We have all been there. Way back when I was a cruising newbie I made mistakes. It’s to be expected.
Once you have sailed on a Disney Cruise you will most definitely want to sail again.
But with your first time and even your second or third, you can still have missed some of these tricks that only seasoned cruise veterans know about.
14 Ways that First-Time Cruisers Waste Money
Are you a newbie to cruising looking to get the most bang for your buck on a Disney Cruise? Looking to save money on a Disney Cruise both before you book and once you are onboard?
Here we will show you all the ways that you can easily save money on your cruise and avoid the mistakes that newbies often make.
Not only did I draw upon my many many months at sea with Disney to bring you these tips, I also asked the thousands of Disney Cruise fans in my EverythingMouse Disney Cruise Group what their best secrets area.
Come and join this lively group who love Disney Cruises by clicking on the big red button. It’s free and we often have Exclusive Giveaways!
Not Exploring all the Stateroom Options
Always consider your stateroom options carefully.
I know that when you first start to look at Disney ships it can seem like an overwhelming choice of cabins for you.
Which type of stateroom should I get? Which deck is the best? Will that location be noisy?
All of these are good questions.
Here are lots of guides to help you choose a Disney Cruise Stateroom.
- Disney Wish Staterooms Explained
- Disney Dream and Fantasy Secret Staterooms
- Disney Cruise Staterooms to Avoid
- Disney Wish Concierge Staterooms
Always look carefully at the pricing of your Disney Cruise stateroom.
Often you can get an Outside Stateroom with a porthole for a very small amount more than an Inside Stateroom.
Another thing newbies don’t always realize is that, depending on your party size, it may be cheaper to look at 2 staterooms rather than one.
Disney is one of the very few cruise lines to have some staterooms which sleep up to 5 guests.
The Deluxe Oceanview Family Staterooms with Verandah sleep up to 5 guests.
However, there are relatively few of these Family Staterooms, particularly on the Disney Wonder and Magic. This means that they tend to be priced significantly higher than other staterooms.
Always look to see if it would be more economical to get one large stateroom or 2 smaller ones.
For instance, you could choose a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah and an Inside stateroom close by. Or, depending upon price, even two Deluxe Veranda Staterooms.
Compare the prices with the Deluxe Oceanview Family Stateroom with Verandah just to make sure you have the right choice.
Waiting Until the Last Minute to Book your Disney Cruise
You may have heard of last-minute bargains for cruises. I know. They do exist. Mostly with other cruise lines and not with Disney.
Sure there are some exceptions to this rule.
But mostly you will not see a last-minute bargain for a Disney cruise.
Usually the further out you can book your Disney Cruise the better the rate you will get.
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This is particularly true of the new Disney Wish. There are unlikely to be any last-minute deals on this ship for a long time.
Here you can see how the prices of the cruises on the Disney Wish increased over time:
The exceptions to this are if you qualify for a Military Discount or if you are a Florida Resident.
Having Inflexible Travel Dates
Some sailing dates cost more than others.
Obvious examples are Christmas, New Year and Thanksgiving.
Expect to pay more on average if you are sailing on these very popular dates.
The summer months, with school vacations, are also more popular, so will be at a higher rate than a time in which most of the kids are in school.
If you can possibly be flexible with your dates then compare rates for different months.
Here you can see How Much Does a Disney Cruise Really Cost?
Failing to Book a Placeholder Onboard
You can’t do this one until you are actually sailing on your Disney Cruise, but this is an easy way to get a discount on your next cruise.
A Disney Cruise Placeholder is sometimes known as a Disney Cruise dummy booking.
It is an easy way to save 10% on your next Disney Cruise.
It is very easy to book a Placeholder when you are on board by using the Disney Cruise Navigator App.
You can book a placeholder for specific dates.
You will get a 10% discount on the online price of the cruise.
If you don’t know when you want to sail again you can still book a Placeholder.
The Disney Cruise Placeholder is valid for 2 years from the date that you booked. So you have a good amount of time to decide on which Disney cruise you would like to sail on next.
Remember though what I have said about Disney Cruise prices generally only going up from the release date, and also of course the availability of different staterooms goes down.
Therefore you should use your Placeholder as soon as you know when you want to sail.
A Placeholder cannot be used to get a discount or reduced deposit on any Concierge Staterooms.
If you decide not to use your Placeholder you will get your $250 deposit back.
There are some block-out dates that you can’t use.
You can see more about this at Disney Cruise Placeholder – What is It and How To Make the Most of It!
Many first and even second-time Disney Cruisers do not know about this perk.
Not Bringing Your Own Drinks Onboard
One of the biggest expenses onboard in any cruise is drinks. Disney is one of the few cruise lines that actually let you bring a limited amount of alcohol on board with you.
If you drink and you don’t take advantage of this, you are missing an opportunity to save money!
Here you can see lots of menus and prices of the Disney Cruise Drinks offered onboard.
The prices of the drinks on board are pretty reasonable when compared to other cruise lines. However, you will save even more if you take advantage of the Disney Cruise Line bring your own alcohol on board policy.
Disney Cruise Line Guests 21 years and older may bring a maximum of 2 bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750 ml) or 6 beers (no larger than 12 ounces) on board at the beginning of the voyage.
You can also bring on the same amount at each port-of-call for a Disney Cruise.
Note that this specifies only wine, champagne, or beer. Do not try and bring any other kind of liquor on board as you aren’t going to get past security with it!
If you want to drink wine or champagne that they have brought on board in one of the dining rooms will be charged a corkage fee of $25.00 per bottle.
However, if you drink it in your stateroom there is no charge. Your Stateroom host will even bring you wine glasses and a corkscrew if you ask him!
Buying Bottled Water on Board
I know some people only drink bottled water, but really what you need to know is that the water on the Disney ships is perfectly good to drink.
Disney Cruise Line uses a reverse osmosis filtration system to ensure that the water on board all their ships is safe to drink.
If you really must drink the bottled water you can order it prior to boarding to be ready for you when you board.
A 6-pack of bottled water costs $15.00 and a 24-pack is $60.00.
This does not include tax and gratuity.
You can see that if you think you are going to buy bottled water you can save by bringing it on yourself.
You can also bring your own water on board with you.
I know some people love bottled water.
However, to save money I always take a Reusable Water Bottle and just fill it with ice and water from the beverage station.
It is so much better for your budget and for the environment. Think of all the plastic you won’t be using.
Not Taking Advantage of the Free Soda
Unlike many other cruise lines, Disney Cruise Line has free soda at the self-serve beverage station which is open 24 hours a day.
If you or your family members are soda drinkers this can save you a fortune when compared with other cruise lines that charge you for soda.
On all of the Disney ships, you will find a beverage station on the pool deck.
This is open 24 hours a day. So if you feel the need for a drink of Coke at 3 am you can get one.
The beverage station offers these drinks free of charge.
- Diet Coke
- Coke Zero
- HiC Fruit Punch
- HiC Pink Lemonade
- Fuse Ice Tea
- Sprite Zero
- Hot Chocolate
- Assorted Teas
These Disney Tervis Cups are really useful to bring with you.
Just grab a drink from the pool deck for free and take it to your stateroom or anywhere else you want to enjoy it on the ship.
These drinks are also free in the Restaurants on a Disney Ship.
However, if you order them from a bar you will pay extra for them. It does pay to be organized so that you are not spending money on drinks when you really don’t have to.
Remember too that there are ways to save on drinks such as purchasing the Disney Cruise Wine Package.
The only way to get a free alcoholic beverage? Go to the reception which is held before the Captain’s Gala Dinner to enjoy free beverages including cocktails and wine.
Paying Full Price for Spa Treatments
There is something so relaxing about having a spa treatment whilst cruising on a Disney Ship.
However, what is not quite so relaxing is the sticker shock that you might experience once the pampering is finished.
You can book appointments in the spa prior to boarding. This means that you have more choices of appointment times to fit with your schedule.
However, you may be wise to wait. What you will always find is that once on board your Disney Ship, you will start to see deals being offered.
The best deals are on port days when many people aren’t even on the ship.
This can be a good time to snag a deal at the spa.
The deals are often offered in bundles. So a manicure, a pedicure, and a neck massage for example.
Don’t hold out for deals on the Couple’s Spa Villas as those aren’t going to happen.
However, if you just want something like a manicure, a quick facial, or a hair conditioning treatment, then you should look out for the deals.
Tipping Twice in the Spa
There is another way you can avoid paying too much in the spa.
Once your spa treatment is finished you will be given a receipt to sign. This has a space on it where you can put an additional tip.
This can lead to confusion and make you think that you need to add a gratuity. However, what may not be clear for newbies is that an 18% tip has already been added to the spa charges.
You are welcome to add an additional tip, but just be aware that there is already an 18% tip on the amount that you are being charged.
This is so even for the Rainforest Room charges, even though there is very little if any, personal service element to experiencing the Rainforest.
Not Keeping Your Phone in Airplane Mode
You may think that the first thing you should do as soon as you feel the ship start to sail is to celebrate and head to the Deck Party.
Well by all means do that, but there is something you absolutely must do first or you will definitely regret it.
Put your cell phone in airplane mode.
You may even find that your carrier has cruise-specific plans for you to arrange before you sail.
Whilst it is always worth investigating what these are to see if they will save you money, another plan is just to turn on airplane mode and connect to the ship’s internet on a pre-paid package.
Having said that, unfortunately, Disney has a long way to go to keep up with other cruise lines in terms of the internet that is offered on board.
Fortunately, this is about to change as Disney has introduced a new inclusive internet package.
Disney is now joining the many other cruise lines which now offer unlimited internet packages for very reasonable prices.
Paying with Disney Gift Cards and Not Keeping Track of the Card Numbers
Using Disney Gift Cards for your onboard account or to pay for your cruise in the first place can be a great idea.
This is particularly true if you can get your Disney Gift Cards at a discount, or with some kind of points scheme so you get rewards.
One of the best ways to buy Disney Gift Cards and save money is at Target.
They offer a debit card known as the Red Card, which gives you 5% off many purchases, including Disney Gift Cards.
As the Red Card is not a credit card there are no interest charges. It is linked to your bank account – so you use the Red Card and the charges are taken directly from your bank.
Therefore with this method, you will get 5% off your purchase of Disney Gift Cards.
Remember though that you do need to keep the cards until they have a zero balance and you have used the credit.
This is because if you pay for your Disney Cruise or use a gift card for your onboard account, any money you don’t use will be credited back to the Card. This means you must have the Card number available so that this is possible.
Leaving Essential Items Behind
The stores on every Disney Cruise ship have lots of tempting things to buy.
They also sell essential items that you may have forgotten to pack.
Make sure that you don’t forget to bring certain essentials so that you can avoid having to pay a premium for them on the ship.
Here are some examples:
- Sunscreen. This is absolutely essential. It is available to buy on board but you will save money if you bring it from home. It’s a good idea to pack it in your carry-on bag so that you have it as soon as you get on the Disney ship. Here are some Great Sunscreens to choose from.
- Even if you have been careful with the sunscreen, sometimes you still get burned. Aloe Vera Gel helps a lot and we always pack this for a Disney cruise.
- I always pack laundry detergents such as Tide Pods Free and Gentle Detergent. This saves money as an alternative to using the packs sold in the laundry facilities onboard the ship.
- I have never been seasick but family members have. It is rare but always a good idea to be prepared with Dramamine Motion Sickness Relief. Remedies will be available onboard but usually at a premium price.
- Don’t forget to pack a small emergency medical kit with cough and cold remedies, scissors, band-aids, and small bandages. They stock these in the store – at overinflated prices.
Skip the Concession Stand
There is food everywhere on a Disney ship. You will not go hungry.
Most of the food is included in your Cruise Fare. You absolutely do not need to spend extra money on food unless you choose to.
One of the most tempting things to buy is popcorn. You know that familiar smell as you walk towards the Walt Disney Theater to watch a show? Who can resist the lure of a bag or even a bucket full of popcorn to go with the show?
You really should. At this point, you will either have eaten dinner or be going to eat after the show. Do you really need that bucket?
If you really can’t do without snacks at the show then why not bring some inexpensive candy from home. If you do that you can avoid the regret you will feel on the last day when you realize you have spent $50 or more on popcorn!
Not Having a Clear Budget for Your Spending
A Disney Cruise is a cashless, credit card-free place. The only way to pay for anything is with your Key To The World Card.
This is wonderfully convenient. It is so easy to hand over your card without keeping track of your expenditure.
Sure, it is easy to check what the current charges are, but how many of us do that every day.
Hands up who prefers to forget about it until that last night on the ship when you know you really are going to face just how many popcorn buckets, drinks of the day, and spa treatments you really had.
One of the easiest ways to save money on a cruise is by having a budget. And sticking to it.
One good way to do this is by using Disney Gift Cards for your onboard account. You will also have to have a credit card backing up excess charges linked to your account.
However, knowing that you only have a certain amount of dollars in your account on a Gift Card, can help you curb your spending if you want to.
If you have kids with you then it is a good idea to set them a budget to spend on board too.
Rather than give them free rein with their spending, it can be a great learning experience on how to budget.
Just make sure you lead by example too!
Alison Meacham is the founder of EverythingMouse Disney Blog. For over 15 years she has shared her love of Disney Parks, Disney Cruises and Universal Orlando. In over 30 years of Disney Travel she has spent countless months in Disney Parks and has sailed on over 45 cruises. A British native and now a United States resident she splits her time between California, Florida and the UK. And spends a serious amount of time sailing the seven seas. She helps over 200,000 people per month follow their Disney travel dreams.