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Cruising on a Budget
by Roy Witman © 2008

Ask any seasoned traveler, and he'll quickly admit that all-inclusive vacations are a great deal for the money. Go one step further, and you'll find popular opinion sides with cruise vacations as the preferred all-inclusive because you get multiple destinations for one price plus the freedom of not having to pack and move with each new location. Still, many people spend way too much on cruise vacations needlessly. Here are several ways to save big on your next cruise.

Buy the Drink Card

With few exceptions, almost everything you could imagine is included in the price of your cruise. One thing that is not included is soft drinks. However, most cruise lines, including Carnival, offer drink cards. You pay approximately $25.00 per person for a card that allows you an unlimited amount of soda. This price also includes gratuities. Considering each soft drink onboard costs between $2.50 and $3.00, if you drink just 10 sodas, you'll have paid for the card. This type of card is not applicable to alcoholic drinks.

Buy an Inside Cabin

Always the lowest in cost, inside cabins can save you a good deal of money. Depending on the itinerary and ship, an inside stateroom can be as much as $100 less than an ocean-view room or balcony room. You sacrifice having a view of the ocean, but chances are, you'll be having too much fun to stay in your cabin anyway.

Travel During the Slow Season

Because children are in school, anytime you can cruise during the week in the middle of the school year, you'll find better bargains. During spring break, summer break or holidays, families head out on vacation, causing demand (and prices) to be higher. January and February are excellent months to find cruise deals.

Watch for Sales and Upgrades

The best way to find out about special incentives including discounted rates, free upgrades or onboard credits is to sign up for email lists. Subscribe to your travel agent's newsletter or to the cruise lines' lists. Those are usually where specials are announced first.

Compare a la carte Vacations to Packages

Don't assume package deals always equate to a bargain. Always take time to do your research. Can you find a better airfare rate at one of the discount travel sites? If so, that could save you hundreds of dollars in and of itself. Spending an hour on the Web investigating your options is one of the easiest ways to save.

Book Excursions Directly

Here's another area where doing a little background work can save you big. Contact excursion vendors directly and ask for pricing. You'll often find they charge less when booking directly than they do when booking through the cruise line.

Bring Water-sports Gear

Renting snorkeling equipment and other water- sports gear can add quite a bit to your vacation costs. If you have room in your bag, bring along your own facemask, snorkel and fins.

Watch Alcohol and Casino Spending

Lastly, two areas where spending can quickly get out of control is with buying cocktails and gambling in the casinos. If you're tight on funds, set a limit as to how much you're going to spend before you go out for the evening and then stick to it.

Read more about Cruises from New York.