Monday, July 11, 2016

How We Chose Our Disney Cruise

There is a huge debate out there in the Interwebs that starts with the question, "Is a Disney Cruise worth it?"  Seriously, just Google that and you'll see for yourselves.   Like I mentioned before, the answer to that question is completely subjective, depending on what's important to you.  For us, the only other cruise Ken and I have taken was on Disney Cruise Line.  The Disney "magic" cannot be denied!  It also happened to be the name of the ship we sailed back in 2008.

When we began considering a cruise, we did look at other cruise lines.  They cost significantly less. (Click here to read about ways we found to save for a vacation.) My parents cruise extensively, enjoying a few cruise lines, and had taken our older kids on a Royal Caribbean cruise, each on their 13th birthdays, so we knew Disney wasn't the only option. Mackenzie said the Royal Caribbean trip was her favorite cruise, but she wants to see how cruising Disney as a teen will compare.  Ken and the kids were adamant that they wanted Disney.  I read the "is it worth it" articles, looked back at our own photos from our 2008 cruise, thought about our little boys especially, deciding that special Disney magic was worth the extra expense.

To an extent!  Here are some ways we saved money while booking a Disney cruise.

We travel during off-peak seasons.  That is often the only way we can afford to travel with a family of 7.  We plugged in our musts: Dream-class ship, at least one stop at Castaway Cay, 7 nights, sailing from either Galveston or Port Canaveral. Then we literally selected the sailing with the lowest price. Once we are onboard the ship, if we book another cruise we can get significant savings (10% discount and the luxury of paying only 10% down rather than 20%) .  We would have time to cancel if we had to, but it's a good way to get future savings.

As for school absences, our older kids' school loves the idea of the kids traveling and has no problem with them missing 9 school days in order to do so.  Our younger boys' school is also open-minded, but it is a government school, so counted absences are a big deal.  They are allowed 14 absences. They will miss 9 days for this trip.  If they aren't "excused," then we will just hope the boys won't need to miss school for the rest of the year.  Some families actually un-enroll, then re-enroll their kids in order to remove them from school for an extended trip.  We didn't need to do that, but it's an option.

Another way to save is to check the internet for discount cruises coming up in the near future. That didn't work for us since we needed to plan way in advance, but if you're flexible on dates, you can save significantly this way.  Check out DisneyCruiseLineBlog for up-to-date specials.

Check to see if a port is near you, so you can drive and save on airfare. If you're in Texas, Galveston is a good option, especially if it's your first cruise. (We are driving to Port Canaveral, but more on that later!)
Our stateroom verandah on the Magic 2008
We did choose a cabin with a verandah. Again, this extra cost all boils down to preference. I know some cruisers who would never pay for more than an interior room because they only sleep in their cabins anyway.  Disney ships have a cool LED interactive "porthole" that cruisers love so much, the inside rooms get booked fast!  For us, we are a big family with boys that will likely sleep before we are ready to call it a night. The verandah allows us to maximize our time on the ship, enjoying the view, water and air even while the boys sleep.  With 7 of us getting ready, the verandah is a nice place for the early birds to hang out while the stragglers finish getting dressed.

We don't book excursions and we choose the earliest port arrival time.  There is so much to do on the ship! That's what we paid the big bucks for!  On our first cruise, when arriving in port, we stepped off the ship for a short look-around, then promptly got back on, enjoying nearly empty pools, decks, and fun events.  No need to budget for extra meals and entertainment when I've already paid for that!  This trip, we have planned some excursions on our own.  More on that later.  As for the early port arrival time, it boils down to value.  We don't have to get on the ship until 3pm, but why not board early and have 4 extra hours to enjoy what we've already paid for.

Mouse Savers, one of my very very favorite sites for Disney (and Universal) trip planning, keeps a running list of deals.  While you're over there, get lost in the plethora of information.  Seriously everything you'll ever need to know can be found there.

I agree with Mouse Savers: book with a travel agent.  While the Disney website is super easy to use and it's where we planned and priced our cruises, agents have "inside info" that we aren't always privy to without a ton of digging.  Travel agents cost us nothing, but can add so much value.  Find an agent who has actually cruised and knows the ins and outs.  We booked with Lange Travel, an agency with a stellar reputation in our Deaf community and beyond.  (Supporting Deaf-owned businesses is important to us, so that was an added bonus!)

My Incredible guys 2008.
Now my guys are doubled!
When you book, either directly through Disney or through a travel agent, you can get hundreds of dollars in onboard credit.  It's enough that it usually covers our cost for tips.

If you are a Type A personality who can use credit cards and pay them off every single month, avoiding interest fees, then consider using a Disney Visa to earn $50-100 onboard credit and other perks. We don't do this for reasons I've explained.

Now, before you think we are just Disney fanatics who will always choose Disney for everything, know that we are visiting Universal Studios, not Disney World, for 4 days before we set sail. (I can't wait to share my budgeting and planning spreadsheets for all of this stuff!)

We will consider another cruise line for a future vacation, but for this one, we decided DCL was worth the extra money.




2 comments:

  1. We are super excited to go on a Disney cruise in January. We've requested an ASL Interpreter for our Deaf daughter who will be 6 years old at the time of cruising. Did you family use interpreters? If so, how was your experience?

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    1. We loved the interpreters! They do an excellent job with the shows and I've heard they are great in the kids' spaces as well. This upcoming trip will be our first experience with interpreters in the Oceaneer Club and Lab, so I'll keep you posted!

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