Avoid getting nickeled and dimed on your next cruise

Weekly deals can be found for cheap cruise tickets, but are they real? The answers might be yes, but there's a catch. Use these tips to help keep your cruise cheap.

Bruce Smith/AP/File
The cruise ship Queen Victoria calls in Charleston, S.C.

I'm a cruising fan.  In my eyes, there's no better resort vacation - with several different islands on each itinerary, it's a built in safeguard from being "stuck" on a lesser island. With Brad's Deals posting low rates so often, sometimes as low as $199 for a weeklong cruise, I thought it would be nice to explain how cruises can offer such low rates, and how you can avoid being nickel and dimed on your next cruise!

 Why Cruises Seem So Cheap

Cruises are cheap because the cruise lines want to get you in the door.  Once on board, there's no way out.  Less sinisterly put, that means that you are in an all-inclusive resort, and one you can't just walk out the door when you would like.

That means, that when you want that Budweiser, it's going to be $7, not $2 or $3 like you're used to.  That spa treatment could be double what it costs on land.  These new megaships are an amazing sight to be hold, but those bells and whistles are meant to lure you in and separate you from your dollar.

4 Secrets to Save Money on your Cruise Vacation

Fortunately, with a little preparation, it's easy to protect yourself from the cruise line! These are my favorite tips for saving while cruising:

Book either very early or very late for the best deals.  
Earlier deals often come with offers like free alcoholic beverages, prepaid gratuities, or free shore excursions.  Later deals are often closeout sales to get you on board.  If you live near a major port like Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, this is incredibly convenient.

If you're a drinker, these deals could easily save you hundreds during your week on board. If you don't have access to that special deal, you can often bring up to two bottles of wine on board for free to enjoy - though keep in mind that some cruise lines, like Norwegian, don't allow you to bring any alcohol at all.

Shop around for shore excursions.

Shore excursions are a great way to explore the islands you're visiting, but they are often double the price of what you can find on land.  Use forums like CruiseCritic.com to find local operators for a good price and that are well-reviewed.

Opt for "Unlimited Dining."
Many ships nowadays have "specialty" restaurants that are not included in the cruise price.  Don't be wooed by their deliciousness - the main dining room and buffet are always free.  If you do want to try out these restaurants, cruise lines offer "unlimited dining" packages that will allow you to save a bit on the cover charge for these establishments.

Know how much internet access will cost you.
If you're addicted to the internet, beware - broadband is expensive and slow on board (though that is changing).  Most ships make you pay per minute, though the new Anthem of the Seas by Royal Caribbean is one of the first to offer unlimited internet packages that are near the speeds on land.

Don't Be Fooled

Cruises are an amazing time, in my opinion, but don't succumb to the allure of their temptations.  And, if you really want to save money, don't wander into the casino late at night!  What ways do you like to save on cruises?

This article first appeared on Brad's Deals.

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