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How To Make A Cruise Trip More Affordable

Have you ever wanted to take a cruise, but thought you couldn't afford it? It used to be that taking an ocean cruise was seen as a luxury reserved for the rich. If you've ever taken a cruise yourself, you can see why! These boats are insanely opulent, from their fancy waterfalls to drinks to meals that would cost hundreds of dollars on shore. That's only on the boat itself; we won't even go into what you might spend when you get to your destination! Everything looks like it would cost you and arm and a leg, and perhaps even your first born child! Even with all this fancy stuff, there are ways to save money on a cruise that can make it affordable for 'the rest of us'. Here are some helpful tips.

As with any vacation, you can save money by booking in the 'off season'. If you're considering taking an Alaskan cruise, cruises in May or September tend to be cheaper than other times. If you're considering a cruise to the Caribbean, go in January or February. In this part of the world, the weather will still be warm and probably more comfortable than in the summer. Even if you are going during a busy time of the year, buy your tickets far in advance as cruise lines will often have specials going to get people to book early.

It also helps to make a budget and stick to it. Even if the ticket prices are good, that's only a fraction of what people actually spend when they take a cruise. On-board drinks, items in duty-free shops and shore excursions can end up costing you a lot of money. Contrary to popular belief, you don't *have* to book things like snorkeling or 'booze cruises' through the cruise line. If you book your cruise through a travel agent, s/he might be able to tell you how you can buy tickets for the various excursions in advance. Also, sometimes you can go on shore and find the same things offered for reduced prices. This also goes for things like alcohol, souvenirs and food items.

Laundry services, cell phone calls and internet access can be very expensive on cruises. You can do your own laundry with a bottle of Woolite, and the internet will be there when you get back. Also, you don't have to get the ultra-fancy meals; things like lunches and buffets can be much cheaper, if not already included in the ticket price. Also, drinks on the boat can be very expensive. Check to see if the cruise will allow you to bring a bottle of wine with you, and find out if the cruise offers 'drink specials' such as a card for 12 lattes for $24, alcohol included in the meal packages, etc. If you bring your own bottles or buy one on shore (another idea), also bring your own wine key because some lines actually charge for opening a wine bottle! Odd, I know.

Book your own air fare and other on-shore travel arrangements. Some lines might offer convenient 'value packages', but do your research as you may end up spending more than you realize.

And now for the obvious-skip the casinos! I can't think of a bigger budge buster!

I hope now you have some ideas about how you can take a cruise without spending a boatload of money. Have fun!

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