10 Money-Saving Cruise Tips

The Royal Suite on the Liberty of the Seas includes a balcony with a whirlpool tub. Photo by Royal Caribbean International
By Heidi Sarna

Cruising can be an affordable vacation option -- if you know how to avoid getting nickeled-and-dimed aboard the ship.

From bringing your own wine to using the ship's laundry services, here are 10 expert ways to save money on a cruise.

Photo Caption: The Royal Suite on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas includes a balcony with a whirlpool tub.
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The Adagio Dining Room on the Allure of the Seas. Photo by Royal Caribbean International
"More cruise lines are creating pre-purchase packages for meals and spa services prior to departure. For example, Royal Caribbean just announced 25%-plus savings on dinner packages aboard the Oasis and Allure of the Seas as well as Radiance and Splendour of the Seas. Guests can pre-reserve dining at three specialty restaurants for just $65 per person, which saves them more than $25 each." -- Tiffany Neidhardt, VP of sales & marketing, Cruises-N-More (tel. 800/733-2048; www.cruises-n-more.com)

Photo Caption: The Adagio Dining Room on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas
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The Wine Bar aboard the Carnival Destiny offers a fine selection of vintages. Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines
"Many cruise lines will now allow you to bring one or two bottles of wine or champagne on embarkation day only. There will be a $10-$20 corkage fee if you bring the bottle into the dining room, but you can enjoy the wine in your room without any charge." -- Sherry Laskin of Cruise Maven (www.cruisemaven.com)

Photo Caption: The Wine Bar aboard the Carnival Destiny offers a fine selection of vintages.
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Teens visit the X Club drinking sodas and bottled water on the Celebrity Solstice. Photo by Celebrity Cruises
"We typically don't recommend buying a drinks package for alcoholic beverages -- by our calculations, most people won't keep up the drinking pace needed to break even on these packages. However, for families that have youngsters that consume a lot of soft drinks, juices, and bottled water, these are an area for potential savings." -- Kevin Weisner, vice president of CruiseDeals.com (tel. 800/668-6414; www.cruisedeals.com)

Photo Caption: Teens in the X Club on the Celebrity Solstice
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The Junior Suite on the Celebrity Xpedition offers complimentary sparkling wine and a private veranda. Photo by Celebrity Cruises
"With the increased cost of checking bags, I recommend packing a bit lighter (to save on a bag or two) and then taking advantage of the ship's laundry services. Laundry services aboard cruise ships are reasonably priced, and your clothes will look fresh versus wrinkled from your suitcase. A couple could easily save $50 to $100 on luggage fees alone. That would cover a good bit of laundry, and save your back at the airports." -- Kevin Weisner

Photo Caption: A small carry-on bag in a Junior Suite on the Celebrity Xpedition
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The Cupcake Cupboard offers cupcake decorating classes on board the Allure of the Seas cruise ship. Photo by Royal Caribbean International
"The best way to save money on a cruise is to simply make a conscious effort not to be taken in by all the drink hawkers, art auctions, one-day-only jewelry sales, the specialty restaurants, or cupcake and ice cream shops." -- Sherry Laskin

Photo Caption: The Cupcake Cupboard offers cupcake-decorating classes on board Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas.
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Allure of the Seas meeting Oasis of the Seas near Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 13. Courtesy Royal Caribbean International Photo by Royal Caribbean International
Some megaships can accommodate more than 6,000 people — that's a lot of cabins to fill.

"Book now for the best pricing on two of the biggest ships at sea, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. You can try an 80-foot zip-line across the aft of the ship. Fares have tumbled to a new low." -- Sherry Laskin

Photo Caption: Allure of the Seas meets Oasis of the Seas near Fort Lauderdale. Courtesy Royal Caribbean International
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The sports deck of Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas, featuring a basketball court and a rock wall. Photo by Royal Caribbean International
Can't afford a 7-night cruise?

Many excellent ships are now making shorter runs to cater to a growing market for shorter vacations. "Cruisers can find the best values in the shorter cruise market from January through April, and not just aboard older ships." -- Tiffany Neidhardt

Photo Caption: The sports deck of Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas features a basketball court and a rock-climbing wall.
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The Carnival Liberty offers passage to the Caribbean for close to 3,000 travelers. Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines
"If you're willing to roll the dice and cruise during hurricane season, a Caribbean cruise offers the best cruise value. In recent years, Carnival offered some incredible deals, such a 7-night cruise aboard the Carnival Liberty for prices starting at $389 per person for an inside cabin on a week-long sailing from Miami. That's under $60 per person a day." — Sherry Laskin

But please don't forget to consider travel insurance.

Photo Caption: Carnival Liberty
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The Pool Deck on the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship. Photo by Celebrity Cruises
When ships need to travel from one part of the world to another, they make an ocean crossing on what's called a repositioning cruise, and the deals can be terrific. Transatlantic crossings are often well priced. How well priced? Often, you can buy a peaceful, oceangoing vacation for half the price of a standard round-trip cruise.

Just remember to factor in the cost of one-way airfare.

Photo Caption: The Pool Deck on the Celebrity Solstice
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The stateroom of the Carnival Dream offers a balcony view of the ocean. Photo by Carnival Cruise Lines
"Ask your travel agent or watch the cruise lines' websites for automatic upgrades from an inside cabin to an ocean-view stateroom. Cruise lines that frequently offer this type of promotion include Carnival, MSC, Holland America, and Norwegian Cruise Line." -- Sherry Laskin

Photo Caption: This stateroom aboard the Carnival Dream offers a balcony with ocean views.
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