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Why I traded an international getaway for a last-minute discounted Disney Cruise

Dec. 12, 2021
8 min read
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Once Santa has visited and the gifts have been unwrapped -- but the kids are still off from school for another 10 days or so -- we like to jet out of town on a post-Christmas getaway. Sure, it's usually an expensive and busy time to travel as all the other families are in the same boat, but that's an awfully long time to sit at home and "waste" days off from school and work that could be used for exploring.

Lots of years we use those winter break days to go skiing. But this year, for those glorious days off around New Year's, we originally booked an international beach getaway at an all-inclusive resort. However, with the travel rules changing and, even more importantly, the price for flights skyrocketing, I started to doubt it was the best plan for us.

So I embraced the ability to change plans on a dime that the last few years have brought us, and I canceled that getaway.

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In place of that international beach trip, I booked a pretty last-minute Disney Cruise that will also head to an international beach or two. Even last minute, a verandah cabin on that cruise cost less than just the cost of flights on the trip we walked away from.

Here's how -- and why -- I traded an all-inclusive beach trip for a cruise.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The cost savings

This is so strange to write as Disney Cruises during the holidays usually cost at least two arms and a leg, but these are weird times. This time around, booking a verandah cabin with the Disney Cruise Line during the winter break cost about half what our all-inclusive trip to Mexico would have cost.

Things worked out this way in part because no matter whether we used points or miles, our flights home from Cancun were going to be extraordinarily expensive just after the new year. And because the resort we had booked was now sold out for the time period we needed, we couldn't just play with our dates to avoid returning on those super-peak dates.

There would also be tests involved with that type of international travel, and to avoid airport immigration line delays during those super peak dates, odds are decent we'd end up paying for a VIP airport service again, which also isn't cheap.

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At the same time that demand and pricing were spiking to Mexico for the holidays, prices were dropping for Disney Cruises.

How low are the prices you ask? Prices obviously vary by sailing, but a family of four can find cabins starting between $2,000 - $2,500 this winter with Disney. Not all sailings are that cheap -- but some are. (You can see some of the discounted sailings here, but ours wasn't listed on that page and was still discounted.)

And what's interesting is that the cheapest cabin currently isn't always an interior cabin but instead is sometimes a verandah where your specific stateroom assignment within that category is left to Disney to decide -- which is precisely what we booked.

View of Nassau from our stateroom. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

If you haven't experienced it yet, the price for a Disney Cruise is essentially like an all-inclusive vacation, other than alcohol.

Your lodging, meals, entertainment and more are mostly included in that one cost, so it is basically an apples-to-apples game with price compared to an all-inclusive resort. Since our dates are true winter holiday dates, they are a little more than the lowest-priced sailings this winter, but not by much.

Pro tip: We even got some onboard credit by booking through an agent that included that in the deal, so consider not booking directly with Disney and instead use a site like CruiseCompete to compare offers.

Related: How we booked our first cruise

It sounds like fun

Price matters, but what also mattered a lot in this switch is simply that a cruise sounds fun whereas another international trip involving airports and travel approvals didn't sound as relaxing.

From experience, I know that the originally planned trip to Mexico and back wouldn't have been nearly as complicated with testing and approvals as our recent trips to the U.K. and Finland or Turks and Caicos were, but I'm just sort of at my capacity at this moment with all of that. As the one who manages all of the logistics for the family, that feels like work and just getting on a ship feels like fun.

There are still tests and forms and uploading vaccines and all, but once we are on the ship, the work is done and they are in charge, which sounds amazing. We'll still go to a gorgeous international beach, and I can't wait to go to Disney trivia events, slide down the waterslide, get a massage, enjoy swimming at Disney's private island, see some movies, watch the nighttime shows and just stare out the stateroom into the ocean.

Related: Review of the Disney Dream ship

Disney’s private island Castaway Cay. (Photo by David Roark / Disney Cruise Line)

The safety precautions are better

Just as the part about a Disney Cruise being kind of affordable feels strange to type, the idea of a cruise feeling like a safer trip in a pandemic also seems a bit strange to say. However, in this case, I think it's true.

On our cruise, everyone 12 and up will have to be both vaccinated and tested (that age drops to five with Disney Cruise Line in January). And kiddos who don't yet have both shots on our cruise will be tested twice: once in the 72 hours before sailing via PCR and then again with everyone at the time of boarding. If we had continued on to our Mexico trip, neither of those things would be true. No tests or vaccines are required for Mexico.

That wasn't the deal-breaker for Mexico as we have safely enjoyed an outdoors-focused trip there earlier this year, but it does make me more comfortable with the cruise.

On top of that, masks are still in play on Disney Cruises when indoors, which is also welcome news for us. Add together tests and vaccines with face masks and this cruise actually feels like a safer option than several of the other trips we have taken this year. And while there are certainly times you are indoors on a cruise, being up on deck with the breeze is almost always a great plan.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

I'm sure our trip to Mexico would have been a good time and we'll try a similar trip again one day when airfare prices cool off a bit. But, this chance to trade that trip for a more affordable one that also sounds like a more relaxing time at this moment was a switch I couldn't pass up.

Walking across the platform and back onto a ship, while hearing the Disney castmembers proclaim, "Welcome aboard to the Hull party," is a travel moment I didn't know how much I missed until it was suddenly back within my grasp.

While things won't be exactly the same as during our last cruise in January 2020, I couldn't be more excited for the adventure.

And if we've learned anything over the last few years, it's seizing opportunities as they come and not to waste time and money doing something when your heart just isn't in it.

We can't wait to toast our smoothies and daiquiris as the ship's massive horns play the first seven notes from "When You Wish Upon a Star," as it pulls out of port and heads toward the ocean.

Featured image by Disney's Castaway Cay (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
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.

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Cons

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  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023