Wanting to go on a Disney Cruise during your College Program but think it’s not possible? Think again. I’m here to tell you how to plan your vacation without breaking the bank and make the most of your time.
In April 2017 I was able to set sail on the Disney Dream for a 3 night cruise to Nassau, Bahamas and Disney’s private island at Castaway Cay, Bahamas for under $1,000. Now before you gasp at the large number keep in mind I did include excursions and spent close to the higher end on this trip. Getting the number down to something realistic for your budget is VERY reasonable. While on our cruise we had an excursion planned in both ports which I will get into more detail later.
First things first. In order to be eligible for your Cast Member discount you must have been with the company for at least 90 days. Most one semester programs are not long enough to pack a cruise in on top of everything else so unless you are in a Spring/Fall Advantage program or have extended your original program this might not be an option for you.
Planning a cruise during your program is a gamble and can be very stressful since you won’t actually know if you are going on your trip until around 3 weeks out. Disney puts their cruises on discount for Cast Members no more than 45 days in advance. For our specific trip it did not go on discount until 27 days in advance.
So you might be asking how did you possibly plan your trip on such short notice without getting in trouble at work? Well, as soon as you know about when your 90 days with the company will be I suggest to go online to https://disneycruise.disney.go.com and find a cruise that is set to sail anytime around/after that date. Once you find a cruise that seems reasonable go straight to the hub and request your days off. Most of the time if you’re looking in advance the dates will not already be taken/highly waitlisted. In case the days are waitlisted make sure the number is low, I wouldn’t risk anything over 3. Even if you aren’t sure you can go request the days off. I cannot stress this point enough!
Now that you have the days off the fun part begins, you can start planning! You will not be able to actually book anything as far as rooms and excursions but that does not mean you can’t research things. We decided to book all of our excursions through the DCL just because if anything were to happen you will not lose your money if it is cancelled due to weather/ship related reasons. If you are to book through other places you might save money initially but from experience weather is unpredictable and you could be losing your money. You will not get a discount on excursions so that’s where the price can add up.
Our cruise sailed out of Port Canaveral, FL which is about an hour away from DCP Housing. We split the gas between the two of us and the tolls that you run into along the way. As far as parking for the cruise we used https://parkcruise.com which was as cheap as $5.95 a day and they provide transportation to the terminal right to the gate. We absolutely loved them and they are way cheaper than most options.
For our cruise we knew that we wanted to pack as much in as possible so excursions were a must, if that’s not for you and you want to save a little money there are plenty of things to do on the ship/at port that don’t cost a thing! We started saving for our cruise from the moment we requested the days off which was around 4 months in advance. It is easy to get carried away with what you buy at the ports/on the ship but if you plan around $1,000 you will be fine. Given this is budgeted for a 3 night cruise.
We started checking the Cast Member cruise portal to see if our cruise went on sale at the 45 days out but it did not actually go on discount until 27 days before we were to set sail. This can be a little stressful but if you already requested the days off and started saving up it’s really not a big deal. As a cast member since you are getting a discount you must pay your balance in full, you aren’t offered multiple payments option. You are able to book all of the people in your party under one name and pay separately, there is an option to use multiple cards to pay. We decided not to wait because we were so excited for our trip so we were fine with getting the cheapest option of an inside stateroom with the magic porthole. For this option the total cost was $458.83 per person. Compared to the regular price for non Cast Members this is an incredible deal.
In Nassau we booked a Sea Lion Excursion through Blue Lagoon. We were able to book directly through the Disney Cruise Line and it cost $131.00 per person. This includes transportation to and from the ship to Blue Lagoon, your wetsuit for the time with the Sea Lions, and access to the beach at Blue Lagoon. We decided to get a photo package and for 6 photos + the video of your excursion it cost $160.00, so split between two people it was $80.00 a person. The way we divided up the package each of us picked out 3 photos of ourselves with the Sea Lions and then one person would get the flash drive with the pictures and video and we just shared the drive when we got back home. The excursion lasted about 4 hours including exploring all of Blue Lagoon, so we still had time to tour a little bit of Nassau as well. We personally didn’t find too much to do around the ship and it was a little sketchy around there so we found t-shirts at a store for $24.00 and decided to head back to the ship to get cleaned up for dinner.
On board you are still able to get your 20% discount at the stores but they are only open when the ship is at sea, not in port. We went a little overboard on merchandise just because the Cruise Line has some pretty cool things, in all we probably spent around $150.00 each on the ship alone getting Alex & Ani bracelets, t-shirts, PhotoPass pictures, Mickey Ears, and picture frames.
When on board all of your food, sodas, and room service (as long as you do not order drinks) are “free” meaning they were included in you booking cost (what you initially paid). The only things that are additional costs are the Candy Store, Popcorn for the movies, Palo, Remi, Pink Lounge, Senses Spa, and any alcohol you purchase. There is a a promotion for the alcoholic drinks where if you buy the souvenir cup you can get the drink of the day each day for $6.00. We did this deal not knowing much about it and wanted the glass but honestly I do not see a real need to purchase this. Including alcohol that cost us around $60.00 total for the trip because we had to try the Pink Champagne in the Pink Lounge…it was worth it. We did not end up booking reservations at the extra restaurants because having only 3 nights there wasn’t really a time to go and spend the additional money. If we had a day at sea we would have tried Palo because it is only an additional $30.00 and we heard a ton of good reviews on it.
For our second day on the trip we spent the day at Disney’s Private Island, Castaway Cay. We had booked a Snorkeling Excursion through the Cruise Line, specifically the Abaco Rigid Hull Snorkeling Adventure – Adult Only. This cost a total of $84.00 per person and only ages 18+ are allowed on this excursion. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate with us and our snorkeling was cancelled due to rain storms all day long. We were immediately refunded our money but we spent all of it at port on more merchandise, whoops. You do receive your 20% off on the island because it is technically an extension of the ship! Food is included on the island so you do not have to worry about spending money or rushing back on board to eat for free. Since we were rained out but still wanted to do something we signed up for the Castaway Cay 5k. This is a free event for all guests not just Cast Members, just go to Guest Relations any time to sign up.
Total cost for this trip: $986.83
There you have it! That is a detail of all the costs you will run into on your cruise with no hidden fees or unexpected expenses. I hope this helps you plan your vacation with a real number to go off of and not playing the guessing game. Keep checking back for another post where I will go into detail on more of the events on board and our excursion! If you want to see some footage from our trip check out my video below! Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel for more updates!