Saturday, March 19, 2011
Budgeting For A Disney Cruise--Part 1
Since we are in the process of budgeting for a Disney cruise, I thought I would share our thoughts on how a Disney Cruise can be economical!
Vacation expenses typically fall into a few categories: Planning, Getting There and Back, Entertainment/Activities, Lodging, and Food. Other categories might be souvenirs, photos, access to Internet or connectivity, tipping, and possible deposits on future travel. So, let’s get started. . .
Planning—for us, this category is mostly taken care of via the information on the web. We do purchase an updated PassPorter Field Guide (click here to read more about PassPorter’s Guide to Walt Disney World) to the Disney Cruise Line each year and take it with us on our cruise. Having the guide with us has helped us pick out our stateroom when we rebook on board as it has a layout of all the staterooms on the ship. It has also helped us pick out alternative port adventures or excursions in case of cancellations, as a description of each port adventure is included in the guide. Our costs for this category are minimal.
Getting There and Back: For us, this involves flying and most of the time, we fly AirTran—click here to read why. We have found economical fares for non-stop flights at a nearby airport. Now, Disney can and will offer to book your flights for you. We did this for our first Disney Cruise and found ourselves flying at 6:00 am the day before our cruise (we asked to fly the day before) and the cost was more expensive than if we had found flights for ourselves. We paid $766 total, for the 3 of us to fly for our next trip on non-stop flights. Those same flights today are $946, so we booked them just in time! Add on a $25 bag fee for each of us, times 2 to include the fee for our return trip, and you have our total. The last time we flew AirTran, we had enough A+ points for a free upgrade to business class and there was no baggage fee for our flight with the upgrade. AirTran’s A+ rewards is one of the quickest to get rewards for its customers. Another reason we are loyal!
This category might also include a hotel stay either before flying or after flying. Depending on the times of our flights, we may book a “Park ‘n’ Fly” room at a hotel nearby the airport. A “Park ‘n’ Fly” stay allows the guest to park their car at the hotel while traveling and the hotel will shuttle you to/from the airport. We have found rate for around $60 and depending on the length of your stay, a fee to park at the airport could well exceed the cost of the hotel. For us, the “Park ‘n’ Fly” pays for itself in recouped airport parking fees!
Since we usually fly the day before the cruise, there is the cost of a hotel prior to embarkation. We have found the Hyatt at the Orlando International to foot the bill for us—click here to read more. Here’s why: It is convenient! No shuttles, no dragging luggage everywhere. Just pick up bags at baggage claim and head upstairs to check in. Tell them you are cruising with Disney the next day, put your cruise bag tags on your luggage and leave them right inside the door of your hotel room, check out, go downstairs to catch the bus to the port, and discover your luggage outside your stateroom on the ship. Can it get any easier than that?
Another fee in this category is transportation to and from the port. While Disney’s Magical Express to/from Orlando International and the Walt Disney World Resort is free, there is a fee for transfers to/from the port. The cost is $69 per person. A town car service would be about $200, so for a family of 3, the cost is a wash as to whether or not to use Disney transfers. A family of 4 or more, it would be more cost effective to use a car service.
Entertainment and Activities: Here’s where it gets even better on a Disney Cruise! All shipboard activities and entertainment are included in the cost of your cruise. And, believe me there is plenty to do on board—click here to read about Personal Navigators. The only exceptions would be Port Adventures or Excursions, Spa services, and any on-board activities that have a minimal fee such as wine tasting.
We’re talking about Broadway caliber shows nightly and activities for kids, families, and adults almost around the clock.
We have an idea of our Port Adventures for our upcoming cruise and have saved them under our reservation on the My Disney Cruise portion of the Disney Cruise Line web-site. A complete list of excursions, including costs, is available on the site. We can’t reserve them yet, as you can’t reserve until your cruise is paid in full and your booking window opens. Your booking window depends on your Castaway Club Level—click here to read more. If you are a Platinum Level and your cruise is paid in full, you can reserve your Port Adventures 120 days in advance of your cruise. At Gold, you can reserve at 105 days if paid in full, and Silver Level’s booking window opens at 90 days if paid in full. New to Disney Cruise Line? Then your booking window opens at 75 days in advance if paid in full.
We are Silver Level Castaway Club members, so our booking window will open at 90 days in advance of our cruise. Since the window opens at Midnight Eastern time, I just stay up a bit late the night before, and reserve our excursions on-line. It's easy, as they are already saved under My Disney Cruise on the web-site using our confirmation number. A few clicks, and we are reserved. This can be important, as some Port Adventures are very popular and fill up quickly. Spa treatments and Palo/Remy reservations can be made at the same time as reserving Port Adventures.
Lodging: Included in the cost of your cruise. This is one area where you can go more economical or splurge depending on the category of your stateroom. Rest assured that you get the same friendly service no matter the category of your stateroom. If you select a suite or concierge level stateroom, then of course the level of service is more customized.
Food: Again, included in the cost of your cruise. Room service is also included! In addition to the main restaurants on board there are also quick food service locations for quick meals and snacks and the beverage station which are all included in the cost of your cruise.
Additional costs would be alcohol, specialty drinks such as smoothies, and having certain drinks delivered with room service. When we order room service for breakfast, juice and milk are free, but if I added a Diet Coke to the menu, there would be an additional charge for the soda.
Also, cruisers wishing to dine at Palo--an adult only restaurant on the Disney ships, there is an additional per person charge. There is also an addition charge to dine at Remy, an adult only restaurant on the Disney Dream.
I think I have written this before, but there is no easier place to feed a kid than on a Disney Cruise. One afternoon the boy was swimming and said he was hungry. Within 2 minutes he had a cup of milk and slices of pizza. One of my favorite memories was eating calamari while sunning on deck 10 of the Disney Magic!
So far, a Disney Cruise can be as expensive as you want or economical depending on the category of your stateroom, how much alcohol you want to purchase, and the Port Adventures you want to take.
I’ll cover the other potential cost categories in another post.