Not-so-hidden costs on your Disney Cruise Line vacation

 


 

By Leah Zanolla

When you start looking into the possibility of a Disney Cruise, one of the first things to consider is the price and if you can afford it.  Most people just look at the cost of the actual cruise, but there are a few other incidentals that you may want to add to your budget or decide if you can live without.

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Transportation

I discussed transportation options here, so make sure to check that out if you’re not sure how you would get to port.  As far as "hidden costs," it really depends on what mode of transportation you choose.  If you drive your own car, you’ll have to pay for parking and possibly hotels, depending on how far you live from port.  When renting a car, in addition to the cost of the car, other costs could include insurance, car seats, tolls and gas.  Other transportation options are a town car service or an official Disney Cruise Line transfer, both of which are an additional expense.

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Additional costs once onboard

Photos

There are a ton of photo opportunities onboard the ship.  You’ll have the chance to meet Disney characters, dress up for formal night, meet the ship’s officers and pretend you’re a pirate at the Pirates IN the Caribbean deck party.  There are official photographers who will be on hand at all these events, ready to snap that perfect picture of you and your family making memories.  These photos are available for purchase, either as individual prints or as part of a photo CD package.  You are always welcome to take photos with your own camera, so it’s up to you whether or not you want to buy the professional photos.  Some cruisers may like not having to worry about carrying a camera around and just leave the photos to the professionals.  The good thing is that you don’t have to decide ahead of time; there are kiosks around the ship where you can check out your photos any time you want.  If you decide at the end of the cruise that you like enough of the ship’s photos, you can go ahead and purchase them then.

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Drinks

Depending on your style of cruising, this category can quickly add up.  You can purchase bottled sodas and water on the ship, but that's not a necessity.  There are drink stations available on the pool deck, offering soda, water, coffee and hot chocolate.  These are open anytime, so one way to save money is to head up there whenever you’re thirsty.  My family actually prefers to choose a stateroom that is near the rear of the ship so that we’re close to the elevator and can run up and get drinks whenever we want.  This saves us from purchasing any additional beverages.  Alcoholic drinks are not included in your cruise cost, so any of these purchases will be added to your onboard account. Disney Cruise Line does allow alcohol to be brought onboard their ships; read that policy here.  Drinks from the adult coffee bar, such as specialty coffees and teas, are available at an extra charge.  Mixology and tasting seminars are also available for an additional fee.

Nursery

This one was a surprise to us as we started planning our first cruise.  You do have to pay for children to cruise (there's a child rate for ages 3-12 and kids 2 and under pay 50% of that rate), but you also have to pay a per-hour babysitting fee for children under 3 who are utilizing the nursery.  We just assumed that this was included with their fare, similar to the kids’ clubs for older children.  The cost for nursery care is $9 per hour with a 2-hour minimum, with an additional children being $8 per hour. Babies and toddlers will generally require quite a bit more care than the older kids, so the more I’ve thought about it, the charge makes sense.  However, it’s something I didn’t realize at first, so if this is a service your family will use, you’ll need to add this to your budget, as it can quickly add up.

Snacks at the movies and evening shows

Food on Disney Cruise Line is included in your cruise fare, but the pre-packaged snacks sold outside the theaters are not.  There is a concession stand that sells candy, popcorn and drinks.  It’s easy to just hand the crew member your Key to the World card to charge some candy, but this can add up if you do it very often (or if your child has charging privileges!).  You do have the option of bringing candy from home if you wish.  We bring a travel mug with us and just fill it up on the pool deck before heading to a movie.  With all the food and drinks available for free, this is a cost that is easily avoided, but may help to know about it in advance.

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Souvenirs

This one is probably the most obvious.  It’s hard to resist bringing home some kind of keepsake of your Disney voyage, so make sure to plan ahead and set a budget in advance.  My husband loves the look of the Disney Cruise Line logo, especially on their polo shirts, so before a cruise, he looks through his closet to see if he needs to replace any and just as a reminder of what colors are already in his closet.  Then when he gets on the ship, he is less tempted to buy too much and go over our souvenir budget.  If you’re traveling with kids, it may be helpful to let them know what their budget is ahead of time.  The good thing is that you’re on the ship for a few days, so you won’t have to make purchases right away, you’ll have time to think them through.

Gratuities (Tips)

Tips on Disney Cruise Line are automatically added onto your shipboard account at the beginning of the cruise.  These cover your stateroom host and dining room staff.  Disney suggests an amount to tip, but this can easily be increased or decreased at Guest Services.  If you choose to order room service during your cruise, it is customary to tip the crew member who brings it to your room.  Unlike at a hotel, the room service food is complimentary, but tips are not included.  You can either tip in cash or have it billed to your shipboard account.

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Adults Only

Other popular add-ons are spa services or adults-only dining in Palo or Remy.  Both of these are an additional charge above the cost of the cruise.  If you really want to experience the spa onboard, you can check the Navigators and often find specials available.  This can be a great way to save some money, while still getting to enjoy the spa.  The adults-only restaurants must be reserved in advance, so if you would like to dine at them, you will know in time to be able to make adjustments to your budget.

Off the ship

Shore excursions

Shore excursions are not a required part of a cruise, but they are definitely a fun add-on.  I love to travel, so really enjoy the guided tours that give me a taste of the region the ship is docked in.  Other excursions might take you to swim with dolphins or for a beach day.  Shore excursions are available at a wide price range, so if you book these in advance, you’ll be able to make sure you find on that fits your budget.  If you get off the ship on Castaway Cay day, you have the option to rent inflatable floats or bikes.  About mid-day, people start heading back to the ship and you may be able to find an abandoned float to use instead of paying to rent one yourself.  And if you’re not interested in getting off the ship? Port days are a great time to have the pools all to yourself!

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Money in port

The ship is cashless (other than tips), so guests get used to handing over their Key to the World card, but if you’re getting off at a port, make sure that you have some cash with you.  You may want to try a local restaurant, buy a souvenir, or decide to take a cab back to the ship after walking all day.

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A Disney cruise can definitely be an all-inclusive vacation if you want it to be.  Some of these “hidden costs” may seem obvious, but it’s easy to be so excited about the cruise that you forget there are a few other costs to consider.  If you plan for them ahead of time instead of being taken by surprise, you can get your budget in order early so you can forget all your worries and enjoy your vacation!

 



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