With so many cruise lines plying the waters today, competition has never been keener – and that means you have a great opportunity to experience the vacation of a lifetime at an amazingly affordable price. What s more, with many cruise lines offer deals and discounts, by spending just a little time, you can cut costs even further. Whether you re a first-time cruiser or a well-heeled water traveler, the following tips can offer some guidance in locating the deals and discounts that can help you keep even more cash in your pocket.Book EarlyYou should definitely book early, unless you want to book late. Sound confusing? It isn t. For the best deals for most travelers, it s a wise idea to book early for the greatest deals. But if you have a flexible schedule and are willing to be disappointed if your plans fall through, you can achieve significant savings by looking into stand-by deals. Like airlines, cruise lines often offer huge savings on rooms that have not been booked within a few weeks of the sailing date. If you have a schedule that allows you to leave on a few weeks notice – and if you don t mind being disappointed if no rooms are available after all – stand-by can be a good option to consider.

Position Yourself for Savings

For real savings on the cost of your cruise, look into repositioning cruises. These cruises occur when ships need to relocate before cruise seasons change. For instance, cruise lines that have ships located in Europe or the Mediterranean in the spring and summer need to cross the Atlantic to be in prime position for the Caribbean cruise season in the winter months. Similarly, cruise ships that are positioned in the Pacific during cooler months need to relocate to Alaska and northern waters for the summer season. The caveats: repositioning cruises offer all the amenities of regular cruises, but usually feature fewer shore excursions. In addition, most repositioning cruises require extended periods of time – usually more than a week- so be sure you have enough time.

Travel in the off Season

If you don t have time for a repositioning cruise, consider traveling off-season for big discounts. For instance, fall is a great time for low costs on a Caribbean cruise. Don t let hurricane seasons top you: cruise ships carefully monitor weather conditions to steer clear of trouble; however, rain can cancel some shore excursions, so be prepared. If you choose one of these trips, make sure the ship has plenty of inside activities in case of poor weather. Some off-season cruises may start out chilly until they reach warmer waters, so be sure to pack appropriately, and also choose a line with lots of indoor activities to keep you busy.

Take Advantage of Member Discounts

Membership has its privileges, especially on cruise ships. If you re a member of an organization, like AARP or AAA, for example, be sure to ask your travel agency or booking service about any discounts that might be available to you.

Hunt for Deals and Specials

Ask about specials like buy-one, get-one deals to save on the cost of companion travel. Also ask if the cruise line offers discounts on excursions packages, or on airfare to or from your docking locations. Ask about the cost of beverages and snacks. When not included in the cost, these can add up quickly. Many cruises offer deals that allow you to pay a per-day fee for the privilege of unlimited snacks and beverages.Booking a cruise is a great way to lock in vacation savings without sacrificing excitement and adventure. Use a reputable travel agency or booking service with experience handling cruises to get the best value, and the most fun, for your next vacation.

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