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