You want to go on a Disney Cruise, but you don’t want to feel like you were plundered by pirates. Right? Before you ever hit the high seas, you’re going to want to be prepared with these top Disney cruise tips. When should you book your cruise for the lowest fares? Can you use Disney gift cards to pay for a cruise? And where do you find the best Disney cruise deals in the first place? We’ve got you.
Before you book. . .
1. First, get to know the Disney cruise ship lineup.
The five different Disney cruise ships — the Disney Dream, Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Wish, and Disney Fantasy — have different shows, attractions, dining experiences, and (most importantly) freebies. Before you book a Disney cruise, learn about your ship to get acquainted with all of its specific goodies and experiences.
2. Find the best Disney cruise deals in mid-September, during Halloween week, before Thanksgiving, or in early December.
Think of the most inconvenient time of year to sail on a Disney Cruise. That’s the best time for Disney cruise deals.
And the worst time for Disney cruise deals? Anytime kids are out of school.
Just by shifting your Disney cruise dates from Labor Day week to a week after, you can save up to $720. Check out these examples:
- 1 – 4 (Labor Day week): $4,204 and up
- 8 – 11: as low as $3,484 (a savings of $720)
- 6 – 9: $4,216 and up
- 27 – 30 (Halloween week): as low as $3,772 (a savings of $444)
- 10 – 13: as low as $4,246 (a savings of $300)
- 24 – 27 (Thanksgiving week): $4,546 and up
- 8 – 11: as low as $3,640 (a savings of $464)
- 15 – 18 (pre-Christmas week): $4,104 and up
3. Don’t book directly through Disney until you check the “Special Offers” page.
Throughout the year, Disney offers various specials like these:
- “Children Sail Free” promos
- Free Dining offers (typically in September, November, and December)
- Room Only discounts (up to 25% off)
- Play, Stay, Dine & save discounts (typically offered in the spring)
It’s worth taking a look at the specials before you book. It’s also worth taking a peek at our general cruise hacks so you can save some extra cash.
4. Save 5% on your cruise when you buy Disney gift cards at Target.
Get a debit or credit Target RedCard if you’re planning a Disney cruise. Why? Because 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.
Target sells Disney gift cards in values ranging from $25 to $500. After $100, all gift cards come as eCards. You can consolidate your gift cards into one through the Disney Gift Card website. A Disney Gift Card can only have a max value of $1,000.
To give you an idea of the savings, the average three-night Disney Cruise for a family of four starts at $2,996. So if you use this RedCard trick, you’d save $149.80. Not bad!
Related: We’ve got even more discount gift card hacks to work the system.
Or, you can…
5. Book your cruise with Disney gift cards from Costco or BJ’s Wholesale to save 2% – 4%.
When you buy Disney gift cards at BJ’s Wholesale, you can save 3% on $100 gift cards or 4% on $500 gift cards. At Costco, Executive members get 2% cash back on all their purchases at the end of every year, which includes travel purchases, too. And with Sam’s Club, members get a 3% discount on Disney gift cards.
Related: Find out if Costco Travel discounts are actually worth it.
6. Book your Disney Cruise through a travel agent. It’s usually free, and they can get you freebies.
Travel agents can help you navigate the tricky waters of booking a cruise and find great Disney cruise deals. 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 the agents are paid directly 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 can give you a better deal than the Disney Cruise Line website. Sometimes, Disney will surprise you; I found a three-night cruise for four on their website that had an offer for a free $150 Prepaid Visa Card after booking.
Related: Not set on a Disney cruise? Check out all these other ways to find cheap cruise deals.
7. Get a good Disney cruise deal when you book a year in advance — as soon as itineraries get released!
Disney releases their cruise itineraries at least a year ahead of time. For example, in October 2022, they released Spring 2024 cruise itineraries. And in May 2023, they’ll release the fall 2024 dates.
Book as soon as possible to get better rates on cabins. As cruises begin to fill, Disney will raise the price on rooms.
8. If you’re comfortable with a non-refundable cruise, book last minute to save up to $1,000.
Technically, Disney Cruise Line (and their many bloggers) say that the cruise line doesn’t reduce prices for last-minute sailings. But, hands down this is one of the better Disney cruise tips we know.
In January 2022, we found a three-night Bahamas cruise that cost $2,050 for four people — nearly $1,000 less than the exact same cruise in January 2023. Another three-night Bahamian cruise in November 2022 cost $3,413.
Last-minute cruises may likely save you money, but the trade-off is that they’re non-refundable. If you’re OK with the risk, and you can get to the departure port on short notice, it’s a decent Disney cruise discount.
9. Florida residents get up to 35% off Disney cruises to the Bahamas.
If at least one adult in your stateroom is a Florida resident, here are the deets on one of the best Disney cruise tips ever. Verified Florida residents can get up to 35% off a cruise to the Bahamas. The resident must provide proof of residency — in the form of a Florida driver’s license, Florida ID card, Florida utility bill with name and address, or a renter’s lease agreement — within 48 hours of booking to email@example.com.
Only 50 bookings per sailing get this deal, so that’s another reason to book as soon as you can.
To take advantage of Florida residency cruise rates, at least one adult in each stateroom must provide proof of qualifying residency at check-in. Failure to submit qualifying identification will result in Disney Cruise Line re-pricing their cruise. You must pay the balance before you can sail.
10. 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 7% of the per-person voyage fare, including the non-commissionable portion of the voyage fare.
- Disney Cruise for a family of four: $2,996
- Disney Cruise Travel Insurance: $197+
- Roam Right Travel Insurance: $144 – $163
Also, double-check that travel insurance isn’t already included with your homeowner’s insurance.
11. Get a $300 statement credit if you spend $1,000 in the first three months of getting your Disney Visa.
Have a Disney Visa Credit Card? Aside from getting 10% off select merchandise onboard Disney Cruise Line, you can also save 10% when you shop the Disney Store, Disney Baby Store (retail and outlets) and ShopDisney.com.
With the higher-tiered Disney Premier Visa Card, you’ll get a $300 statement credit if you spend $1,000 in the first three months you have the card — an amount that you can easily spend on a Disney Cruise.
12. One of the best Disney Cruise deals is their military discount, which gets you up to 35% off.
Disney Cruise Line offers a military discount on select trips in 2023. One of the cheapest Disney cruise deals we could find for military members was almost 35% off the entire cruise. Taxes, fees, and port expenses are an additional charge.
- 3-night Bahama Cruise from San Diego without the military discount: $3,327
- 3-night Bahama Cruise from San Diego with the military discount: $2,180
That’s a difference of $1,147 or 34.4% off with a military discount.
Related: This is just one of the many military discounts you can get throughout the year.
13. Check in right from your phone using the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app.
You can check in online, manage your booking, stay on top of scheduled events, make reservations for activities and dining, and get daily special ship and spa offers. Once you’re on your cruise, you can use the app to chat with Disney crew members or friends and family members who are also onboard the ship.
14. You don’t have to pack your OTC medication — they’ll give you some for free.
Just like at the Disney theme parks, you can get free over-the-counter medication just by asking the Guest Services desk. This also includes medication for motion sickness.
If this is your first cruise and you aren’t sure how you’ll be affected, you can get this medication for free once you’re onboard.
15. Bring two bottles of wine or a six-pack of beer 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 will cost you anywhere from $98 – $316, plus you’ll pay an 18% gratuity. But the good news is that you can create your own Disney cruise discount by bringing your own beer and wine onboard.
Passengers are allowed to bring two bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750 mL) or six beers (no larger than 12 oz) on embarkation day. The bottles can’t be packed in your checked bags or luggage, so make sure you have enough space in your carry-on.
The coolest part about this rule? At each port of call, they’ll let you bring two new bottles or six beers onboard. Just make sure they’re all unopened.
Note that there’s a $26 corking fee per bottle of wine if you’re bringing the bottle to dinner.
16. Pack 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 your own bottle.
Otherwise, bottled water will cost you about $4 each. . . or $13.75 for six bottles, $27.50 for 12 bottles, or $55 for 24 bottles. You catch my drift.
17. Skip the pricey rentals; buy snorkel sets from Walmart.
Rentals through Disney Cruise Lines are $18 for kids ages 5 – 9 and $34 for everyone else. Snorkel sets at Walmart go for $15 – $27, so you’ll save up to $19 per person by going the Walmart route. And you get to keep the snorkel.
Also, if you have young children, chances are good they’ll just want to play on the beach anyway, so a pricey rental may not be worth it.
When you’re hungry or thirsty at sea. . .
18. Most menu items are available for free with 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 the best experience, order your 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 (alcoholic ones, too). You can even order some unlisted items like PB&J Uncrustables and Mickey bars (aka those Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream bars).
To place your order, just call “Stateroom Dining” from your room phone and they’ll bring it right to you.
Note: There’s no room service on the last morning of the cruise, so make sure you plan accordingly.
19. Want hot coffee in the morning? Order it before you go to sleep.
Disney cruises include 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 gets brought to your room.
Don’t want a wake-up knock? You can also get the coffee delivered 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.
20. Hit up the Captain’s Reception on the first formal night for free drinks.
On cruises of seven days or longer, Disney cruises will host a Captain’s Reception, and alcoholic drinks are complimentary.
These receptions take place on the first formal night of 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!
21. 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 drink package for alcohol. You’ll be paying as you go — sometimes as much as $10 per cocktail — but there are some packages that offer a few decent Disney cruise deals:
- Wine packages: 3-, 4-, 5-, and 7-bottle packages cost $95 – $199 for “classic” and $98 – $316 for “premium” (gives you up to 28% off)
- Beer packages: 6-packs of imported and domestic cans of beer for the price of 5, $33.75 (17% off)
- Disney Reusable Beer Mug: $15.25, then you get 22 oz of beer refillable at the 16 oz price
22. Ordering special coffee at the Cove Cafe? Ask for a punch card to get every sixth drink free.
Here’s one of those sneaky Disney cruise tips we need to share. Drip coffee at the Cove Cafe is complimentary, but if you want a latte, cappuccino, espresso, or another fancy coffee like the ones on the Starbucks secret menu, it’ll cost you per drink.
What they won’t tell you is that there is a punch card 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. . .
23. If you can, skip the Wi-Fi — it’s a rip-off.
Disney offers three internet plans while you’re onboard: Stay Connected, Basic Surf, and Premium Surf. Here’s a breakdown of their features and the cost per day:
- Stay Connected, $12: You can post on social media, including making photo/text posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
- Basic Surf, $24: Includes all the Stay Connected features, plus audio calls, full web access so you can surf the web, and the ability to send and receive emails.
- Premium Surf, $36: All the benefits of the Basic Surf plan, plus a faster connection and the ability to stream music apps like Apple Music, Pandora, and Spotify. You can make video calls with Zoom or FaceTime, plus watch short-form videos on YouTube and TikTok.
You’ll save the most money by skipping internet access entirely. 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. But if you download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app, you’ll be able to text anyone else onboard who has the app for free.
24. Don’t get caught off guard by extra charges while on board.
Wi-Fi is 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 bill:
- 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 the length of cruise — but you can prepay for most of these)
25. 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.
26. 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.
27. Get free character autographs with meet and greets.
Some of the best Disney cruise tips aren’t about money, but more about the memories. This is one of those. Your favorite Disney characters are happy to sign your signature book, pillowcase, or photo during Meet & Greets. Once on board, you can use the Disney Navigator app to see and select a time.
The most popular Disney characters often require tickets for their Meet & Greets. But the tickets are free. You may also find Disney characters autographing stuff during deck parties. Either way, make sure you have a pen ready!
28. Avoid Disney character lines by visiting them toward the end of your cruise — or by making reservations.
Most people get in line to see Disney characters. What they don’t realize is the characters are around the whole cruise. You’ll probably get a chance to see them without waiting in line at the end of your 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 cruise of seven nights or longer, you can make reservations for special Character Meals, too.
29. 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, they always have a night where everyone gets to trade pins.
Be sure to check out your schedule on the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app to know when your pin trading night will occur.
30. Bring an empty gift card 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.
31. 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. To get one of the better Disney cruise deals, book your next cruise while you’re still onboard. You’ll also get a reduced deposit on cruises of seven nights or longer.
This On-Board exclusive offer is available at the Disney Vacation Planning Desk and via the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app.