This is a very typical question for anyone planning a cruise of any kind and a question I have recently received from a client going on the ToaD Fantasy sailing on October 20, 2012 (space still available and the rates are great!). I decided to do a blog about the typical costs to expect on a cruise but thought it would be better broken down into a couple blogs. This one is going to be specific to our 7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Disney Fantasy. In the future, I will do a blog that is more general to all cruise lines.
Some people believe that a cruise is all-inclusive. While a cruise is more inclusive than most vacations (excluding all-inclusives of course), there are some things that are not included. That said, you can keep the costs down with some planning. I have broken down the possible costs associated with a cruise.
I think sometimes people forget that once you get to the airport, you do need to get transportation to get to the cruise. For Port Canaveral, the port is about 50 minutes to an hour away. This is a very expensive cab ride so planning in advance is important. Transfers with Disney Cruise Line will run $35 per person, per direction. You can get the transfers from a Disney resort (except Fort Wilderness) or the Orlando International Airport (MCO) only. Other options for you would be a car service. This can be a lower cost for more than two people than the transfers with the cruise line. I’ve spent between $90 – 120 each way for up to three people. A final option is to get a car rental. I have talked to some people who get great deals using Priceline or Hotwire so they feel it’s worth it to book the car rental for the entire cruise plus your time before and after your cruise. I find though that it is very cost effective to book one way car rentals through the companies that are at the port. Most of them do not have a one-way drop off fee. In fact for our upcoming cruise, including all projected taxes, we are paying under $95 roundtrip for two separate car rentals.
Parking at Port Canaveral can add more than you expect to the cost of your trip. To park here, you pay by the day or any portion thereof. Therefore, for a 7 night cruise, you will pay $120 ($15 per day for eight days). There are other offsite parking lots that will charge between $5 and $7 per day with transfers to the port. They are worth looking into to save some money for the other things onboard!
Some don’t mind flying down to Orlando on the day of the cruise. For me, this just makes me incredibly nervous and stressed. What if your flight is canceled? What if weather is bad? What if you are diverted to Scranton? Ok, the last one probably won’t happen, but you never know what could. I always like to come in the night prior to the cruise at the latest. You can even get a quick stay at Disney World as part of the trip. Some will also decide to go to the port that night and stay at a hotel nearby. Some will offer transfers to get you to the port, while others do charge for this service. Many do have cruise parking packages where you can get parking at the hotel included plus your transfers to the port and back. Pricing can vary here depending on location and amenities of the hotel. I have seen prices around $100 on up.
If you are staying at a Disney resort prior to your cruise and have outside transfers set up (car rental, car service), you can have your luggage sent to the ship by Disney Cruise Line. The cost of this service is $25 for up to six bags (small charge per bag for more than six). You cannot set this up in advance on your reservation but must do so the day prior to the cruise. You will be charged on your shipboard account for the service.
While onboard there are four positions that you will tip, regardless of anything else you do. These are your housekeeper, service, assistant service and head server. The amount that is recommended is $12 per person per day for these four (total, not per position). This amount is the same regardless of age of those in the room. It is also the same regardless of whether or not you go to the dining rooms. Keep in mind that all of your service team works other shifts in the buffet or the table service restaurants and help you and others there so just because you don’t go into the dining room at your assigned table, you still need to pay gratuities for your service team. Disney has recently changed how this works and you have two choices. You can prepay gratuities up until three days prior to your cruise (for a 7 night, this is $84 per person) or at the beginning of your cruise, you will be automatically charged the gratuities. You can make changes to the auto charged amounts and add more if you want, but if you don’t want to make changes you are all set.
Shore excursions, or as Disney now refers to them, Port Adventures, can have a wide range of prices. I have seen some of these for several thousand dollars (private helicopter rides to the shipyard in Germany and some of the shore excursions in Alaska), but there is definitely something for everyone. You can do a city tour as low as $25 or $30 per person, beach tours and snorkeling trips under $100 per person or a personal signature tour for much more. There is also a good range of types of activities from active, family, nature, sightseeing, splashtacular, teen or adult only and signature. You aren’t required to do a shore excursion in each or any port.
There are outside vendors that you can book with too. I would be careful with these though and make sure they are a reputable outfit. Some will guarantee your return to the ship, meaning if you miss the ship they will get you to the next port of call on their dime. These are good ones because the last thing they want to do is pay to get you to the next port. They will make sure you get back in time. Check pricing and what is included. Some of them may be cheaper than the cruise line, but some may not.
Photos on the cruise can be a very expensive thing, especially if you are always getting pictures taken! There are some packages to reduce the cost of the photos. I believe one 8 x 10 photo is around $19.99. For $89 to $199 you can purchase credits for photos. The packages are worth 10, 20 and 30 credits and a 6 x 8 photo is equal to 1 credit while an 8 x 10 photo is equal to 2 credits. There is also a photo CD that you can purchase for $249 which will include all the photos taken of you and your family over the course of the entire cruise.
Spa & Salon
For those that like to visit the spa and salon on your trip, there are options for you for as little as $15. This would be a day pass to the Rainforest room. Salon services range from $23 to 85 for hairstyles, color, highlights, pedicures and manicures. Spa services start at $44 and go all the way up to $589 with various body treatments, massages all the way up to the Ultimate Indulgence, 150 minute treatment in a spa villa.
Beverage tastings can be a lot of fun onboard, but they can add up. Usually costing between $12 – $20 and on up, these tastings could be wine, martinis, tequila, whisky and others. We have participated in a mixology session which was $15 per person. You are permitted to share tastings with another if you don’t want to do one all your own.
On the Disney Fantasy, there are two adult only specialty restaurants. Palo, which serves Northern Italian fare, has a surcharge of $20 per person for either brunch or dinner. Remy, which serves a multicourse French meal, has a surcharge of $75 per person. It is suggested that the surcharges do include a typical gratuity for expected service, however you are encouraged to tip more for exceptional service.
Unlike most other mainstream cruise lines, soft drinks are included in most places on the Disney cruise ships. The exception is going to be room service and in the clubs and lounges. There is a 24 hour beverage station on deck 11 (deck 9 on the Magic and Wonder) which has a variety of soft drinks, milk, coffee, tea and hot cocoa. In the dining rooms these are also complementary.
Coffee and teas served in the Cove Cafe or Vista Cafe do have a charge though of $2.25 to $4.00 + per drink. They do have a coffee club card though and after purchase of a certain number of beverages, you get one free.
There are several package you can purchase in advance or once onboard to save a bit of money. The wine packages for a 7 night sailing range from $189 to $292. This is for 7 bottles of wine from a select list. There is a bottled water package ranging from $9 to $35 (6 – 24 bottles). 6 pack of beer packages range from $21.75 to $26.25 and they also have a beer mug for $14.95 which gives you a reduced price on all refills.
Speaking of beer, the cost for beer runs between $3.75 and $5.90. Glasses of wine can be as low as $5 on up to $26 or more. A drink of the day without a souvenir glass is around $5. Most mixed drinks will start around $6, but a martini will cost you at least $9 and possibly more for the specialty ones.
With all beverages, you will be automatically charged a 15% gratuity. You can certainly add more but it isn’t required. As I understand it, the auto gratuity is split between the server/bartender who placed the order and the bar team. Any extra that you give goes specifically to the one you interacted with.
Here’s something that mostly doesn’t have a cost associated with it. Food doesn’t have a charge, except for chocolate covered strawberries ordered here (learned from experience!). Beverages, including soft drinks and alcohol, will have a charge. It is recommended that you should give your server a gratuity as well.
Any prepackaged snacks will have a charge. These can be purchased from room service and outside of the theaters. This would include candy and bagged popcorn. The only exception to this I have seen are the chips available on Castaway Cay.
This is going to be pretty much the same as on the ship, with the exception of the shore excursions. Food is complementary as are the soft drinks by the dining areas. Alcoholic beverages, shopping and rentals will cost you. I recommend unless you are certain you want a package of rental equipment that you wait until you get to Castaway Cay to get your rentals. Boat rentals you must wait, but bikes, floats, tubes, etc. can be reserved ahead of time. I recommend waiting because you may change your mind when you get to Castaway Cay, depending on the weather and what you feel like. I have friends that never came out to the island, due to too much partying in the clubs the night prior. Their rental would go to waste in that case.
Boat rentals will run from $8 to $20 for 30 minutes. Bikes are $6 per hour. Floats, tubes and snorkel equipment are rented for the day at $6 for the floats and tubes and $25 adults/$10 children for the snorkel equipment. Children prices are for up to 9 years old for all activities on Castaway Cay.
There are other excursions as well offered here but they were covered in the excursions section.
This can vary greatly by you! You can pick up a key chain or a postcard for just a few dollars onboard to a Dooney & Burke for well over $200. The higher end merchandise is all located in White Caps with the jewelry, handbags and couture clothing there. There are three other shops with children’s items, logo merchandise and liquor.
Of course, all pricing is subject to change at any time, but this is just meant to give you an idea of what the extras can cost you. It can add up quickly if you don’t pay attention onboard, but you certainly can keep the cost down.