2. Watch for Last-Minute Restricted Guarantee Staterooms
Last-minute Restricted Guarantee staterooms can save you money on your Disney cruise, but they aren’t for everyone.
The Restricted Guarantee fares work as follows: If a specific sailing or cabin category does not sell as quickly as Disney expects, they will offer Restricted Guarantee fares for the remaining unfilled rooms. These deals are generally released 21 – 75 days before departure.
Disney guarantees you’ll get at least the stateroom type specified (and possibly a higher level) at booking time. However, you won’t know your exact stateroom at the booking time. The actual stateroom assignment usually happens about two weeks before embarkation, but it can be assigned as late as the day of embarkation.
You can save money on Disney cruises by booking a Restricted Guarantee stateroom, but you have to be flexible with your dates and stateroom type.
3. Pick Off-Peak Departures
Disney raises its prices to reflect the high demand, so avoid the summer and major holidays such as Spring Break, Thanksgiving, Christmas break, etc. It’s the top cruise line for kids, and prices reflect times when kids can travel. If you have children and must cruise during the summer, avoid the peak season by going at the beginning of (or end of) summer break.
Disney cruises tend to be less expensive when schools are in session since families are less likely to book cruises then. Also, there are seasons when fares are cheaper due to the calendar or weather.
Disney cruises are typically less expensive during:
- January (except for New Year’s week)
- Early February
- September and October
- Early November
- Early December
If you are flexible with your travel dates, you may be able to save quite a bit on a Disney cruise if you book during one of these off-peak times. Disney also offers special themed cruises during slower times to attract more people.
And it bears remembering that the tropics are often warmer than the United States, so a November cruise is likely to still be very pleasant weather-wise.
It may be cold at home, but it's warm in the Caribbean!
4. Choose Shorter Cruises
Disney Cruise Line offers three and four-night itineraries to Baja, the Bahamas (including Disney’s private island Castaway Cay), and the Caribbean. Even with the high rates per night, sailing for three or four days will still be less expensive than a whole week of vacation.
If you are unsure what Disney cruises are like – or are worried about getting seasick – short cruises are a great way to test the waters. If you like it (which is likely), you can always save up for a more extended cruise later.
5. Choose Inside Cabins
One easy way to save on Disney cruises is to choose an inside cabin. Inside cabins are those without a porthole window or a veranda/balcony. They’re generally the most affordable stateroom on any cruise line, and on Disney ships they have features to make them feel less dark and enclosed than you might expect.
Inside staterooms on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder have a porthole-shaped mirror on the wall to make the room feel just a bit bigger.
The Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy inside staterooms feature magical portholes. These are round video screens that show a real-time view of the outside, along with a bit of additional character from time to time.
On the Disney Wish, there’s a large piece of artwork on the wall behind the bed.
6. Use A Travel Agent to Receive Onboard Credit
If you are planning a Disney cruise, it can be helpful to use a travel agent. Travel agents are experts at booking cruises and can often get you discounts that you wouldn’t be able to get on your own.
The majority of Disney travel agents do not charge you for using their services, contrary to popular belief. You can, however, count on them to get you the best vacation for your money.
They can find sail dates with lower prices or the exact type of cabin you need. Plus, travel agents often offer extra perks to their clients. Ultimately, you may have a better experience and pay less than if you booked directly through Disney Cruise Line (in some cases they can even work with Disney Cruise Line Guest Services to apply new discounts that are announced after you booked!).
If you decide to use a travel agent, shop around and look for agencies that 1. specialize in Disney vacations and 2. offer something called “onboard credit.” That way, you can be sure that you are getting the best possible deal.
Onboard Credits for Disney Cruises
You can save money on your Disney cruise by using onboard credits. What is Disney cruise onboard credit, you ask?
Due to their commitment to maintaining a level playing field, Disney does not permit third parties to offer discounts on any of its cruises. To gain a competitive edge, many travel agencies instead offer onboard credits as a booking bonus to entice potential cruise passengers to book through them. Once you board the ship, you’ll receive onboard credits for anything you spend money on (such as tipping, alcohol, excursions, and souvenirs). In other words, you won’t save on the actual cruise fare, but you’ll instead receive an allowance to use toward purchases onboard the ship.
Where to Find Onboard Credits
Book your Disney cruise through The Vacationeer and receive a generous onboard credit to apply to your stateroom account.
The Vacationeer’s onboard credit ranks among the highest in the industry, and they can assist you with choosing the best Disney cruise ship and itinerary for your family.
Click HERE to learn how to save on Disney cruises by taking advantage of their generous onboard credit offer.
7. Bookmark Disney’s Special Offers Page for Promotions
The Disney Cruise Line website usually features limited-time promotions for a specific sailing date, cabin type, departure port, or even for residents of a particular state/country.
There aren’t many Disney cruise deals to choose from, but you might find one that works for you and will save you money. Please read the fine print on this page because the deals might be for guaranteed fares with many restrictions.
Watch the specials or let your travel agent know what you qualify for so they can watch for you!
8. Check for Military Discounts
Disney’s special offers page also includes targeted discounts for those in the military.
If you or a family member is in the military, you might be able to get a discount on your Disney cruise. Discounts for military personnel are only available for sailings that are just a few months away. Military members are entitled to one stateroom per sailing under the special military rates.
You will typically need to show your military ID at booking to get a military discount.
If you are interested in a military discount, check with the cruise line or your travel agent before booking. The Vacationeer can help you determine your eligibility and your discounted rate.
9. Look for Florida Resident Discounts
Many cruise lines offer discounts for residents of certain states, and Disney is no exception. If you are a Florida resident, you might be able to get a discount on your Disney cruise.
Residents of Florida can often save up to 35% on select Disney Bahamas and Caribbean cruises. You will need to show proof of residency at the time of booking.
Check with The Vacationeer for more information.
Port Canaveral, FL | Image © Disney
10. Join the Disney Vacation Club or Castaway Club
If you are a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) or Castaway Club (CC) member, you may be eligible for occasional special rates on Disney cruises. These rates are often lower than the rates available to the general public.
To get the DVC or CC member rate, you must book your cruise through Disney Cruise Line’s website, call their reservation line, or have your Disney travel advisor assist you. You will need to provide them with your DVC or CC membership number.
If you are thinking of joining the DVC or CC, booking a cruise at a member rate is a great perk that might nudge you to started. Not only will you save on Disney cruises, but you’ll also get to enjoy all the other benefits of membership.
DVC members using their membership points to pay for at least one traveler on the cruise are also eligible to pay a fixed cash price for other travelers that is not subject to the variable pricing described in rule one above.
DVC and Castaway Club members are also usually allowed to book new saildates at least one day prior to members of the general public, again helping them get ahead of later pricing surges.
11. Sign up for a Disney Visa Credit Card
Disney’s Visa credit cards are another way to save money on Disney cruises.
You can earn 1% Disney Rewards Dollars for every dollar spent on the Disney Rewards Visa Card. There is no monthly fee, and you can redeem your rewards on Disney cruise packages, souvenirs, and onboard activities.
The Disney Premier Visa enables you to earn 2% Disney Rewards Dollars on purchases at grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, and most Disney locations. Earn 1% on all other purchases. You can redeem your Rewards Dollars for merchandise, air travel, and Disney vacations (including Disney cruises).
In addition to exclusive discounts on select onboard purchases, cardmembers also receive discounts on Disney Store shopping and Disney theme park dining.
12. Bring your Souvenirs
Cruise ship shoppers are an example of a captive audience because they are on board a ship in the middle of the ocean. You will have to pay a high price for Mickey dolls, T-shirts, and other Disney-themed items when your kids see all the Disney merch aboard your ship.
Big box stores, such as Walmart, Target, and Kohl’s, have cheaper Disney-themed toys and clothes. It may be economical to purchase your souvenirs there before setting foot on the cruise ship.
Find out if anyone in your local community has Mickey ears from previous trips or princess costumes that their kids have outgrown; you might be able to find Disney swag for free or cheap.
13. Make your Costumes
It is always fun to dress up as your favorite princess or pirate on a Disney cruise. However, if your little one insists on dressing up every day, you can easily blow your budget on costumes (and airline baggage fees).
Create your own costumes before you leave, and you will save on your Disney cruise expenses.
For example, a dark blue shirt, a yellow skirt, and a red hair bow are all you need to capture the essence of Snow White.
Shop at Goodwill and thrift stores for dresses you can customize into a Disney ballgown. If you can sew, head to the craft store and get creative!
14. Skip the Extras to Save Money
When your Disney cruise is paid for, the expenses don’t stop. There are plenty of enticements to your wallet onboard, from princess teas and makeovers to adults-only gourmet meals. Say no to these extras if you want to save money on your Disney cruise.
Your fare includes meals at various themed restaurants, so eat there and leave parent date night for another week. You can skip the professional makeover, do your own hair and makeup, and dress up in the cabin yourself.
There are a variety of free activities on board the ship, including Disney character encounters, nightly musical performances in the theater, and time in the kids club and pool.
Don’t pay more for ice cream and desserts at the sweet shops. Instead, eat them with meals, and take advantage of the free ice cream cones available on the pool deck.
Rather than hiring a professional to take your photos, you can find plenty of perfect backdrops on board and in port and snap your own captivating photographs.
For extras you can’t skip, such as transportation between the airport and port, try to find the most economical choices.
These prudent choices can reduce the cost of your Disney cruise.
15. Bring Your Own Booze
Here’s an easy way to save money on Disney cruises: Instead of hitting the bars on the ship, bring your own alcohol.
At the beginning of the cruise, Guests 21 or older can bring two bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no more than 750 milliliters each) or six beers (no more than 12 ounces each).
Each port of call will also allow you to stock up with the same amount.
A word of caution: although this tip will let you save versus purchasing alcohol onboard, you’ll have to pay a $25 corking fee should you wish to enjoy your own wine/champagne during your dinner in the ship’s restaurants.
Also note that you must bring alcohol onboard as a “carry-on” — it cannot be packed in your checked luggage.
Yes, you can BYOB on a Disney Cruise
16. Save by Booking While Still Onboard a Disney Cruise Ship
This tip only works if you’re already on a Disney cruise ship, so it won’t save you any money on your first ever Disney cruise. But if you’re already cruising with Disney, take advantage of Disney’s special onboard-only booking offer to save on your next Disney Cruise Line vacation. With this offer, you get the following:
- 10% savings versus DisneyCruise.com‘s prevailing rates
- Reduced deposit for sailings of 7 nights or more
The Disney Cruise Line Navigator app lets you make a placeholder reservation for future sailing once you are aboard a Disney cruise.
Bonus Tip: Discounted Disney Gift Cards
We don’t include this as a standard tip because it’s somewhat complicated and has some significant considerations. But, with proper planning and access to the right type of stores, you might be able to purchase Disney Gift Cards at a slight discount off of face value and then apply those as payment for your cruise (or any other Disney trip).
For example, Target RedCard members may be eligible to receive a 5% discount on Disney Gift Cards — the same discount afforded to most other purchases made using the card. Other national and regional retailers may offer similar promotions; these can change frequently, so check directly with your retailer before committing any money.
Purchasing gift cards at a discount, and then using those gift cards to pay for your cruise, is a valid — though admittedly complex — way to save money on the costs of a Disney Cruise.
An important consideration if you choose to use this method: should your travel plans change and you receive a refund when canceling or modifying a cruise, refunds go back to the method of payment used. This means that any funds paid by gift card will be refunded back to the gift card, and you’ll be “stuck” with a large amount of funds that must be used only for Disney-related purchases.
Also note that for a cruise fare costing several thousand dollars, you’ll likely need to accumulate multiple gift cards. The Disney Gift Card website allows you to consolidate multiple gift card balances onto a single card, but the total balance allowed on any individual card is $1,000 and some types of gift cards may not be allowed to consolidate funds.