St. John On Your Own (ST59)

On this cruise (7 Night Eastern) it was my husband, my cousin, her daughter (who was 17 at the time) and myself. We had been up late the night before so we were needing a low-key, relaxing day and St. John on Your Own delivered.

After we got off the ship in St. Thomas we walked with our group down the pier and boarded the tour boat, Island Girl. I was relieved when I saw the boat was bigger than I pictured in my mind because honestly, I was having a little bit of anxiety about the ride to St. John. It was pretty windy and I have a tendency to get sea sick (I wear scopolamine patches but I’m a worrier). It looked sturdy and safe so that reassured me. We absolutely loved the crew. They were warm and friendly. The narrator on the 45 minute trip to St. John was fun and informative not just a voice droning on as we’ve experienced on other tours. He pointed out celebrity houses on the shoreline which the teenager in our group really enjoyed. The scenery was beautiful. We chose to sit on the outside benches since the inside cabin area had no airflow and I felt better having wind in my face. Many people moved out to sit with us during the ride over so they must have needed it too.

St. Thomas on the way to St. John. I think he said this house was in Charlie’s Angels.

Once we arrived in Cruz Bay, St. John there were cabs waiting to take us to the beaches on the other side of the island. We ended up at Trunk Bay and it was gorgeous. I definitely want to go back someday and spend more time.

We then made our way back to Cruz Bay and ended up at Mongoose Junction. It’s a small but very cute outdoor shopping center that is built on the hillside. We shopped for t-shirts, jewelry and other souvenirs before sitting down at a table in the shade at the Sun Dog Cafe. The service was top notch. You must eat there if you go to Mongoose Junction. My husband ordered the bottomless bloody Marys and I had the stuffed French toast with mango honey butter. It was HEAVENLY! I topped it off with a Pain Killer and it was very good. We sat there sipping our drinks and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of St. John until it was time to head back to Island Girl.

Once back on the boat we talked to fellow passengers about their Port Adventures and it seems like everyone enjoyed the eco-hike. I have that on my list for a future cruise. Most did not enjoy the bus tour around the island but this was after the 2017 hurricanes. It was hard on the heart to see so much devastation they said. We chatted with others as we made our way back to St. Thomas. The crew served drinks and hot dogs (at an additional charge) but we were still stuffed from the Sun Dog Cafe!! When we got off the boat we gave them a great tip. It was well deserved.

Island Girl took us from St. Thomas to St. John and back again.

We had time to walk around St. Thomas awhile before it was time to get back on the Fantasy.

If you are a family with littles I’m not sure you would enjoy this Port Adventure unless you are just going to take a cab to the beach. There are Port Adventures that will take you to Trunk Bay for swimming and snorkeling so doing the On Your Own may be more of a hassle. If you are in an older group and plan on staying up late enjoying the wonderful adult entertainment on the ship and just want to chill in paradise this is the perfect Port Adventure. We’d definitely do it again!

Our first time booking 5E GTY

Recently we had some plans change which freed up a week of vacation time. We decided to book a Disney Cruise (I know, so shocking!). Since it’s pretty short notice all of our favorite cabins are booked so we decided to try something new and book 5E GTY. 5E is the cabin category for the extended verandah cabins on deck 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 aft. There aren’t that many of them so they usually go into GTY (guarantee) pretty fast. When a category goes GTY that means a certain percentage of the cabins have sold and DCL is not allowing anyone to pick a specific cabin anymore. Closer to the cruise date they will sort it out and assign the cabin numbers. They do oversell categories (like airlines oversell seats knowing some people cancel) so there is a chance we won’t get a 5E but Disney would have to upgrade us. We can be upgraded to 5A-D or 4A-E. I don’t want an upgrade so fingers crossed we get the 5E!! I’ll keep you posted. BTW, GTY isn’t usually a money saver. I can book a 5A right now for the same price but it’s not in a location I like. Booking GTY is giving me a chance to get a cabin category that’s popular that I couldn’t book on opening day since this is a last minute trip for us. But there’s also the chance I could be put in a cabin that’s right under the pool deck. It’s the chance we are willing to take. One last thing, people often confuse GTY with IGT (Interior guarantee), OGT (Oceanview guarantee) and VGT (verandah guarantee) which are last minute restricted fares that DCL will offer on cruises that aren’t selling well. With these special rates you are guaranteed the type of cabin you booked (verandah cabin for example) but not a specific category. Payment is required in full when booking IGT, OGT and VGT. Usually you will see these special fares show up within 60 days of the sailing date.

“You cruise DCL so you must be rich, right?”

NOOO! We’re not rich or even well-off. We are a middle-class working family that saves up for our vacations. We make sacrifices. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t wearing the same clothes every day to save on laundry and eating Top Ramen for dinner. There are some movies we skip at the theatre and wait until Netflix to save some money. I may go a little longer between hair appointments or skip going to lunch. In the grocery store one day I asked my daughter to get some cheese. She came back with the store brand instead of Sargento and said, “We could try this kind and it will save us $1.20! It can go in the Mickey Money jar!”. So yeah, I have them totally trained.

Here’s some tips that we use to save money:

  • Buy a placeholder or book a future cruise when you are on the ship! You will save 10% and you will get a break on your deposit. The placeholder costs $250 but it will go towards your deposit when you pick the date you want to sail (edit: onboard credit is no longer offered). With the placeholder you must sail within the next 24 months after purchase. If for some reason you are unable to cruise again you can call DCL and they will give you a full refund.
  • We book cruises on opening day when the prices are the lowest. Because we use placeholders I have to call DCL the minute they open to book our cruise. I’ve never had to wait on hold for hours, thank goodness.
  • Because we usually book on opening day I have about a year and a half to save the money. I transfer money every month to our savings account and then withdraw when our deadline arrives. I pay for the cruise with my Disney Visa and then use savings account money to pay the Visa off. I get all those Disney Rewards Dollars!
  • DCL has special offers on their website. Normally certain cabin types (inside, Oceanview or verandah rooms) are available for discounted rates on select sailings. The only kicker, you don’t get to pick the cabin, DCL does it for you. There are also military rates and special rates for Florida residents (Oh Floridians, I am so jealous!!!!).
  • We drive when we can. It’s a long drive from where we live but we break it up so it’s not too bad. We save a bunch by not paying for airfare so if it’s an option for you, consider it.
  • Pick the cabin that best fits your budget. On the various DCL forums I see people telling first-timers that a verandah cabin is the only way to go. I totally disagree. Go with what you can afford. You are going to have a great time no matter what type of cabin you sleep in.
  • We have the Mickey Money jar as I mentioned earlier. We put our spare change in it. When it gets full I turn it in for cash and put it aside for port adventures and/or souvenirs.
  • I use my Disney Visa card for EVERYTHING. Every few days I pay the balance and keep accumulating those Disney Rewards Dollars.
  • I know some people buy gift cards at Costco and other places for a reduced rate and pay for their cruise that way. I have no experience doing this. I’m all for saving money but that sounds like a huge hassle to me. If you’ve paid for your cruise this way please leave a comment with some tips!

These are the main things we do to save money. If I think of more I will add them.