The memories are priceless, but everything else is pricey. That's the reality of traveling with Disney Cruise Line (DCL). Its cruises are hugely popular, and with only four ships in its fleet, DCL rarely has to try to fills its rooms by offering low fares like some carriers do. The best way to enjoy a Disney experience without blowing your budget is to book an itinerary in an off-peak period. These tend to coincide with cold weather in much of the United States, which is a bonus for travelers who long to escape to a sandy beach.

Factors Affecting Cruise Prices

Without looking at the Disney Cruise Line website, it's impossible to predict the exact cost of any given itinerary. Time of year is, of course, one of the biggest factors that determine prices. Unsurprisingly, DCL rates are highest during peak times when kids are out of school. But even within the same month, prices fluctuate dramatically by date. For example, booking a stateroom on a four-day Bahamian cruise out of Florida might cost around $1,800 for a May 1 departure and $2,300 for a May 8 departure. Stateroom categories play a role as well. Two cruises might have the same rate for an interior stateroom, but more deluxe options – DCL offers ocean view, verandah and concierge staterooms – could be priced differently from cruise to cruise.

Cheapest Times for a Disney Cruise

Remember one simple rule when planning a Disney cruise on a budget: If kids are out of school, prices are high. It makes sense; DCL caters to families, so demand goes up when kids and teachers are on vacation. When demand goes up, so do prices.

Generally speaking, the least expensive time to take a Disney cruise is in mid- to late January, early February or early May. Some weeks in March and April also have lower-than-average prices. Later in the year, September and early November and early December are good options. Cruises around Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are popular, both because of school schedules and because of Disney's reputation for festive holiday fun, so don't expect to find low prices for cruises around these weeks.

Saving Money on a Disney Cruise

Budget-conscious travelers should book a Disney cruise early to save money. DCL rates often go up over time, especially for popular itineraries that are selling quickly. The cheapest interior staterooms tend to sell out well in advance of the departure date, so waiting too long could leave you stuck with only pricier stateroom options. Last-minute cruisers should keep an eye on DCL's Special Offers page – but don't expect a miracle. It's rare for Disney to offer significant discounts.

Booking a Disney cruise through a travel agent may help you save a little money. Alternately, booking through a big-box store that has a travel department (think Costco) might earn you a store gift card worth hundreds, which won't lower the price of the cruise but should offset the impact on your budget.