ideally a verandah, stateroom.
The options for putting four guests into a verandah DCL stateroom for under $3,000 are few and far between, but they do exist. For example, the January 16, 2023, 4-night Baja cruise from San Diego on the Wonder lists a verandah stateroom for a party of four for $2,390. You won’t be able to do this entire trip for under $3,000 if you’re flying, but you can pay for port parking and crew gratuities and a few onboard extras if you live within driving distance.
Note: some of the lowest price sailings currently listed on the DCL website are two-nighters for two people on the Wonder sailing from ports in Australia. I’m not discussing these here because the vast majority of Touring Plans readers are in the U.S. or Canada and travel costs to Australia would eat the entirety of a $3,000 budget before even looking at a sailing.
Other fees that might come into your budget planning include add-ons such as trip insurance, alcoholic beverages or other specialty drinks, port excursions, adult dining, childcare in the nursery, spa or salon treatments, merchandise, or photo packages. With a total budget of $3,000, you’re not going to have much wiggle room for these extras.
Be sure to check out our post next week about what happens when your DCL budget increases to $5,000.
And if you’re looking for advice and planning assistance with any Disney Cruise Line sailing, be sure to check out the Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line or ask for a free quote from one of our expert travel agents.