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!