What’s included (and what you’ll pay extra for) onboard a Disney Cruise

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Disney Fantasy

Before our first Disney Cruise Line experience on the Disney Fantasy last month, I asked all you wise readers for your best cruising tips. As promised, the best ones are now featured in a cruising tips video at Expedia.com, but now that we’re back, I want to expand upon one tip of my own: know what’s included in your cruise, and what you’ll pay more for.

What’s always included in a Disney Line Cruise:

1. All meals, from you embarkation lunch to your departure breakfast. Remember, there’s no additional charge for ordering extra appetizers or desserts, kids ordering off the adult menus, or room service! (Stay tuned on the latter, however: there are exceptions.)

2. Deck 11 fun. This includes all pools, water slides, splash play areas, miniature golf, basketball, hot tubs, shuffleboard, and ping-pong.

Fantasy Donald Pool

3. Fitness center: While spa treatments on a Disney cruise will set you back, the fitness center is included, and provides a nice environment for exercise, including stretching and yoga space. I really enjoyed running the treadmill in front of the bay of windows overlooking the sea.

4. Soda, coffee, iced tea, and water. An industry first, Disney Cruise Line offers unlimited soda refills in their drink station, as well as coffee, tea, and water. We didn’t feel the need to buy bottled water at all; just bring a refillable water bottle and keep it filled!

Castaway Cay Pelican Plunge

5. Castaway Cay. Disembarking and enjoying the beaches, trails, water slides, play areas, Scuttle’s Cove child care, and Cookies 2 BBQ is free at Castaway Cay. (There is a long list of things you’ll pay extra for, however. See below!)

6. Kids’ clubs. All kids’ clubs facilities, with the exception of It’s a Small World Nursery, are included in the cost of your cruise. This refers to: Oceaneer’s Club, Oceaneer’s Lab, Edge, and Vibe. All food and drink served in the clubs comes included as well, with the exception of the make-your-own smoothies bar in Vibe.

7. Onboard entertainment. All evening Broadway style shows, deck parties, poolside movies, and first-run movies in the onboard movie theater come included in the cost of your cruise. (Movie concession snacks, however, have a charge.)

What you’ll pay extra for:

1. Alcohol. As is customary in the cruise industry, you’ll pay for all alcohol on the ship. (This includes at dinner, where the rest of your meal is included.) I didn’t find the drink prices onboard to be unreasonable. In fact, for a quite cheap (under $7) and really good martini, try La Piazza in Europa!

2. Pre-packaged room service items, including bottled water. This is a tricky one. While all prepared room service food is free, pre-packages foods are not. And the room service menu will not indicate this. Look for the items that are designated at ‘snack packs’. Also beware of all drink packs, even the bottled water. If you want a snack, order the fruit and cheese plate for free instead!

3. The Arr-cade. And it’s not worth it! In fact, my kids, who love arcades, wondered aloud why Disney even bothered putting an arcade on the Fantasy, if it wasn’t going to be ‘great like all Disney things’. There are so many video game options in the kids’ clubs, there’s no need to pay to play in the arcade!

Oceaneer's Lab games

4. Sports simulators. For our sports-loving kids, these simulators, located on Goofy’s Sports Deck, were worth the up-charge, unlike the arcade. They had a lot of fun playing the games together; you can have as many people as you’d like join one session (within reason, I assume!), and kids can pick at will between hockey, baseball, basketball, and soccer. The charge is $12/half-hour. There’s also a golf simulator for more (I believe $45/hour), but it’s a complicated course, and intended for advanced golfers only.

5. Spa treatments. Spa treatments in the Senses Spa are heavenly (or so I heard…I didn’t take the plunge) but pricy. A more frugal option: buy a day pass, which will get you into the hot tubs, Rainforest room, and more.

6. Dining at Remy or Palo. The up-charge for the adult-only dining options on the Fantasy is downright reasonable (though you’ll be tempted to pair your meal with wine!). Making a reservation to eat at either one is a great way to treat yourself without breaking the bank!

Castaway Cay bike rental

7. Some activities on Castaway Cay. This would include bike rentals ($6/hour and totally worth it!), snorkel gear (we paid a total of $70/day for our family of four), boat rentals, including paddle boats, kayaks, and water bikes, and the stingray excursion ($35/adults, $30/kids…we were content to watch only). Remember to budget for any alcohol on Castaway Cay as well.

A few obvious (and maybe not-so-obvious) things to budget for:

While you’re considering the cost of a cruise, be sure to budget for the extras just about everyone will need to include: an excursion or two (depending on your cruise destination and length), souvenirs (hard to avoid the temptation!), and cruise tips. While a tip is automatically added to any drink orders you place on the ship, at the end of your cruise, you’ll be expected to (and should) provide a tip for your stateroom hosts and dinner servers. Disney will do it for you automatically if you’d prefer–just ask at Guest Services–or you can designate your own amount. I used this chart for cruise tipping amount, which is based on the length of your cruise and number in your party.

Not sure if a Disney cruise is the one for you? Other cruise lines offer family-friendly amenities. Learn more about cruises for the family.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

Series Navigation<< Five items we were glad we had on a Disney Cruise Line cruise (and five we didn’t need)

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Comments

  1. I love these tips!!!! As someone who has never been on a cruise, you have answered so many of my questions.

  2. Jameelah says:

    This is the greatest list ever. I am going on a Bahamas cruise and wanted to find out what extras I will need to be prepared for. I have a family of 6, 2 adults and 4 kids and have been extremely worried about ‘hidden fees’. If anyone goes on the Meditteranean disney cruise please let me know if excursions at the port are extra. That will determine if I need to book that trip in the following two years.
    Thanks!

  3. Actually, tip 6 is not correct. There is a fee for the nursery for children under 3.

  4. Thank you for pointing this out! It will be a help to later readers!

  5. Quick question about tipping: the chart you reference says “per guest.” Would you consider our children to count? We would, of course, tip anyone at the children’s clubs, but what about the other stuff?

  6. Kristen, to answer your question, ‘per guest’ includes children. If you opt to have Disney deduct your tip automatically, they will do it this way. If you tip manually at the end of your cruise, you are of course free to tip as you see fit. We included the children when calculating tip because they certainly made as much mess, etc as anyone else.

  7. Thanks for these tips, Amy! We’re prepping for our first Disney in January and this information is hard to find!

  8. Happy to hear my tips helped. I know how hard it is to find practical info like this, and wanted to help others prepare for their cruises. Have fun!

  9. Thanks for all the great tips Amy! My husband and I are taking our 3 year old on the Disney cruise in April so all of this will certainly come in handy. What kind of room do you recommend? We were going with the one with a Verandah (not sure on spelling).

  10. We had a verandah, and I highly recommend it if it’s in your budget. It made the room feel much larger, and it was fun for us to go outside and see the view in the mornings. We especially had fun on our Castaway Cay morning, watching the ship dock and the crew work.

  11. Any thoughts on whether it is worth paying a little extra for the concierge level? I was surprised that it was not much of an upcharge.

  12. Good question, John. While I haven’t experienced concierge level on a cruise myself, I don’t see much value in it. The staterooms on concierge level include a private deck and small private pool, which may be nice for adults, but most kids would rather be on Deck 11 enjoying the main pools and water slides. Concierge level at Disney resorts CAN be worth it, because they include snacks, breakfast, and bottled drinks; however, you get all of that on your cruise anyway! I would only consider paying the upcharge if cruising during a very busy season, when the ship is at capacity.

  13. do you have to tip all those people? I saved 3 yrs to take my girls on this cruise and we are going with very limited funds, it says the tipping is always at your discretion

  14. Hi Lola,

    I understand being on a budget and needing to save. Tipping is your choice, as always, but I do recommend considering it part of your Disney cruise expense. You’ll see once you’re onboard how hard these people work for you, and how fun they make dining for your kids. It is a lot of money, which is why it’s good to plan ahead, as you’re doing. There’s no way I could have tipped properly if I hadn’t budgeted for it!

  15. I guess its hard for me to understand why I already pd 5200 for a cruise 1200 for airfare and now they want another 500 I don’t mean to sound cheap but wow I saved for years and thought id done a good thing but now all these hidden charges have caught me off guard n made me feel terrible

  16. It’s tough. Our experience while pursuing many different types of travel is that generally speaking, the more expensive the experience, the more you need to budget for tips. Do what you can do, then have a fun time.

  17. Hi…!!! You have any idea if a 9 month pays a full price…??

  18. Hi Donovan, kids 0-2 pay 50% of the price. The Small World Nursery does have an additional charge, however. Hope that helps!

  19. Hola! I’ve been following your web site for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from New Caney Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the excellent work!

  20. I totally understand where you come from Lola re tipping. Coming from a country that it is not customary to tip I find it hard even to remember to tip! I wish that organisations would charge to cost of the service and then pay their employees suitably rather than fussing with tips.

  21. I have a question of clarification for the tipping, This could be something that could help Lola and others. We usually hang the do not disturb sign up on our door for the length of our stay (and have done so at DisneyWorld both times we were there for 7 days). My husband is a little uneasy about unknown person(s) entering our hotel room! We have always replentished our own towels at the front desk and placed the used ones in one of the maid carts. We have required no making of beds, vacuuming, etc. We have heard there are some hotels that give discounts for customers who practice this, but have never asked or degotiated a lower price. If Lola were to practice the same behavior on her Disney Cruise, could she decrease the amount of tip to the room stewart / maid since she is not requiring that service?

  22. Sarah, as with all tipping, there is no hard and fast rule, but in my opinion, you would only tip for services you use. If you don’t require any maid service, there’s no reason to tip that part of hospitality. That would be my take on this. Plus, you do the environment a favor by opting to forgo linen changes.

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  24. RE: Hanging out the Do not disturb sign. Part of the magic are things that the room hosts do is to make creations out of the towels each night, leaving them in the room to be discovered. You may not be interested and if you are on a tight budget, avoiding the tips might be more important to you – just thought I would toss that out there in case someone doesn’t know.

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  26. WFTW Bride says:

    Has anyone taken the WD Cruise to Cozumel and Grand Cayman? Interested in know what all there is to do (aka spend $$ on) at those 2 ports. Thank!

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  28. The suggested total tip for a Disney cruise is $12/person/day. For everything that they do for you, it is in no way outlandish. We have saved for years for each cruise we have taken and have always budgeted for tips. He room stewards not only clean up, but pull out the beds each night. I would hate to be in the room during the day and have the beds still out. The cast members who run the kids and teen programs love getting magazines and treats (individually wrapped candies). You aren’t allows to tip them. If there is anyone who made your cruise magical, let guest services know as that cast member will get special recognition. We have cruised big with excursions and small with just staying onboard and enjoying the ship. We are looking forward to our next cruise in the summer of 2015. If you are planning a DCL cruise, there is usually a group for your sail dates through DisBoards. We met a group of people through the board, had a great cruise with our new friends, and are planning our next cruise together.

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  34. I have not cruised Disney but have taken two cruises on Royal Caribbean with my children (most recently Christmas 2013). Royal Caribbean automatically adds the gratuity on your seapass and has it charged to the credit card on file the morning you get off the ship. In order to be able to not worry about my spending money or gratuity, I just kept up with the budgeting as I did with the payments. A cruise is a vacation on lay-a-way. What other vacation can you book the reservation and make payments along the way? None that I can think of other than a Disneyworld vacation. Anyway, I figured out how many pay days I had between the time I booked and when the payment was due in full and figured out how much I needed to pay each payday to have it paid by the deadline. Then each payday I made a payment as close to what I “needed” to make (if I was short one week I would make it up the next). Then when my balance was paid in full, the next payday I purchased our shore excursion; then the next I purchased our soda package; and then the next couple I put aside gratuity money and spending money. I even made sure that I had set aside money for the parking garage. It was the best feeling not to have to worry about my vacation money and to only have to worry about my gas and hotel on the way to Ft. Lauderdale and back. I hope this helps someone else with planning their next cruise — regardless of the cruise line. :)

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  39. If you are on a Disney cruise and you are not prepared financially to tip, then you are not prepared for your trip. Don’t even bother going if you can not afford the tips. Disney is the most papering cruise line ever! You are treated like Royalty. Disney totally understands that you need vacation time with your kids and that you need adult time without your kids. Just pay the recommend tips or don’t go.

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