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Interesting Way to Save Money on a Disney Cruise

Jan. 06, 2019
5 min read
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The term "Disney" usually translates to "well-done, but pricy." This translation is said to hold true onboard their cruise ships. I'll find out for myself in a couple of months on our very first Disney Cruise, but there is an easy way to save a lot of money when venturing into the world of cruising that doesn't require any previous cruise experience.

Save Money Taking a One-Way Cruise

I learned a key money saving tip for Disney Cruises, thanks to Richard Kerr, a TPG senior contributor and the leader of Award Travel 101. It turns out, some sailing itineraries are significantly cheaper than others. As in, thousands of dollars cheaper.

To give some context to this money-saving strategy on cruises, a little over a year ago, I was able to hop on free private jet flights via a sweet promo and jumping on "empty legs." These empty legs were available when the private jet operators were repositioning the planes to get from one city to another to pick up the next group of paying passengers. Naturally, you can't always get on these legs for free, but you can often do it for less than chartering a plane outright.

Taking it back to the sea, a few times a year some cruise ships do the same thing when they reposition ships to start service out of another port. On these repositioning voyages, you will be starting and ending at different points, just as you do on the empty legs of private jets. Being OK with the one-way cruise means that you can save a ton of money 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 thousands of dollars on a Disney cruise.

Disney Dream cruise ship upper deck (Photo by CL Photographs via Flickr)

Save Thousands of Dollars on a Disney Cruise

As an example of how this works, Disney repositions a ship out of Galveston, Texas, each January to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it operates for a few weeks before taking another one-way jaunt to Port Canaveral, Florida.

If my family of two adults and two kids booked the entry-level room on Disney Dream out of Galveston for the week of Christmas, a round-trip seven-night itinerary around the Caribbean costs at least $7,800. However, if we booked the early January one-way six-night sailing from Galveston to San Juan, we would pay as little as $3,238. That is a lot of money, but comes to about $135 per person per night, which isn't horrible for a basically all-inclusive experience.

Some one-way adventures are even more far-flung, such as sailing from Florida to California through the Panama Canal. You can even sail across the Atlantic from Dover, England, to New York. A family of four could book that memorable transatlantic one-way 10-night trip (that also stops in Stonehenge, Ireland and Nova Scotia) from $5,627 total. Keep in mind that you could tag that on to a longer European trip and use it as the way to get home, saving on airfare!

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For comparison's sake, if you booked a seven-night Disney cruise through Europe that starts and ends in Dover, your family of four would usually pay $8,000 to $10,000 as a starting price. Taking the one-way sailing from Europe to the US can save you almost 50% over the cost of just sailing around Europe.

Image courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Save More With Disney Gift Cards and Credit Cards

You can save even more on a Disney Cruise Line sailing by paying with Disney gift cards you purchased at a discount. Using annual credit card travel credits, such as the $300 available each year from the Chase Sapphire Reserve, can also help you save money on your cruise.

You could also use fixed-value points, such as the 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days available with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard, that could be worth $700 toward paying for your Disney Cruise, if you charged at least that much of the cruise to that card. Since you can make a deposit on a Disney cruise and then pay the rest later, you could work toward earning enough points with a new credit card and its sign-up bonus to cover the rest of the cruise closer to the sailing date.

In terms of earning points while paying for your cruise, we recommend using the card that earns the most on travel charges. Paying for a $4,000 Disney Cruise Line voyage with your Chase Sapphire Reserve® would earn you 12,000 Ultimate Reward points worth around $240. If you wanted to spread out the payments a bit, you could use the built-in perks with the Disney Visa.

Have you considered a one-way repositioning cruise in order to save money?

Featured image by Image courtesy of Disney Cruise Line
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.