Interesting Way to Save Money on a Disney Cruise

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It may be surprising to some, but even though I’ve taken hundreds and hundreds of flights and lots of amazing (and some not as amazing) trips, I have never, ever, ever, taken a cruise. Ever. Heck, I’ve never even stepped foot on a cruise ship. I am 100% cruise-free, but that isn’t necessarily intentional. I’m certainly not anti-cruise, it just isn’t something that has happened yet.

I’m not actively planning a cruise right now, but I do know that if I was going to plan a cruise, it would most likely be on a Disney cruise ship out of Galveston. I hear virtually nothing but great things from those who cruise with Disney, I love Disney, and Galveston is within a couple of hours driving distance from our house. A Disney Cruise meets all of my mental cruise checklist criteria and then some. Of course, as I’m sure you could guess even if you have never done serious cruise research, a Disney cruise comes along with a Disney sized price tag. In fact, if I’m being honest, price is one of the main reasons I haven’t gone on a cruise, as the cruises with the best reputations are not inexpensive. I’ve instead preferred to use airline miles and hotel points for our big family trips to keep their costs much below retail, and you can’t do that in the same way with cruises.

We love Mickey and Disney!

Interesting Way to Save Money on a Disney Cruise

While I am no cruise expert, I recently watched a YouTube replay of a Facebook Live video done by Richard Kerr from Award Travel 101 where he talked about cruising, and I learned something great that can save you a lot of money on a top-notch cruise. This great thing that I learned will be of absolutely no surprise at all to those in the cruising world, but if I didn’t know it, I bet at least a couple of you who haven’t really cruised will be pleasantly surprised, too.

To give some context to this money-saving strategy on cruises, when I got on free private jet flights last summer it was when they were repositioning the planes from one city to another to pick up paying passengers. These “empty legs” as they call it are the cheapest way to get yourself on a private jet as they need to fly the plane anyway to get from where the plane last dropped off paying customers to where it will again pick someone up. Well, a few times a year, some cruise ships apparently do the same thing when they reposition themselves to start service out of another port. On these repositioning voyages, you will be starting and ending at different points, as opposed to a traditional cruise that starts and ends at the same place. Being okay with the one-way trip means that you can save a ton of money just by timing your cruise with when the ship has to move anyway.

There are entire websites dedicated to this repositioning of cruises so I won’t begin to try and list them all, but I will outline how this strategy can save you big time, even on a Disney Cruise.

Save thousands by taking a one-way Disney Cruise

As an example, Disney seems to reposition their Wonder ship out of Galveston in January to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a few weeks and then on to Port Canaveral. From what I can tell, the Wonder then doesn’t return to Galveston until roughly November.

If I took my family of four, including girls who will be 9 and 3 next winter holiday season, on a traditional seven-night Disney cruise departing from Galveston, it would cost a staggering total of $8,486.36 for the four of us to stay in a Deluxe Interior Stateroom. That is the second lowest room category, costing just a little more than the cheapest room category. That comes to an average of $303 per person per night, or a total of $1212 for our family per night. That Disney-sized price tag is why I haven’t really cruised.

However, if my family of four instead stayed in the same room category on the same ship when it repositioned from Houston to San Juan just a couple weeks later, it would cost $2,544.40 for that five-night cruise. That comes to an average of $127.20 per person per night. While not cheap, that is a vacation that is much more realistic for us and in line with the out-of-pocket costs for other big trips that we take such as skiing and visiting Disney World itself. In fact, it is probably cheaper than some of those other trips when you consider that the price includes not only your room, but also meals, entertainment, and even kid’s clubs.

We would have to use miles or pay money to eventually fly home to Houston from San Juan, but getting some optional time at the end of the cruise in an oceanfront city is a bonus to me, and certainly not a limitation of these one-way repositioning cruises.

Photo from a prior trip to Puerto Rico

To be fair, the cost savings is more dramatic than normal in that peak holiday example vs. the off-peak repositioning dates immediately after the holidays, but even if you compared it to another off-peak date in say early November, there is still about a 30 – 40% savings in the cost of the repositioning cruise over other dates when school is also still in session.

I’m now toying around with the idea of taking at least our then three-year-old on one of these repositioning cruises out of Galveston in early 2019. I am really good about taking at least annual one-on-one trips with my oldest daughter, but we haven’t yet established as consistent of a pattern with our youngest. That is okay given her age, but at some point soon-ish, I think it is good to do trips with just her too. Hopping on one of these cruises before she is tied to a school schedule seems ideal. That said, my oldest daughter would probably be quite unhappy if she missed out on a Disney cruise!

For what it’s worth, three-years-old is a magic number in the travel world for a few reasons, but one of the reasons is that at three kids are old enough for the complimentary onboard Disney kid’s clubs!

Earning and using points on a Disney Cruise

In terms of earning points on the cruise purchase, in this case, you could pay for your cruise largely with Disney gift cards that you purchase with rewards earning credit cards at up to 5x points. If I bought the roughly $2,000 in Disney gift cards I would need to pay for this cruise with Josh and my youngest with my Ink Plus card at an office supply store, I’d earn 10,000 Ultimate Reward points in the process. You could instead focus on paying for the cruise with fixed value points from a card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. If you had 100,000 points from that card to use towards your cruise, that would save you $1,000 at one cent per point. In the case of that card, you’d also then get 5% of the redeemed points back.

Since you can just make a deposit on the cruise and then pay the rest later, you could work towards earning enough points with a new credit card and its sign-up bonus to cover a chunk of that payment and keep even more money in your pocket.

Have you or would you do one of these one-way repositioning cruises in order to save money?

Head here to learn more about available rewards credit cards and their bonuses.

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. We went on our first cruise a year ago (w/ disney) with our 3 kids, the youngest had just turned 3. We had a heck of a time potty training her, so she was still in pull-ups and couldn’t go into the kids club. That limited the time my wife and I had to ourselves.

    All in all it was a great experience, we are looking to book another when our oldest gets to the teen club age, this repositioning cruise is a great idea.

    • Oh that stinks but is a good reminder about being potty trained. We are on the verge of a potty training boot camp with our youngest. Princess potty is ordered and ready for battle!

  2. My family recently booked our 7th Disney Cruise for January 2019. My kids love DCL more than the Disney parks! You must try it! One piece of advice: If you have enough miles, I recommend flying to Orlando instead and going on a 4-night cruise on the Disney Dream that stops at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. It’s incredible, and there’s even a kids’ club on the island. January prices aren’t too horrible (comparatively). I always pull my kids out of school for a Disney Cruise to get the off-season prices (except for our recent Alaska cruise).

    • Love it. I may do the first one from Galveston (if/when) we do it, but if love it (as I assume we will), doing the one you describe is on the list for sure!

  3. We have loved, loved, loved the two Disney cruises we’ve taken (with one more in the works for summer). But I think you’d regret not taking your oldest as she’s the absolute perfect age in my opinion. Also consider booking through Costco because they give you 8 percent back in the form of a Costco gift card.

    • You’re probably right, but doing that cruise specifically with her would be tough as that is right when school starts back up after the holidays. Bah!

      • Totally get the school thing. We took our kids out of school for one cruise and it was worth it but this next one we’re forking over a couple extra grand to do it in the summer. It only gets harder to pull them out as they get older, but for these Disney cruises the price difference is so much – hard to justify. Even for Disney World, we suck it up and go when it’s crowded at spring break in order to avoid the missing school.

        • Truth. I do have her miss school, but usually no more than two days at a time. This would put that at 3 probably 4 in a row and certainly trigger a truancy warning. Not saying I wouldn’t ever do that, but would have to make sure that was it for the semester.

  4. We took two Disney cruises when our girls were 7 and 10 out of Cape Canaveral and loved it! Great idea about the repositioning cruise. I don’t know if the bounceback offers are published, but we received one and it was a great deal – 3 day cruise for $100 each (back in 2009!). The first cruise was over President’s Day weekend and the bounceback was during the hurricane season. We ended up going over Halloween and the girls had a great time trick or treating on the boat!

  5. We have a Disney cruise booked for August 2018 for 7 nights (me, husband and 7 yr old). We worked through a Disney-savvy travel agent and found the last week of August cheaper than any other week of the entire summer. This worked for us as we don’t go back to school until after Labor Day. Yes, it’s still expensive, but we feel now is just the right age for our daughter to enjoy it and it’s been on our travel wish list for a few years! We also booked the cheapest interior stateroom, as we don’t plan to spend much time there….just sleep/shower. But I’ve heard all rooms are nice so we are not worried. We are very excited and have not even shared the news yet….I don’t want to hear “when? when?” for the next 7 months! LOL! I’ve also considered purchasing advance Disney gift cards (with reward credit cards) prior to our trip to pay for on board expenses. I’ll have to check to see what will give the most points for purchase.

  6. You should look into cruises more and I’ll contradict you that if they’re actually good values. Any cruise at Christmastime is going to be expensive but you can get balcony cabins for a week on some great family ships for about $1000 in non-holiday times. We and our twins got TWO adjoining balcony cabins for a week in the carribean on the RCI Allure for a little over $4000 (and that’s before a $300 credit per cabin). It’s not “cheap” but definitely reasonable! We’ve done a number of cruises but not Disney yet because unfortunately it is about 50% premium over what I can get on one of the newest ships on RCI, Princess, etc. and I just haven’t been able to justify that yet.

  7. Last minute Disney Cruises are the absolutely best way to go. You can save 25 to 30% off. Especially since you live close to one of their ports. Subscribe to this blog and they send out the discounts for each ship each week. Otherwise known as *GT. IGT, OGT or VGT
    http://disneycruiselineblog.com/

  8. Even better is the now rare kids sail free. I had wanted to go on DCL for awhile and snagged one about 5 years ago. It is quite oppressive cost wise for a family of 5 to cruise though. (You jump up in room size and price a lot.) Our stateroom was next to the uber luxurious one. Disney is the best. So clean. So much entertainment. No cruise would work for us now due to time (school schedule) and the fact that it costs as much as a car for 5 people for peak season.

  9. That’s a hefty price tag considering you can get on one of the largest Royal Caribbean cruises for 7 nights, total for random dates is coming to 3300 usd which includes a spacious ocean view balcony cabin.

  10. We are in Orlando now and leave tomorrow on the Disney Dream and our kids have no idea still! It’s literally half the price this week compared to 2 weeks ago. And kids are off Monday so that helps an ounce with school.

  11. Be careful with gift cards. Some cruise lines limit their use. And the repositioning cruises are indeed excellent in many ways. Our two transatlantic cruises were wonderful. In addition to the low price, you get more room on an uncrowded ship and better food and service of the more relaxed staff. Happy sailing!

  12. One drawback of the repositioning itinerary is that it does not stop at castaway cay which is a highlight of the cruise. But certainly a small price to pay for such big savings.

  13. I literally just got off the Disney Wonder today – it was our first Disney cruise! Girls only i.e. Grandma, mom and my 2 girls age 4 and 9. Everyone loved it! Disney ships themselves are destinations in itself and three sea days were perfect with a beach day in Jamaica. Kids loved the character greetings and oceaneer kids club. Highly recommended.. do it!

  14. You don’t have to post this but I booked in late Nov during black Friday weekend when the shopathome portal was offering 20% cashback on priceline. I asked topcashback to match and was succesful. We did a inside guarantee and was upgrades to 10c category. It was awesome with separate bathrooms foe bathtub and wc. Paid $1600 For the four of us. One of the best Disney values as the Disney difference in food and service was highly visible in this cruise.

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