Cruise travel may seem out of your reach, but bargains aren't that hard to score if you know a few tricks. The cruise lines reward smart shoppers who plan their holidays well in advance. For the best deals, start researching summer holiday options right after the New Year. You'll be able to find bargains until around March.
If you stick with the large cruise lines and zero in on their most popular destinations, you can often take advantage of additional savings even after the first of the year booking window. If the bean counters decide that bookings are down for a particular locale (a common phenomenon in recent years), they'll start to add enticing perks to their offers. Be on the lookout for discounted packages that include room upgrades and even extras like free airfare from major hubs. If you're willing to risk waiting and maybe not getting a deal, you can sometimes snag a great bargain. Shoulder season discounts apply to the cruise lines, too, but be careful of weather issues that may keep you inside where the action isn't.