Good [whatever time of day it is where you are]! I’m in the middle of the North Sea, and it’s 5:30 AM as I write this. It cost me $36 to get online, so please don’t be too critical of this post. If it’s terrible, at least I was able to save my thousand-day Duolingo streak.
As you gathered from the title, I’m on a Disney cruise. Those are words this frugal guy never thought he’d type. I’m not a Disney person. My wife isn’t a Disney person. My kids would say that they are Pixar/Simpsons people but have no interest in Disney classics, Star Wars, or Marvel.
An expensive Disney cruise makes no sense, but it also makes all the sense in the world. My wife has been looking to return to Europe since we moved to California in 2006. It didn’t make sense then, and it was more complicated once we had kids in 2012 and 2014. The kids can take care of themselves a bit, and they’ll remember this trip. The kids are happy because it’s focused on them. Initially, my wife wanted to go on Queen Mary 2 but realized that would be terrible for the rest of the family. This has something for both of them. As for me, well, I’m human tofu. I take the flavor of what’s around me. If they are happy, I’m generally happy.
This cruise is 11 days and goes from Copenhagen to Norway to Iceland to Scotland to England. We got a day in Copenhagen, and we’ll get a couple of days in England at the end. Overall it’s about a half month away. That’s why I’m not blogging too much until September.
There are entire blogs dedicated to Disney cruises. Before I went, I read a two-thousand-word article about how the beer package worked. It was around 1950 words too long. You buy a mug for approximately $15, and you get six ounces free every time you buy a beer. At about 55-60 cents an ounce, it is $3 of extra beer and pays for itself in about 5-6 beers. The article I read wasn’t as helpful as it didn’t even go into the math.
I will play fast and loose with the numbers because my wife did all the booking. There were many hidden costs, like the ride from the airport to the Airbnb in Copenhagen and then to the ship. I’m not smart enough to think of those details as we have a ton of luggage, and a regular taxi wouldn’t work well.
The Cost of a Disney Cruise
The base package was around $8,200 for a family of four. This was for the cheapest stateroom. We looked for discounts and couldn’t find any. My wife usually gets a military discount, but the travel times for those cruises didn’t match what we needed. I’m sure there was tax, and I know we paid for insurance. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were $9500 when my wife checked out. We’re going with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which works in this context. We also had flights that were probably another $2500 as my wife found some deals or cashed some reward points. With extra costs (Airbnb before and after the cruise, rides, excursions, etc.) I wouldn’t be surprised if the final price came in at $15,000.
Wow, I felt way better before I tried to do the math, and I thought it was $8200 for 11-days. We’ll get about 15 days, but anyway we slice it, it’s about a thousand dollars a day. It’s a good thing she earns very good as a pharmacist. The house would look like 101 Dalmations if I tried to make that with my dog boarding side hustle.
The strange thing is that this seemed like the biggest “bargain.” Most other cruises were a thousand dollars a day just for the stateroom. So we see several countries and cultures for less money per day than on other Disney cruises.
Save Money on a Disney Cruise
There are a couple of ways that I’m saving money. So far, I’ve only bought internet access for one day; it is day four now. My wife and I purchased $40 sim cards for our phones from the airport. They include 30GB of data, which is more than we’ll need. I would have bought less data, but there wasn’t an option. The cruise internet is $36 a day, so mobile internet is a bargain. Whenever we are near land, I can use my phone as a mobile hot spot and have a good internet connection for my computer. It just doesn’t work in the stateroom, because the mobile service doesn’t have reception.
On a Disney cruise, you can bring two bottles of wine at any port. We could have brought in more than enough wine never to have to pay for drinks. You are not supposed to drink it outside your stateroom, but there’s no way they’d know if you put it in an opaque cup.
The Good, Bad, and Ugly of a Disney Cruise
The first two days were as close to perfect days as you can get. My wife rated the first one as a 9.7 and said the second one was even better. It’s just nice having everything taken care of for you. At least twice a day, the staff cleaned our room. There was never a worry about where the next meal would come from or doing the dishes afterward. I suppose that’s standard for every vacation, but we didn’t have to plan any uncomfortable travel-related stuff.
A cruise is a great way to get a taste of several different countries. The Disney aspect was perfect for the kids.
Too Much Trivia
We loved the trivia for the first couple of days. However, about half of the activities are trivia, and it’s too much. I can get maybe 10% of the questions. My wife can get about 50%. The kids can do another 10%. Routinely there are 2-3 teams that get at least 95% of the questions correct. There’s some very obscure stuff, but even the less obscure stuff can be challenging when the queries span hundreds of movies, dozens of TV shows, a variety of theme parks, and more. Think of what they could do with just The Simpsons trivia… except sadly, there hasn’t been one question related to them yet.
Maybe it’s a Peter Pan thing, but Disney doesn’t believe in clocks. There are no clocks anywhere. That can be a good thing on some vacations, but everything is run on a strict schedule here. If you run things on a schedule, have clocks around.
I realize many people have cell phones, but the kids don’t. Well, the kids do have some basic cellphones, but they aren’t helpful here without wifi. They can use the Disney Cruise app to chat with other family members, but we’re not leaving an eight and 9-year-old alone when they’ll need it.
Disney lost our kids in the first three hours of getting on the boat. We checked them into the kids’ center and said we’d be back in about an hour as we unpacked. We came back, and there were no kids. The kids’ center said that they switched from “open house” to “secure protocol” at the top of the hour, which means they kick all the current kids out. They said they usually take them to the other kids’ center, but we went to check that out before picking up our kids, and they weren’t there.
Disney had no idea where they might be. They said that usually, the kids go to the room, but we had only been in our room for a few minutes, so we weren’t sure they’d know how to go there. Plus, we were coming from unpacking in our room. Fortunately, they did ask a crew member, and he was able to look up our room and bring them there.
They have extensive security to pick up the kids the rest of the time using a check of parents’ faces (coded into the system from before we left), a room key card, and a secret family password. Excellent security 90% of the time doesn’t make up for the other 10% of the time when they push your out to fend for themselves with strangers.
A couple of days later, one of the people in charge pulled the kids and me aside to say they were sorry. They hinted that they would like to make things right. One kid said he’d like some chocolate, and the person in charge quickly pointed out that she couldn’t make that happen. It seemed odd considering that all the food is included, and there are about five types of chocolate desserts every night. It was clear to me at that point that we weren’t going to get any room credit or anything else of value. The apology did little more than re-open the wound.
“Kids, Go to Back of the Line”
You have to get in line to take pictures with the Disney characters. (These are pictures you pay for, but you can grab your own with your phone.) We were 10 minutes early for Pluto, so we got in the line while Goofy was there but finishing up. They switch out the characters, and it’s at the exact location (so they don’t have to move all the lighting and other photography stuff). About 15 people lined up behind us. Then they announced that Goofy was leaving, but it was our turn. We explained that we were in line for Pluto, and they said that the line started just behind us and we’d have to go to the back. They hadn’t announced any kind of the start of a new line, and there was no way to know that was happening.
We went to the back of the line, and I complained that we had waited longer than everyone. The young lady working there said that SHE was okay with this. I explained that we are the customer, and it’s not about how she feels about her job. I was honestly too confused to get into it anymore.
When we finally got to the front of the line, they gave us a photo of Pluto for being patient. Of course, giving one photo to two kids created a new set of problems. Who gets the photo? Let the fighting begin!
As we get off on more ports and spend more time off the boat, we’re finding that we have more things to do. Still, the onboard activities could have a little more variety.