There are traditional ways to save on a Disney cruise—sail at off-peak times, get an inside or guaranteed stateroom, cruise on some of the older ships that aren’t as pricey. But what do you do if none of the stars align and you’ve got quite a hefty cruise bill to pay? Need a Disney cruise credit card strategy? (Listen to more of Jess’ story on this PODCAST).
That’s the predicament we recently found ourselves in while planning a Disney cruise. My husband is a professor, so combined with our 9-year-old’s school schedule, and we’ve got a tricky puzzle to put together when trying to plan dates that will work for our entire family. Throw in our desire to have a verandah and sail on Disney’s newest ship, The Wish, and I had to get pretty creative to bring our costs down. Here’s how I did it…
The best option for flights for families or couples is the Southwest Companion Pass. You can read all the details HERE, but the short version is that you’ll need to accumulate 135,000 Southwest points in a single calendar year to earn the Companion Pass. Once you’ve done that, you’ll earn the Companion Pass for the rest of the year you earned it and all of the following year. That means one family member or friend will fly FREE (you just have to pay taxes) as many times as you want as long as you have the Companion Pass.
We’re flying from Houston to Orlando for our cruise. It’s over spring break, so prices were pretty high. Being able to redeem Southwest points for my and my daughter’s tickets and then add my husband as a Companion (and only pay $11.20 in taxes for his ticket) saved us SO much money! Talk about a great start to our Disney cruise credit card strategy!
The good news is that points earned from opening the Southwest credit cards count toward the Companion Pass. I earned the Pass for almost all of 2023 and all of 2024 by opening the Southwest Performance Business card and the Southwest Premier Business card, but you can also open one personal and one business card. You can only hold one of the Southwest personal cards at a time, so unfortunately, opening two personal cards is not an option.
Think you don’t qualify for a business card? Think again! It’s easier than it seems.
If you’re sailing out of Port Canaveral, the best option for a pre-cruise hotel is the Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport. And one of the best options for earning free nights there is the World of Hyatt credit card. While the welcome offer isn’t anything to write home about, you’ll earn a category 1-4 free night certificate each year on your cardmember anniversary. The Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport is a category 4 Hyatt property, which means it is a perfect place to redeem those free night certificates.
Cash rates for our stay were over $300/night. That means the $95 annual fee you’ll pay for the Hyatt card is more than offset by the welcome offer + annual free night certificate.
Hyatt also doesn’t charge taxes or resort fees on award stays, so your nights will truly be free. My husband and I both have the Hyatt personal card and are each redeeming our free night certificates for two nights at the Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport before our upcoming cruise.
Not only that, but you can arrange transportation directly through Disney from Hyatt to Port Canaveral. Included with that is the ability to leave your luggage in your Hyatt hotel room. They will collect it and deliver it directly to your stateroom on the ship. Talk about convenience!
There are category 1-4 Hyatt options near other cruise ports as well. For example, if you’re sailing from San Diego, Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego is a category 4 property and would be a great choice!
Unfortunately, things get tricky when using points or miles for the cruise itself. There’s no good way to book a Disney cruise directly with points. But if you want to use points or miles to offset the cost, I suggest the Capital One Venture or the Capital One Venture X.
You can use points earned from these cards to “erase” Disney cruise charges.
The Venture X has a $395 annual fee which may scare some away, but it’s actually my favorite of the two. It comes with a $300 annual travel credit for flights, hotels, or rental cars booked through the Capital One travel portal. It also comes with 10,000 bonus miles each year on your cardmember anniversary (this is equal to at least $100). Those two things alone more than offset the annual fee, and that’s not even considering the lounge access, car rental status, and some other perks that come with it.
Here’s an example of how this could play out:
Grand total = 191,000 Capital One miles which could be redeemed for $1,910 towards your Disney cruise.
And because the Venture and Venture X both earn 2x on every purchase, they are great cards for everyday spending which in turn equals more savings towards your cruise!
The Chase Ink Preferred, Ink Cash, and Ink Unlimited get a lot of love (and rightfully so!). But what about the Chase Ink Premier? This one isn’t discussed as much because it’s a purely cash back card. The points it earns cannot be transferred over to your Sapphire card or out to transfer partners (which is where we get some serious value!). But if you’re looking for a cash back card that also doesn’t count towards 5/24, this is a great option. Add in the fact that Ink cards currently have 40,000 point referral bonuses, and this card is even more appealing. I’m planning to open it soon and also refer my husband. We’ll have $2,000 to put towards our next Disney cruise + 40,000 Ultimate Rewards points from the referral to cover our pre-cruise hotel!
Disney gift cards won’t save you money, but they’re a great way to rack up many points. If you’re going to spend the money anyways, you might as well maximize your points earned in the process! My favorite card for purchasing gift cards is the Chase Ink Business Cash card. It earns 5x at office supply stores, so I love purchasing Disney gift cards from Office Depot or Staples when I know I’ll need them.
Before cruising, I’ll buy even more to add to my onboard account to cover gratuities, souvenirs, port adventures, etc. I then put those points earned towards a future trip!
Saving money on Disney cruises takes a little effort, but it’s worth it. With this Disney cruise credit card strategy, you could save thousands of dollars on your next Disney cruise!
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