Pre-Trip Report: It’s a WONDERful Life Cruising the Panama Canal! Pt. 5 Cha-Ching!

By: Sarah

So last I left you I was wondering how we would pay for this once in a lifetime cruise and still afford to eat? Who am I kidding, who needs to eat when you are looking forward to 14 glorious days of food glorious food!?!?! Well, for the last several months we buckled down and cut our already frugal spending habits. This meant no Friday night pizza and packing our lunches instead of eating out. We are already pretty frugal in our spending, but knowing we had this special vacation somehow made it easier to scrimp even further.  In addition, our family knew how much we were looking forward to this and for Christmas they gave us Disney gift cards to use for our excursions!

Speaking of Disney gift cards, I saved a whopping 5% off the entire cruise by paying with Disney Gift cards that I purchased at Target. In case you didn’t know, if you have a Target Red Card (I use the Target Debit Card) you can get 5% off Disney Gift cards! Now, I have heard that some Targets do not allow this. However, the only problem I have encountered is a limit on the number of cards that can be purchased in a day. (I ended up going every day over a two-week period in order to get enough to pay off the entire cruise + tips) The 5% savings adds up quickly on a cruise this expensive, so I felt the time I spent making multiple trips to Target was well worth the savings.

Coconut was not impressed with the gift cards that began to stack up!

This was just a sample of the cards used for this trip! I ended up combining the multiple Disney Gift cards into just a few cards using the Disney Gift Card website. This makes it much easier to make payments on the cruise!

The WB Panama Canal Facebook cruise group celebrated every time a member joined the “Paid In Full Club” and I couldn’t wait to join! Shortly before Christmas we had purchased enough gift cards to finally join that lucrative club. To say we were excited would be a complete understatement! We spent hours analyzing and debating about which excursions we would book once our Gold booking window opened. (Ok, Ok, so it was just ME agonizing over, uh I mean analyzing the excursions…Hubby just wanted to eat a real meal that didn’t include some type of processed chicken product!)

I finally narrowed the excursion list down and had 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices for each port. Once the Platinum booking opened, a gracious Platinum member in the Facebook group posted screenshots of the actual excursions available for our cruise. Uh uh….many of the excursions I had chosen weren’t being offered! No whale watching in Cabo, Los Caletas Hideaway, or evening fireworks on a Pirate ship! Back to the drawing board!

Eventually we settled on:

Cozumel – The Tulum Ruins

Puerto Vallarta – Puerto Vallarta City Tour

Cartagena – The Best of Cartagena

Cabo San Lucas – Harbor Cruise & Scenic Stop

However, a few weeks after booking our excursions suddenly a Los Caletas Hideaway excursion popped up as available for booking! I jumped online and quickly switched our Puerto Vallarta tour to the Los Caletas Hideaway. In addition to it being our 4th wedding anniversary, we are looking forward to a Castaway Cay-esque type of day as that is one port we will really miss!

We also booked our Frozen and Princess Meet & Greets as well as Palo Brunch and the VIP Character Breakfast.

So, now that we are booked….what’s next? Packing…packing…and more packing? It is a 14 day cruise after all…

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