Archive for month: April, 2012
In last week’s trip tip, I gave a few of my favorite tips for saving money on Disney cruise fares so this week I thought I’d focus on the things that are not included in your fare. The cruise fare is most likely going to be your biggest expense since it covers your room and all your food, but beware of the things that aren’t included – they can sneak up on you
Bingo - Disney cruise ships don’t have a casino like many other ships do, but you still have an opportunity to try your luck (and spend your money) by playing bingo. The bingo games are typically held each day and include cash prizes and other giveaways (spa gift certificates, Disney pins, etc.). The easiest way to save money here is to just not play at all, but it is fun and if your kids are like mine, they’ll probably drag you to at least one game. Don’t get taken in by the pre-game sales pitch – just buy a few cards and have fun. Also, make sure to check the personal navigator each day because they occasionally give away free bingo cards at the shops when you make a small purchase.
The Spa – There’s lots of great treatments you can book at the spa, but they can get spendy. One great option we’ve used is to buy the pass to the Rainforest Room, which will give you access to the heated loungers, steam room and showers for only $15 for a one-day pass. If you definitely want to do a treatment, but don’t have anything specific in mind, make sure to check your personal navigator – they include spa specials each day.
Pictures – The great thing about the cruise is that there are tons of photo opps and there’s a team of photographers that will take your picture for you. The bad news is that all the pictures they take cost money if you decide to purchase them (you don’t have to buy any if you don’t want to). You can buy individual pictures or purchase a package, but I’ve never really seen any deals, so I usually just include this in my budget. One thing to keep in mind is that most of the photographers are happy to take a picture with your own camera, so you can save money that way. The other thing that we do is group all our pictures together in one place and wait until the 2nd to last day to decide what pictures to buy. That way, we can go through everything from the cruise and only pick our absolute favorites.
Port Excursions - Every stop along the way has excursions available for you to book so you can see a little bit of the city you’re visiting. We’ve had some great excursions on our trips, but they can get expensive. I’ve covered a lot of the tips for saving money on these in a previous post, so I’ll just say here that it’s very important to do your homework. Look at all your options and make sure you’re getting the best possible experience for your money.
Alcohol – Adult beverages as well as some non-alcoholic specialty drinks like smoothies and lattes are not included in the cost of your cruise. Neither is bottled water or soda in cans that’s delivered via room service. For non-alcoholic drinks, make sure to bring your own cup so you can get refills at the drink stations on deck 9. For alcohol, Disney is one of the few cruise lines that allows you to bring on your own, as long as it fits into your carry-on bag. So, we bring on our own wine and save a ton of money. You’ll be charged a corkage fee if you bring the bottle into the dining rooms, but you won’t be charged anything if you just bring a full glass into dinner with you.
Palo/Remy Upcharge – No savings tips here. The $20 for Palo or the $75 for Remy is absolutely worth the experience, so just plan for it and put it into your budget.
Tips – Tips for your room attendant, assistant server, server and head server are all required. There is a recommended amount for each person that Disney will automatically add to your bill for your convenience but you can modify that amount, up or down, as you see fit. We have never not given the recommended amount to any of crewmembers we’ve had – they’ve all been great, so really, this is just another item to make sure to budget for. But, one thing I like to mention is that if you’d like to give any of your team something “extra” it doesn’t have to be money. They’re all on the ship for several months at a time, so think about things like pre-paid calling cards for calling home, iTunes cards or even candy (Hershey’s miniatures seem to be quite popular!)
So, those are some of the things you might encounter while you’re onboard. I haven’t included souvenirs on this list, but don’t forget about those!
To finish up, I wanted to share my favorite way for saving for these “extras”. Our secret weapon is Disney gift cards! Yep, they’re accepted in the shops and to pay for your onboard account, so we stock up on Disney gift cards during the months before our cruise whenever we have a little bit of extra cash. I put together a high-level budget for the things I think we’ll buy, based on what we did on our previous cruises, and try to grab a gift card whenever I can. And since you’re not saving cash or setting it aside in a savings account somewhere, you’re probably not going to need to dip into it before your cruise, so it really adds up quickly!
This week’s Disney blog hop theme is Nature. I don’t have many good nature shots from any of the parks, so thought I’d share some of the pictures we took during a visit to a butterfly farm on the island of St. Maarten during our Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Disney Magic. It was a really neat experience and a great way to get up close and personal with some of nature’s beauty.
Our upcoming Alaska cruise will be the 4th cruise for me and Colorado Dad, and while that may seem like quite a few, it pales in comparison to some of the folks I’ve talked to who have been on 30, 50 and even 100 Disney cruises! I always wonder how in the world they can afford to go on so many, because quite honestly, a Disney cruise can be on the expensive side. Here are some of the things I’ve learned from talking with those frequent cruisers as well as our own experiences:
- If you don’t have flexible travel dates, book early – In most cases, cruise itineraries will be the cheapest in the first couple days after they’re released, so if you know what dates you’d like to cruise, start looking as early as possible. Disney starts selling their cruises at least a year before the sail date (sometimes even more), so it definitely pays to start planning early. Keep an eye on the Disney Cruise Line website, Disney Cruise Facebook page or Disney Cruise twitter account to learn when new itineraries will be released for sale.
- After you’ve booked, keep your eyes open for deals – We booked our Alaska cruise over a year ago, but I’ve been occasionally logging into the Disney Cruise website to look for deals or rate changes, and it’s actually worked in my favor twice for this cruise. If you have not reached your “final payment due” date (75 days prior to departure), Disney will give you an adjustment of your fare if the price has changed. Twice in the past year, I logged on to the site and noticed our fare had gone down. Not by any signficant amount – $40 or $50 each time – but any little bit helps! You can also modify your reservation to include special offers like “kids eat free” if they come up. I did this myself, but a good travel agent should be watching for these changes for you as well.
- You don’t HAVE to have a verandah – Yes, I’ll admit, we have splurged on a room with a verandah and it was very nice, but on last year’s cruise and again this year for Alaska, we’ve foregone the verandah to save money. On the Dream and Fantasy, the inside staterooms have the “virtual portholes” to give you a peek outside even without a window, but my favorite rooms are the “Secret Porthole Rooms” (SPH for short) on the Magic and the Wonder. What the heck are SPH rooms? They are rooms in category 10A, an inside stateroom category, so are cheaper, but with a very special feature – a porthole window that is “partially obscured”. There are only 6 of these rooms on the Wonder and Magic, #5020, #5022, #5024, #5520, #5522 and #5524, so they book fast, but if you can get one, I’d definitely recommend it!
- Book shorter itineraries – This is one of those “do as I say, not as I do” things. Disney has lots of different cruise lengths, typically starting at a 3-day cruise. There are a few 2-day cruises, but these are special itineraries and aren’t offered on a regular basis. For me, I love cruising so much that anything less than 7 days seems crazy to me, BUT a shorter cruise is a great way to introduce yourself to cruising to make sure you like it and is almost always cheaper. As of now, any cruise length counts towards your status in the Disney Cruise line’s Castaway Club (a returning cruiser program), but even better than that, it gets you on the ship, which is important because…
- Booking a future cruise while onboard gives you a DISCOUNT – This is my favorite tip and one we’ve used 3 years in a row. If you book another cruise while you’re on any of the ships, you’ll get a 10% discount and you won’t need to put down as big of a deposit. This is great, but the real benefit here is if you know you want to cruise again, but don’t know exactly when, you can book what’s known as a “dummy date”. The Future Cruise desk castmember will typically look for a lower priced sail date to minimize the deposit you’ll need to pay and book you for that date. Once you’re booked, you can make any changes you want to that reservation, including moving to a totally different itinerary or sail date, all while still retaining your discount. As long as you haven’t reached that “final payment due” date, you can continue to make changes to your reservation without any penalty. I always wonder if Disney will ever stop providing this perk, but so far, it seems like it’s been good business for them, so let’s hope they keep doing it! There are a few limitations, like the number of rooms you can book and how many people can be included at the discounted rate, so definitely make sure to ask the Future Cruise sales folks for the latest details.
These tips have definitely helped us save some money and I hope they help you as well! Unfortunately, while the big part of your cruise vacation is included in the fare you pay up front, there are always those things onboard that you might forget about, so next week I’ll talk a little about the additional expenses you might have once you’re onboard and a few savings ideas to help cover those costs.
And don’t forget, I’ll be focusing on Disney cruise related topics from now until June 4th when we set sail on the Disney Wonder, heading to Alaska, so if you have any topics or questions you’d like me to cover, leave me a comment!
Today marks 7 weeks until we set sail to Alaska on the Disney Wonder and the whole family is SO excited about our trip. This will be the 4th trip for my husband and me and the 2nd for our kids, so I thought I would take the next several weeks to share some tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way.
Tomorrow, I’ll start with some things I’ve learned to save money on cruise fares as well as how to save money for some of the expenses you’ll have onboard.
But, before I kick things off, I’m interested in hearing from you – what questions do you have about cruising with Disney? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll make sure to answer them in the coming weeks.
Nothing says adventure like climbing up an unsteady rope ladder to a platform more than 3 stories above the ground in the middle of a Mexican forest. That’s exactly what Colorado Dad and I did last April on our zipline excursion while on our Mexican Riviera cruise on the Disney Wonder. I’m smiling here, but only because I was at the top and hadn’t fallen and broken my neck (yes, this IS what was going through my mind the entire climb). But really, it was a GREAT time and one of the best adventures I’ve had
Yesterday, I was chatting with fellow blogger Tami, the Colorado Mountain Mom, and she asked me if I wear the Sorcerer Hat from my WW pic when I’m at work (I work from home). The answer is no, because quite honestly, it’s a little hot and makes my head itch…I wonder if Mickey had the same problem with his??
I do, however, keep it on my bedpost to help me have “magical” dreams in between visits to Disney.
What about you? How do you keep the Disney magic going while you’re at home?
Most of our visits to a Disney resort are planned around the parks, spending as much time as we can enjoying our favorite attractions and shows. But, did you know that the Disney hotels all have great activities you can participate in too? We discovered this a few years ago, when we were visiting Wilderness Lodge and Colorado Boy and I were looking for something to do while Colorado Princess took a nap. I was looking through some paperwork we received when we checked in and found the activities schedule – a weekly list of activities available at the hotel, most of them free. The activities ranged from art projects to pool activities to trivia games. We decided to do the “Hidden Mickey” scavenger hunt around the hotel and found some great Mickeys for our collection.
When we stayed at Disneyland Hotel in January, we didn’t get a chance to partake in any of the hotel-led activities, but I did see one activity that intrigued me. Each morning, at 7:30am the week we were visiting, there was an activity called “Get Up & Go Power Walk” listed on the schedule. What really intrigued me was the description – “participate in a very brisk Power Walk while enjoying the sights and sounds of Disney California Adventure Park before it comes to life.” An opportunity to walk around one of the parks before it opens? Sweet! Will definitely check this out when we’re back at Disneyland in August.
Funny enough, as I was putting the info together for this blog post, the Disney Parks Blog happened to post about this very activity and even included a video:
Definitely looks like a great way to start the morning!
Hotels at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland provide a variety of activities each week, so make sure to check out the schedule included in your check-in packet – these activities are a great way to spend a little time away from the park!