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For seafaring vacationers, knowing how to save money on a cruise keeps the fun flowing without blowing the budget. A cruise offers an array of adventurous, relaxing and tasty travel experiences. But with so much to see and do, it's easy to go overboard with your spending.

Here are four simple ways to stay on budget and still have a grand time aboard ship and on shore.

Get Book Smart

The time you select to sit down and book your cruise is one of the most important factors in the price you'll pay. By setting the date and paying your deposit at least six months in advance, you can score deep cruise line discounts and sometimes even additional perks like free airfare and cabin upgrades. On other hand, you can also find good deals by holding out until just a few weeks before departure, when cruise providers start offering incentives to fill up their ships, as Cruise Critic notes.

If your schedule is flexible, consider the money-saving strategy of scheduling your cruise during "wave season." As SmarterTravel explains, January through March is when cruise lines offer their biggest promotions.

Be a Leader

If you're willing to take the lead role in planning a group cruise with family and friends, you can travel for free. As Cruise Critic points out, group planners – whether volunteer or professional – can typically get a free cruise ticket in exchange for organizing a trip for 16 or more people. If you bring double that number aboard, the cruise line will likely reward you with a free stateroom, too.

Other passengers will benefit from the discounted group rates that major cruise companies offer, with the lowest group fares usually available in May, June, September, October and early November, according to Cruise Critic.

Eat, Drink and Be Money-Wise

Getting your transportation, lodging and an abundance of leisure activities all for one price is what makes cruising a cost-efficient way to travel. It's the extras that can trip you up if you're not careful, but there are several tricks to avoid overspending.

For instance, you can save money on dining by heading for the free all-you-can-eat buffet for most of your meals and picking one or two of the ship's paid dining options for a special occasion. And you can reduce your onboard bar tab by taking advantage of the carry-on wine and champagne allowance most cruise lines offer. Generally, the limit is either one bottle per cabin or one bottle for each adult passenger, notes Cruzely.

Watch out for unlimited beverage passes. These typically only pay for themselves if you're slurping at least seven drinks a day while cruising, which could quickly leave you more than a little seasick.

Save When You Explore the Shore

When it comes to onshore adventure, you can cut expenses by making your own arrangements for things like simple sightseeing tours and trips to the beach. Then you can splurge on a few special excursions that the ship arranges, such as an authentic cultural presentation for a group audience or a unique outdoor experience that might be costly and tough to coordinate on your own.

These planning and spending tips can help keep your cruise on budget without missing out on any of the fun or the chance to create some fantastic vacation memories.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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