Many of the older ships tend to run all year long on the three-day itineraries and are more affordable.
LOOK FOR REPOSITIONING CRUISES
Cruise lines move their ships from their rotation in one region to another every few months, usually as the high season in one region cools off and before the next destination heats up. For example, a ship will shift from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean for the winter, or vice versa. Or from the Caribbean to Alaska for the summer.
Booking a vacation on one of these repositioning cruises can be significantly cheaper than a regular itinerary that hits several stops before returning to a home port. All told, you could pay from $35 to $65 per person, per day on a repositioning cruise, said Spencer Brown.
However, one should consider that repositioning cruises are only one-way. The voyage also can take 10 days to two weeks, with fewer stops at ports of call along the way.
LOOK BEYOND PRICE
When selecting a cruise, price isn't the only consideration, by far.
There are the perks and incentives that could end up making the trip a better value. But a key factor is whether the cruise you select is right for you. That's because cruise lines cater to different niches of travelers. An older traveler looking for a refined cruise probably wouldn't be happy on a party ship festooned with nightclubs, basketball courts and other attractions aimed at younger passengers.
Experts recommend you read up about specific ships and their itineraries to get a sense of whether the cruise fits what you're looking for.
TARGET CHEAPER ITENIRARIES
The shorter the voyage, the less costly the cruise. If you're looking for ultracheap, go for a three-day cruise, which tend to compete more on price.
The weak economy in Europe makes a seven-day Mediterranean cruise a good value. Plus, as more cruise lines reposition ships there, competition will increase. That's good for the consumer.
Other ways to find deals: Monitor sites that advertise deals. Some of them include Cruisebuzz.net, Cruise.com and Cruisedeals.com
In addition, getting on cruise company mailing lists can tip you off to sales in advance.
CONSIDER A TRAVEL AGENT
A cruise vacation has a lot of components to sort out, from air travel to the departure port, to offshore activities that often are not included in your cruise costs. Travel agents can help sort out the details.
“A travel agent will have access to all the ships and current pricing and promotions,” said Finley-Bajak.
ACCOUNT FOR EXTRAS
The term all-inclusive is often associated with a cruise vacation, but in most cases, it's far from the truth.
“If anybody says cruising is all-inclusive, they're crazy,” said Spencer Brown, adding that one always pays extra to gamble in the casino, visit the spa, use the Internet, eat at certain restaurants and onshore excursions.
There also could be a hotel stay before your ship's departure, government taxes, fees and gratuities to cover.