4 Things Worth the Extra Money on Disney Cruise Line Ships (and 6 Things to Skip!)
While a Disney Cruise Line vacation is not an inexpensive holiday, most of the best things onboard are included, like character meet-and-greet moments, dinner at main dining rooms, the stage shows, and even loaner Diaper genies. But not everything is—Here's what we think is worth the splurge.
Worth it: Castaway Cay cabanas
Okay, this may be the most expensive charge offered by Disney Cruise Line, but we think it's worth it—and so do most cruisers, because these are the first thing to sell out onboard. That said, the cabanas include butler service, protect you from the crowding of the family beach, and make it possible to stay on the beach all day long without packing up and returning to the ship mid-day.
Ca-ching: $590 per day
Worth it: Cocktails
While soft drinks are included on Disney cruises—there's even a soda fountain by the pool—boozy drinks are not. Some of the lounges onboard actually offer gorgeously prepared cocktails, the kind you might find at a chic speakeasy in a major city. So, yes, if we're talking about say the elegant ones—like the specialty cocktails at Cadillac Lounge that come with an atomizer for you to mist yourself—it's totally worth the money. Check out even more reasons why Disney Cruise Line ships are great for adults.
Ca-ching: $19 per drink
Worth it: Dinner at Remy
While dinner at a variety of restaurants onboard is included, and you and your family automatically rotate through them (as does your waiter), we think Remy, the adults-only French restaurant, is worth a splurge. Both the food and the setting are so elegant, you may just forget you're on a ship full of little children eating chicken fingers.
Ca-ching: $95 per person
Worth it: Palo Dinner
Like Remy, the onboard Italian restaurant is also adults-only, and a big step up in fare. Menus include antipasti and house-made pastas, and there are wine-pairings if you really want to make a night of it. Plus, you can really enjoy your meal knowing the children are happily entertained in the kids' clubs. Not used to eating on a ship? Use these 11 tricks to avoid getting sick on your cruise.
Ca-ching: $30 per person
Maybe not worth it: Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
This one is all about your personal taste, and we should start by saying that children are mesmerized by this experience. Make an appointment at the kid-only hair salon, and your child's personal fairy godmother-in-training will wow him or her with stories and finish the hair style off with a sprinkle of fairy dust. The downside: If you're not used to seeing your little girl covered in glitter with make-up, extensions, and an elaborate hair-do, the result can be jarring.
Ca-ching: Hair appointments start at $45
Maybe not worth it: Royal Tea
This is another one that the kids love so much it sells out fast. But while the entertainment value of the experience is top-notch—and the access to the princesses, who come around and around for photos and conversation, is impressive—the food is minimal, which is especially surprising considering the fee. Find out what it's really like to play a Disney princess.
Ca-ching: $210 per child and $69 per adult
Not worth it: Some shore excursions
Cruise lines generally mark-up experiences so that you're paying extra for the convenience and the peace of mind that the ship will wait if your bus is, say, stuck in traffic. (Ships don't wait for those independently sightseeing the way they do for line-sponsored tours.) But we found one shore excursion to be especially expensive for what you get. The Atlantis Beach day in the Bahamas costs $94 per person. What you get is a transfer to the resort and an escort to the beach. However, since the waves were strong when we were there, the beach was closed and we were escorted to a rather sad man-made beach on a lake. Access to the pools and waterslides were not included, and the rate did not include any food or drinks.
Ca-ching: $94 per person for anyone over the age of 10; $79 for 4 to 10 year olds; complimentary for children younger than four
Not worth it: Movie concessions
While most of the food onboard—from the all-you-can-eat buffets to the pool-side pizza stations—is included, you'll pay extra for popcorn to take into the ship's gorgeous movie theater. Don't miss the 28 secrets cruise lines don't want you to know.
Ca-ching: Popcorn is $5 per bag
Not worth it: Pictures
With selfie sticks and plenty of people around to ask to take a shot, there just isn't much of a reason to buy the line's pictures, which may turn out great but certainly add up quickly. Instead, take a moment and ask your butler and waiter to take shots for you, and be sure to have a camera with you for when characters show up.
Ca-ching: $149.99 for a package of 10 prints
Not worth it: Internet access
As it does on all ships, this really adds up! If you're on a short cruise, as many of the Disney sailings are, we suggest taking the opportunity to unwind and really unplug until you disembark. Put your phone on airplane mode or, if you're traveling with a separate camera, put it in the safe as soon as you arrive. Be sure to check out more ways to save serious money on your next Disney vacation.
Ca-ching: Packages start at $19 for 100 MB.