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