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10 ways to save money when cruising

When it comes to taking a cruise, your spending doesn't end when you've booked the trip. Lots of cruise-related expenses have the potential to bust your budget, from the flight to your embarkation point to drinks on the cruise to shore excursions. So-called add-on expenses can equal or exceed the cost of your cruise if you're not careful.

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"The trend is for some cruise lines to offer relatively low prices to get people on the ship and then hit them with cash fees for little expenses here and there that after a week can really add up," says Eileen Entin, owner of Diamond Cruise and Travel in Hightstown, N.J.

Jeffrey Miller, an attorney and cruise industry consultant, agrees, saying, "Everything on the ship is a profit center for the cruise line, so it's up to you to keep your expenses in check."

10 ways to save on cruises
To keep your spending under control, follow these tips:
1. Book your own flight. 6. Track your drinking and gambling.
2. Look at nearby ports. 7. Watch out for photos.
3. Check up on shore excursions. 8. Don't prepay tips.
4. Shop wisely. 9. Call home in port.
5. Pack smart. 10. Check your account balance.

1. Book your own flight. Most cruises offer a complete package including airfare to and from your home city. While such a package offers the convenience of not having to book your own flight or worry about how to get from the airport to the cruise ship, that convenience comes at a cost.

"Cruise lines buy their airfare packages in bulk from the airlines a year in advance so the price you get through the cruise line doesn't vary throughout the year like normal airline pricing does," says Evan Eggers, president of "Sometimes the prices are lower than the open market, but for someone keeping a good eye on airfares and checking the discount sites it will generally be higher."

If you book your own flight, leave a big cushion between when your flight arrives in your port city and when the cruise actually embarks so you can get to the ship. In some locales, such as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the port is a quick ride from the airport. But in other places, such as Southampton, England, the airport is a good two hours away from the port, Eggers says.

The cost of the taxi or shuttle ride from the airport to the port is included in cruise-line booked fares, but if you book your own flight, you have to factor in that cost both ways. There is also the risk that if your flight is delayed for some reason, you may miss your embarkation.

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