You want to go on a Disney Cruise, but you don’t want to feel like you were plundered by pirates?
Before you hit the high seas, you’re going to want to be prepared. When do you book your cruise? How do you use Disney gift cards? Where do you find the best prices? We’ve got you.
Before you continue, be sure to download the KCL app to be up to date on the best ways you can save on Disney products and vacations.
Before you book. . .
1. First, get to know the Disney cruise ship you’re sailing on.
There are four different Disney cruise ships — the Disney Dream, Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, and Disney Fantasy — that have different shows, attractions, dining experiences, and (most importantly) freebies. Before you sail, learn about your ship to get acquainted with all of its specific goodies and experiences.
2. Only book cruises in mid-September, before Halloween, before Thanksgiving, or early December.
Think of the most inconvenient time of year to sail on a Disney Cruise. That’s the best time to go.
Anytime kids are out of school is a no-go if you want to save up to $650 on your overall trip. We’ve compiled a price comparison for trips in 2021:
- 10th – 13th (Labor Day week): $2,947 & up
- 17th – 20th: $2,418 & up, savings of $529
- 29th – Nov. 1st (Halloween week): $2,892 & up
- 22nd – 25th: $2,422 & up, savings of $470
- 26th – 29th (Thanksgiving week): $3,612 & up
- 12th – 15th: $2,961 & up, savings of $651
- 17th – 20th (pre-Christmas week): $3,652 & up
- 10th – 13th: $3,135 & up, savings of $517
3. Don’t book through Disney until you check the “Special Offers” page.
Throughout the year, Disney offers various specials:
- “Children Sail Free” promos
- Free Dining offers (typically in September, November & December)
- Room Only discounts (saves you up to 25% off)
- Play, Stay, Dine & save discounts (typically offered in the spring)
It’s worth taking a peek before you book. It’s also worth taking a peek at our general cruise hacks so you can save some extra cash.
4. Get 5% off your cruise when you buy Disney gift cards at Target.
Get a Target RedCard if you’re planning a Disney cruise. When you buy Disney gift cards with your RedCard, you get an automatic 5% discount. Then you can turn around and use those gift cards to purchase your cruise and anything else Disney.
Disney gift cards range from $25-$500. After $100, all gift cards are eCards. You can consolidate your gift cards into one through the Disney Gift Card website.
The average 3-Night Disney Cruise for a family of four starts at $2,418, so if you use this RedCard trick, you’ll save $120.90.
5. Or book your cruise through Costco or BJ’s Wholesale to save 2 – 4%.
At BJ’s Wholesale, you can save 4% on $100 or $500 Disney gift cards.
Costco Executive members get 2% cash back on all their purchases at the end of every year, which includes travel purchases, too.
Keep an eye on Sam’s Club. Discounted Disney gift cards aren’t common but also not unheard of!
6. Book your Disney Cruise through a travel agent. They’re usually free, and can get you freebies.
Travel agents can help you navigate the tricky waters of booking a cruise. They’ll help you stay within your budget, and even get you some great hookups like free onboard credits and room upgrades. Best of all, most of them are paid by the cruise lines, so their expertise is totally free to you.
Another option is to book with a third-party seller like CruisesOnly, but only if they give you a better deal than the Disney Cruise Line website. Sometimes Disney will surprise you; I found a 3-night cruise for four on their website that had an offer for a free $150 Prepaid Visa Card after booking.
7. Book a year in advance — as soon as itineraries are released!
Disney releases cruise itineraries at least a year ahead of time. For example, in October 2021, they released Spring 2023 cruise itineraries. And in May 2022, they’ll release the 2023 fall dates.
Book as soon as possible to get better rates on cabins. As cruises begin to fill, Disney raises the price for rooms.
8. But if you’re comfortable with a non-refundable cruise, book last-minute.
Now, officially, Disney Cruises (and their many bloggers out there) say that the cruise line doesn’t reduce prices for last-minute sailings.
But in January 2022, we found a 3-night Bahamas cruise that cost $2,050 for four people — nearly $1,000 less than the exact same cruise in January 2023. Another 3-night Bahamian cruise in November 2022 cost $3,413.
Last-minute cruises seem to be able to save you money, but the trade-off is that they’re non-refundable. If you’re OK with the risk, and can get to the departure port, it’s a decent option.
9. Florida residents get special deals on Disney Cruises to the Bahamas.
If at least one adult in your stateroom is a Florida resident, you can get up to 35% off a cruise to the Bahamas. The resident must provide proof of residency — Florida driver’s license, Florida ID card, Florida utility bill with name and address, or renter’s lease agreement — within 48 hours of booking to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Only 50 bookings per sailing get this deal, so that’s another reason to book as soon as you can.
10. Don’t pay for a Disney parks add-on — you’ll be paying top dollar.
If you book a Disney Cruise through Disney, they’ll offer you an add-on to go to the theme parks on either side of your cruise.
While it’s convenient to have one deposit, one reservation, and one due date for the balance of your tickets, the add-on doesn’t give you the chance to find better deals on park tickets.
11. Don’t buy travel insurance through Disney unless it’s cheaper than Roam Right.
You can add a Vacation Protection Plan to your Disney cruise, but before you do, be certain you can’t get a cheaper option through third-party sites like Roam Right for your cruise dates. (Plus, Roam Right has an app that keeps you up to date on events that could affect your travel plans.)
Disney’s Vacation Protection Plan is 8% of the per-person voyage fare, including the non-commissionable portion of the voyage fare.
- Disney Cruise for a family of 4: $2,418
- Disney Cruise Travel Insurance: $194+
- Roam Right Travel Insurance: $84-$148
Also, double-check that travel insurance isn’t already included with your homeowner’s insurance.
12. Get $50 in onboard credit, if you use the Disney Visa Credit Card to pay for your cruise.
Have a Disney Visa Credit Card? Aside from getting 10% off selecting Disney packages, merchandise, and onboard spa treatments, you also get a $50 onboard credit if you use your card to pay for your trip.
If you get the higher-tiered Disney Premier Visa Card, you’ll get a $300 statement credit if you spend $1,000 in the first three months — which you’d easily spend on a Disney Cruise. The Disney Premier Visa Card also gets you 10% off a Castaway Cay Getaway Package.
13. Get up to 35% off your cruise with a military discount.
Disney Cruise Line offers a military discount on select trips in 2022. The cheapest we could find was one for 35% off your entire cruise, and you don’t have to pay taxes, fees, or port expenses.
This is just one of the many military discounts you can get throughout the year.
Before you sail. . .
14. If you’re sailing out of Port Canaveral, stay at a Disney hotel the night before to get a free shuttle to the ship.
Air travel has been crazy these days, with delays and cancellations galore. You’ll want to arrive at your departure city the day before to avoid missing the boat.
If you’re leaving from Central Florida, you’re right in the heart of Disney. If you stay at a Disney hotel, you’ll get a free Magical Express shuttle from the Orlando area to Port Canaveral.
The cheapest Walt Disney World resort hotel is the All-Star Movies hotel at $118-$135/night.
When the cruise is over, they’ll bring you back to Walt Disney World, where you can easily get to the Orlando airport.
15. Check-in right from your phone using the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app.
Like the Disney parks apps, the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app has pretty much everything you need for your cruise.
You can check-in online, manage your booking, stay on top of scheduled events, make reservations for activities and dining, get daily special ship and spa offers, live chat with Disney crew members, and chat with multiple friends and family members who have the app and are also onboard the ship.
16. Don’t bring your OTC medication to your Disney Cruise — it’s free.
Just like at the Disney parks, if you ask the Guest Services desk for over-the-counter medication, you can get it for free. Luckily, this includes seasick medication. So if this is your first cruise, and you aren’t sure how you’ll be affected, you can get this free medication to help you.
17. You can bring 2 bottles of wine or 6 beers onboard to save money.
You’ll get free soda, lemonade, milk, hot tea, and coffee aboard the ship. But of course, wine and beer cost extra. Disney Cruise Wine Packages are anywhere from $97 – $315, plus a 15% gratuity. But good news — you can bring your own.
Passengers can bring two bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750 ml.) or six beers (no larger than 12 oz.) on embarkation day as well as at each port of call. The bottles can’t be in checked bags or luggage, so make sure you have enough space in your carry-on.
The coolest part? You can bring aboard two new bottles or six beers at each port of call. Just make sure they’re all unopened.
Note that there’s a $25 corking fee per bottle of wine if you’re bringing the bottle to dinner.
18. Bring a water bottle so you can always fill up for free.
If you’re on a Disney Cruise, you can get water at any of the soda fountains for free, so be sure to bring a bottle.
Otherwise, bottled water will cost you $1.95 each. . . or $19.50 for 12 bottles, or $39.00 for 24 bottles.
19. Skip the pricey rentals; buy snorkel sets from Walmart.
This works best if you’re looking to avoid crowds, avoid feeling like you have to rush around, and avoid added expenses.
Rentals through Disney Cruise Lines are $18 for kids ages 5-9 and $34 for everyone else. Snorkel sets at Walmart go for $14-$24, which saves you up to $20 per person. And you get to keep the snorkel.
Also, if you have young children, chances are really good they’ll just want to play on the beach anyway.
When you’re hungry or thirsty at sea. . .
20. Most menu items are available for free room service.
Whether you’re feeling lazy or just want to do a little social distancing during mealtimes, Disney Cruise offers room service for no extra charge. And most of the items on their room service menu are included with the price of your cruise.
For best results, order breakfast the night before; if you wait until morning, the wait will be longer.
For lunch and dinner, they have salads, appetizers, sandwiches, pizza, desserts and beverages (even alcoholic beverages). You can even order some unlisted items like PB&J Uncrustables and Mickey bars (which are Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream bars).
Just call “Stateroom Dining” from your room, place your order, and it’ll be brought straight to your room.
Note: There’s no room service on the last morning of the cruise, so make sure to plan accordingly.
21. Want hot coffee in the morning? Order it before you go to sleep.
Disney Cruises have a door hanger with a breakfast menu on it. Before you go to bed, you can check the boxes for coffee, juice, cereal, and/or pastries. Choose a delivery window, and when the time comes, the food will be brought to your room.
Don’t want a wake-up knock? You could also get the coffee at night, and because it’s stored in a highly insulated container, it’ll still be piping hot when you open it in the morning.
22. Hit up the Captain’s Reception on the first formal night for free drinks.
On cruises of 7 days or longer, Disney Cruises host a Captain’s Reception, and alcoholic drinks are complimentary.
The receiptions take place on the first formal night on the cruise just before dinner. Check your cruise itinerary or ask a Cast Member about the Captain’s Reception so you don’t miss it.
23. Get a free small charcuterie board at the Cove Cafe.
The Cove Cafe is a cafe on the Disney cruises that usually have additional charges, so if you’re looking to experience the ambiance, but don’t want to buy anything, order a free charcuterie board at the Cove Cafe before dinner.
24. There’s no unlimited drink package on Disney Cruises; you’ll pay per drink/bottle/can.
Unlike a lot of other cruise lines, Disney Cruise Line doesn’t offer an unlimited alcoholic drink package. You’ll be paying as you go — sometimes as much as $10 per cocktail — but there are some packages that’ll help you save money:
- Wine packages: 3, 4, 5 and 7 bottle packages cost $95 – $199 for “classic”, $145 – $309 for “premium” (25% off)
- Beer packages: 6-packs of imported and domestic cans of beer for the price of 5, $30 (17% off)
- Disney Reusable Beer Mug: $16.95, then you get 22 oz of beer refillable at the 16 oz price
25. Ordering special coffee? Ask for a punchcard to get every sixth drink free.
Drip coffee is all complimentary, but if you wanted a latte, cappuccino, espresso, or another fancy coffee, it’ll cost you per drink.
What they won’t tell you is that there is a punchcard that you can get whenever you order one of these drinks. After the fifth drink, you’ll get your sixth one free.
When you’re on the boat. . .
26. If you can, skip the wifi — it’s a rip-off.
Disney charges by the amount of data used for wifi, not by the amount of time you spend online.
This makes watching movies expensive, but periodically checking email or posing a picture of the kids at dinner on Instagram a bit more affordable.
Connect@Sea plans come in four different pricing packages:
- Pay-As-You-Go: $0.25/MB
- Small: 100 MB for $19.00 ($0.19/MB)
- Medium: 300 MB for $39.00 ($0.13/MB)
- Large: 1000 MB for $89.00 ($0.09/MB)
You’ll save the most money by skipping internet access completely. You can use the two complimentary Wave Phones to call or text anyone else aboard the ship or contact the ship’s crew.
Keep in mind, Wave Phones can only call or text other Wave Phones, stateroom phones, or any ship extension. They don’t work at any ports (except Castaway Cay), and you can’t use them to log in to your social media or email.
Plus, if you download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App, you’ll be able to text anyone with the app for free.
27. Don’t be caught off guard by things on the ship that cost extra.
Wifi’s just one way they get ya. Although lots of things are covered in the price of your cruise, here’s a list of things that will add to your final spend:
- Offshore excursions
- Official cruise photography
- Spa & salon services (including hair braiding)
- Nursery services for kids 3 and under
- Concessions outside the Disney theater
- Adult-only dining rooms
- Arcade games
- Gratuities (at least $40.50 per person, depending on length of cruise — you can prepay for most of these)
28. Go to the “Friendship Rocks” show to get a free t-shirt.
On the Disney Magic or Disney Wonder ships, you should go to the “Friendship Rocks” show to get a free t-shirt. Plus, the youngins will be able to dance with Minnie and Mickey on the Walt Disney Theatre stage.
29. Get free pixie dust at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
Just like at the Disney parks, if you go to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and ask for pixie dust, the Fairy Godmother in Training will sprinkle some over your child.
30. You might get a free character autograph from the front desk.
It’s a 50/50 chance that they still do this, but if you leave a pillowcase, signature book, or photo with a marker at the front desk, characters might come and sign your item. It’s a free and nifty way to remember your Disney Cruise.
31. Avoid lines to see Disney characters by visiting them toward the end of your cruise or making reservations.
Most people get in line to see Disney characters. What they don’t realize is the characters are around the whole time. You’ll probably get a chance to see them without waiting in line at the end of the cruise during their last-chance meet and greet.
You can also make reservations to meet characters at events like Princess Gathering, Frozen Meet & Greet, Marvel Day at Sea, or Star Wars Day at Sea for no extra charge. If you’re on a 7-nights or longer cruise, you can make reservations for Character Meals, too.
32. Check out the pin trading night on your Disney cruise.
Did you know that you can trade pins with the Cast Members on your Disney cruise? Any Cast Member with pins on their lanyard is willing to trade pins with you if you have Disney-branded pins. Plus, there is an unbroadcast pin trading night that will satisfy any pin trading enthusiasts.
Be sure to check out your schedule on the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app to know when your pin trading night will occur.
33. Bring an empty gift card and surge protector to keep your electronics charged.
Empty gift card? Yep, bear with me.
In order to get electricity to your room, you need to put your room key into a slot next to your door, but if you put a gift card into the slot, the reader won’t be able to tell the difference, so you’ll be able to have electricity in your room even if you aren’t there.
Another quick tip: bring a surge protector with extra outlets. A standard room will come with three plugs in your room, so if you have multiple devices, then you should bring a surge protector to plug in all your devices.
34. Get 10% off your next cruise when you book onboard.
If you’re loving your cruise and are already planning your next one, then you’ll love getting a 10% discount on your next Disney cruise. All you have to do is book it onboard before you leave. You’ll also get a reduced deposit on 7-Night or longer cruises.
This On-Board exclusive offer is available at the Disney Vacation Planning Desk and via the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app.