Some people think cruising is an expensive vacation choice. It doesn't have to be. When you compare a cruise to a land vacation, consider that your accommodations, meals, activities and entertainment are all included in the cruise fare.
If you're careful about extras — such as for alcohol and soda — you can keep your cruise vacation well within your budget. Look for sale fares that include onboard credit — to cover gratuities and other extras — and promotions such as free cabin upgrades (your cheap inside cabin may become an outside). Your travel agent can help you spot the bargains.
Check out these budget cruise tips and options.
Go early or late season
What month you cruise plays a factor in price. May and September are budget time in Alaska; you'll typically find great Caribbean deals in fall; and the cheapest fares in the Mediterranean tend to be in winter/early spring. Pack your bags now and sail to Barcelona and Rome from Savona, Italy on Costa Pacifica from $399 per person. Do a seven-day cruise on Holland America's Oosterdam in Alaska in May from $499. Sail on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas on a 5-day Caribbean cruise from Fort Lauderdale in December from $319.
Book early or book late
It pays to plan ahead: Book now to cruise on Princess Cruises in Alaska in May of next year, and find fares for a week on the Grand Princess from $499. Or look for a last-minute (limited-availability) bargain: Get onboard a weeklong sailing on the Norwegian Jewel out of New Orleans this month with fares from $299 per person.