Extra Costs of a Disney Cruise...OR How much is this REALLY going to cost me?

Bahama Mama?  Yes. Please!
So, you finally decided to take the plunge and go on a Disney Cruise!  If you are like me, then one of your top questions is "How much is this REALLY going to cost me?"  You know the dollar amount that is on the bottom of your confirmation, but you have a pretty strong suspicion that that is not the true bottom line.  And you are right.  There are a few extra costs associated with the cruise that you really need to factor into your budget.  The good news, is that food is not one of them!  The other good news is that while Mickey has several ways to tempt money from your wallet, you can have a great time with out spending much extra.  I can honestly say that unlike other cruise lines, I do not feel "nickle and dimed" after leaving a Disney Cruise.

So what are the extra costs associated with a cruise?  I break things up into to 2 categories:  The Negotiables and the Non-Negotiables.

The Non-Negotiables
  • Transportation Costs to the Region - Will you be flying into the Orlando or Melbourne Airports early in the morning and hoping your flights are on time?  Are you within a reasonable drive of the port?  Will you stay in a hotel the night before you cruise to eliminate transportation variables?  Remember:  The ship will leave with or without you, so a good arrival plan is critical!
  • Parking or Shuttle to the Port - If you are flying in, remember to factor in the cost of Disney's Magical Express, a private car service, or even a car rental to get to the port.  If you are driving, remember to factor in the parking fees of $15.00 per day for any part of the day.  We can also help you arrange a pre-cruise stay over at a local hotel that will provide parking for the duration of your cruise and a shuttle to the port.
  • Standard Gratuities - While gratuities on a Disney ship are always at your discretion, I know you will want to be sure to thank the incredible crew that provided you such great service.  Disney recommends a total of $12 per person per day to cover gratuities for your Dining Team and your Stateroom Host/Hostess.  You can prepay these gratuities before you go, or you can arrange it while on board.  They will give you specifics as to the breakdown, or stay tuned to this blog for more information.  I honestly felt a little guilty only tipping $12 for the level of service I received. so I was glad I had a little extra cash on hand to tuck in the tip envelopes provided!
  • Other Gratuities - Again, I hesitate to include gratuities as a "non negotiable" because tipping is always at your discretion.  Since tipping is customary, and in most cases very well deserved, I am including it here.  If you order room service, remember that the kind face that delivers your food is not part of your Dining Team. A tip for their promptness would be appreciated.  Technically, part of the extra cost of Palo and Remy includes a $5 tip that is shared amongst the manager and waitstaff.  If you feel that your level of service exceeds a $5 tip, please feel free to leave more. A 15% gratuity is automatically added for alcoholic beverage purchases.  You may wish to include gratuities for your spa services, excursions, etc.  
The Negotiables
  • Excursion Costs - There is a huge area of budgetary discretion when considering excursion costs.  You can stroll off the ship and explore your port city or Castaway Cay on foot and not spend a single dime.  Or, you can go for a top shelf beach day at Castaway Cay by renting a Family Cabana for $499, followed by an $80 per person parasailing adventure, and ending the day with a $475 Couple's Choice Spa Time.  In the Bahamas, for example, you can wander around and see the sights and barter for inexpensive souvenirs in the Straw Market or you can head off to Atlantis for the Ultimate Dolphin Trainer experience for $459 per person.  And, of course, there are plenty of high end jewelry stores ready to tempt you!
  • Spa Services - You can skip the spa entirely, or take advantage of a wide variety of services.  You can do the inexpensive Rainforest Experience and enjoy the saunas, sensory showers, hot tubs, and the super comfortable heated tile loungers (LOVE those!)  for about $15 for the day.  If you and your significant other want to splurge, you can do the 150 minute Ultimate Indulgence package for couples.  Of course, there are a variety of services in between.  You can add gratuities at the time of check in or purchase.
  • Beverages - There is a free beverage station on board providing soft drinks 24 hours a day.  Soft drinks are included with each meal at no additional cost.  Traditional breakfast beverages delivered with your breakfast room service order are available at no additional cost.  All other beverages will be charged to your stateroom.  This includes any alcoholic beverages served at the pool, at dinner, in a bar, from room service, or at Castaway Cay.  This also includes any non alcoholic beverage - smoothie or soft dink  - served at the pool, in a bar, from room service or at Castaway Cay.  Gratuities will be automatically added to beverage purchases.
  • Special Meals - Castaway Cay is considered an extension of the ship, so lunch and snacks are available there at no additional cost.  If you are doing excursions in port, be sure to check to see if lunch is included. If not, plan to return to eat on the ship or check out a local restaurant.  Remy and Palo are the adult only  restaurants available on board.  There is an up charge to dine at these restaurants.  Candy and special snacks are also available outside the theaters, for an additional fee.
  • Souvenirs - Again, this is an area with a huge amount of discretion.  You can skip the shops entirely, but let's face it, that is not likely to happen! You can find cute mementos from pens, to magnets, to key chains for a few dollars...and it goes up from there.  We recommend that you set a budget and stick to it.  Giving children a preset spending limit is also a great way to keep a rein on your budget.  We like to shop early in our cruise, but buy a little later in our cruise. 
  • Internet and Phone Calls - We recommend you totally "unplug" and enjoy your cruise, but if you are unable to do so, you can pay for internet use by the minute or purchase a package of minutes.  The internet is slow, so "surfing" is not very practical.  If you must send and receive email, log in, download and log out.  Once you are logged out, type any necessary responses and log back in to send.  Ship to shore calls are also possible, but they are expensive.  Roaming cost for your cell phone can also be expensive.  Find out what your options are before you go.
  • Photographs - Take all the photos you wish with your own camera, but if you wish to take advantage of the professional photographers on board, include photographs in the budget.  Disney photographers will take pictures in the dining room, at character meet and greets, and various other locations on board.  While not inexpensive, a photograph of your entire family all spiffed up and having a great time can be priceless!
Disney does a great job of letting you cruise your way.  You can have a fantastic time and not spend any extra money besides the gratuities once you are on board. (And if you pre-pay your gratuities, you can leave the ship without one extra dollar spent!)  While that is certainly possible, it is not practical for most families.  So set a budget and make some smart choices...or don't and splurge!  The good news is that it is totally within your control!

1 comment:

  1. I would love it if you would come over to and be our cruise specialist. If you could write one article a week that would be perfect. We are in need of one.